There were 21 in this year’s Coming of Age class. On Saturday night each of them stood at the candle table, individually, and spoke to their family, telling them what they most appreciated about them – to thank them, and to express their love.
Then it was their parent’s turn, and they did the same, listing the qualities they most admired and the things they appreciated about their sons and daughters. It’s a very moving ceremony.
That, of course, is what the ‘coming of age’ program is all about – helping our young people to move into a new life chapter, to navigate the white-water, rock-strewn passage from dependent childhood to the maturity required to continue the course independently.
It doesn’t happen without some spills and tumbles; some bumps and bruises, including family squabbles. It doesn’t happen all at once, like the birthing experience, but the coming of age class, the Saturday night ceremony, and the Sunday morning service in front of the congregation, helps launch them into the next chapter of this Great Adventure we call Life.
Part of the process is to ask each of them to write a belief statement which they share at the family and congregational services. We listened attentively as each wove words to summarize his or her values, ideas, opinions, and aspirations into a brief, cogent affirmation – a belief statement.
I smiled inwardly as one said, “I want to find something I love doing so I never have to work a day in my life,” explaining what he meant. I could hear Robert Frost’s closing lines in Two Tramps in Mud Time: “But yield who will to their separation my object in living is to unite my avocation and my vocation, as my two eyes make one in sight. Only where love and need are one and work is play for mortal stakes, is the deed ever really done for Heaven and the future’s sakes.”
Four of them spoke about things they experienced during the Coming of Age class; one spoke about the Boston trip, including the walk around Walden Pond to the site of Henry David Thoreau’s famous ten by fifteen foot cabin he built by himself in 1845, for a total cost of $28.12 1/2 and where he lived for two years and two months.
One spoke about the tour of Arlington Street Church and the organ whose sounds fill the huge sanctuary, and the 16 massive Tiffany stained glass windows. The other two told about their trip to New York City with Jamie Forbes to feed the homeless – surprised at the ‘hundred or two hundred’ people of all ages waiting in line for some food. “In that moment I realized how fortunate I’ve been to have enough food and water and a safe place to live…I felt sad for them, and I felt thankful for my life in a deeper way than I’ve ever felt before.”
There were members in this Coming of Age class that I held in my arms at services of dedication of parents and children when they were infants and I said, “May you find aid in time of trouble, comfort intime of sorrow and guidance into the ways of truth. We wish for you a full and healthy life and hope thatyou find joy, and peace, and the satisfaction of years well spent.” We repeat those words at our Comingof Age ceremony, and I offer them as a blessing to you, now.