The Coming of Age ceremony is a public recognition of our children’s transition into adulthood. Of course it doesn’t happen all at once – neither they, nor their parents could handle the shock!
After the year-long OWL (Our Whole Lives) class, with its extensive, open, honest, forthright exploration of sexuality, they spend time exploring their inner lives – their values, ideas and beliefs. The sexuality part was led by two teams: Paul and Lynda Bluestein and Cheryl Paul and Carl Serbel. The second part was guided by Maria and David Smith. We appreciate their work.
Each of the eighteen participants who completed the class is asked to write a credo, a statement that begins, ‘I believe…’ This year they used the NPR ‘This I Believe’ series as a model. They weren’t limited to religious or theological belief statements, but value and idea statements, drawing on their personal life experience, so far.
Excerpts included things like: “I believe in Life, and life is made of moments in time, so I believe in using time carefully…I believe in communication…adversity…music…honesty, etc.” One explained that he’s a JewBuditarian: “I’m Jewish, Buddhist and Unitarian, so I believe in forgiveness, which is the essence of Judaism, I believe in Reincarnation, my Buddhist part, and I believe in freedom, which is why I’m a Unitarian.”
On Saturday night the Coming of Age class gathered with family and friends for a pot luck supper, then they processed to the front of our sanctuary for a moving ‘rite of passage.’ Each one read his/her belief statement. Several performed on piano, guitar and voice. Every class member stood alone at the candle table, placed a lighted candle in the boat, and listened as their parents and siblings summarized things they love about their son or daughter, sister/brother. Then the Coming of Ager responded in kind. Some grandparents were also included in this moving ceremony.
At the eleven o’clock service on Sunday morning their rite of passage was celebrated in a more public ceremony. Once again they read their belief statements, and this time they listened to affirmations and words of appreciation and encouragement from their advisors, with a ritual in which the ministers, parents and congregation participate. The ceremony concludes with members of the Youth Group welcoming them to take the next step and join the group.
It’s one of the most important, significant things we do, validating the promise we make to children in the service of dedication when we say to parents, “We promise that we will give you the guardian love and care of this church and journey with you in parenting…”
As one of the ministers on our staff, it’s very gratifying to witness and participate in this important rite of passage. Fourteen years ago I held several of them in my arms for a service of dedication.
I want to close by encouraging you to attend the special Westport/Weston Interfaith Thanksgiving service which we are hosting here at our church on Sunday, November 18 at 7 p.m. I hope to see you there, and I hope all is well with you.