The Coming of Age Program at UUCSW is a program designed for students in grades 7 and 8. The program components include:
- Sunday school classes using curricula;
- Experiential outings;
- Individual meeting time with the minister;
- A culminating ceremony each spring for the graduating eighth graders.
The Purpose of the Coming of Age (COA) Program
The purpose of the COA program is to teach our youth the many ways that the Principles of Unitarian Universalism can be lived as we each develop our own sense of spirituality and belonging in the world and help them to start to articulate their own emerging beliefs. Ultimately, the COA program is meant to give our young people a greater sense of self as they begin to integrate what it means to be a UU into their own lives.
Philosophy of Coming of Age in a Unitarian Universalist Setting
From Coming of Age: Handbook for Congregations, Sarah Gibb Millspaugh:
“Coming-of-age rites with long-standing traditions, such as bar and bat mitzvah, quinceanera, vision quest, and eunoto, recognize the passage of young people into greater maturity, responsibility, and spiritual commitment. In offering Coming of Age, our [Unitarian Universalist] congregations seek to honor this passage as well. However, the definition of what youth are passing into is different in our congregations than it was when ancient rites originated. At the end of the program, our youth are not yet adults and are not passing into the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. Rather, youth are transitioning from what psychologists call early adolescence to middle adolescence. They are leaving childhood and becoming youth.”
The curriculum part of the program specifically explores the question “How can I know what to believe?” The following curricula are used on a rotating basis. (Note: Depending on the number of children in the religious education program, some youth may start the COA program as a 6th grader, while others may not start the program until 7th grade.)
- Riddle and Mystery – helps young people explore, formulate and articulate their attitudes and beliefs about big questions in life: Why am I here? Does God exist? What happens when you die? What does Unitarian Universalism mean to me?
- Building Bridges – explores the religions of today’s world and our relationship to them.
- A Place of Wholeness – helps youth develop a holistic understanding of their Unitarian Universalist faith and articulate what this means to them.
- Virtue Ethics – teaches youth that they can shape the person they want to be by making intentional, thoughtful decisions.
The experiential part of the program focuses on engaging in social activities, service and outreach projects that provide tangible ways to live our UU Principles, and visits to faith communities to explore many ways of spiritual expression. The experiential part of the program is done in collaboration with the Minister, the Director of Religious Education, and parents/guardians. A meeting is scheduled each year with the parents/guardians of youth in the COA program to determine the focus and plan projects and field trips. A calendar of events and dates will be coordinated for the year.
Some examples of Extra-Curricular Experiences:
- A full-day trip to Boston including a walking tour of UU historical sites and a tour of the UUA headquarters and youth office;
- Overnight retreat at a separate retreat center;
- Lazer tag, Bowling, Corn maze;
- Gatherings with other youth groups;
- Working with City Mission Society of Boston to prepare a community meal for those in need;
- Leading a clothing and food drive for Stand Up for Kids Worcester, an organization working to assist homeless teens.
- Visits to Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist temples
All students are encouraged to maintain regular attendance in order to receive full benefits from the program.
Throughout this program, the support and participation of parents/guardians is both welcomed and appreciated. Besides the usual car-pools and chaperoning, there are opportunities to teach and learn, as well. In addition, parents/guardians are asked to participate in the COA ceremony and to help organize the reception following the service.