Friday, February 15, 2008

Duncan Metcalfe

Okay. I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I feel about this. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to add to this discussion, and I want people to read these things as organized as I see them as most to least important. A bit about myself, my name is Duncan Metcalfe. I served as the Youth Council Rep. from Mounatain/Desert District (96-97) Con-Con co-dean (98), Steering Committee member (97-98), and Youth Program Specialist (99-00) and now serve as an advisor and the adult chair of MDD YRUU.


The most important thing for people to know who are part of YRUU is that this decision stems from a feeling among our leadership, particularly ministers, that YRUU as an organization at every level is not serving youth. From conversations with adults in power in MDD and within congregations people fell as if the YOUTH GROUP MODEL OF YRUU doesn't serve the needs of ALL youth. They want to see local churches get rid of traditional youth groups as we currently know them in favor of a more curriculum based group with more of a religious and less social dimension. These same people feel that cons are a waste of resources and take to much energy for youth groups to plan. The solution is to stop sanctioning cons, thus stripping them of the all important insurance.

The UUA doesn't have control over churches or districts, but that doesn't mean these changes can't/won't carry over.


I think that if I trace back to where I think the event happened that started all this is the youth council in 1996. I know that that seems a long time ago, but bear with me. That was the first youth council to attempt to pass a resolution to get a youth on the board of trustees, and the first YRUU event to include an AR training. The board resolution failed 2 years in a row before finally gaining the support of Phylis "P-funk McD" Daniels (then the board observer). Also that is where YRUU began it's path towards anti-oppression work.

As Steering Committees went on, they became increasingly radical. They worked with the youth office stratagize towards hiring another staffer, the new structure of Youth Caucus, and by the time I have entered that radical planning and talking resulted in the idea for Common Ground III. But certainly what has happened is extremely divergent from what was talked about then. Back then Common Ground III was about getting everyone together in a similar way to the original common grounds but to instead of creating a new organization, to take a look at the structure of YRUU and address the institutionalized oppression build into it. To restructure YRUU so that it was by its very nature fighting oppression. It sucks that the UUA took an idea that was supposed to be about changing the structure of YRUU toward an actively anti-oppressive institution, and used it to destroy it.

We rocked the boat to much though. Behind the scenes the Youth Office staff met with the executives of the UUA to address ageism in the office, and to have a conversation about trying to get the UUA to ive out the priciples (for example, there was no recycling). We were dismissed after being told "YOU ARE MISTAKEN. THE UUA IS A BUSINESS AND A RELIGION." We published an Art and Censorship issue of synapse which contained swear words. We blacked them out, but you could still tell what words were under there. We were told that we should have censored the works, and editorial control was taken from the youth office and given to the head of the department .

The changes in Youth Caucus made the youth voice dangerous. We led the charge on lots of radical issues (prison reform), and because youth were so connected and largely radicalized they tended to vote as a block. And when 10% of your delegates do that, that is an amazing amount of power.

We wanted youth on committees. We wanted action. We wanted our lives to be MODELS of our faith, and wanted to transform YRUU, and the UUA to look like that too.


Both these things, in my experience at the UUA are false. When I was in the youth office we were very concerned with providing services to congregational youth groups. we tried to develop anti-racism resources for youth groups to try to take that work to the local level. We talked about how to make everything we do accessible to local youth. That was one of our primary concerns. The one direct outlet the Youth Office had to local groups was Synapse, which was the first thing cut by the UUA out of the budget. The ONLY way the youth office could really communicate with youth groups.


I called it then. They had the reasons, they had to decision making, and they had the money.

This also makes me really sad. The process sucked. Ultimately I thought YRUU needed to change. It needed to make the same changes the UUA needs to make.

The hardest part for me is acts like this make me loose faith in OUR FAITH. It breaks my heart.

I loved YRUU. No it was not perfect. But getting rid of the model of youth group, which voices in our faith want, is not the way to go. With heavy heart and joyous memories....


PS. I want also want to credit Jen Devine as pushing YRUU to try to see its fullest potential, and encouraging everyone to reach for those goals.

Consultation History...


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ben Alexander

Thanks to the bloggers for recognizing the importance of an institutional memory for YRUU. I wish we had this technology during LRY's existence. I am so sad that the UUA still seems to have it's head in the sand about the importance and significance of empowering it's youth program.

First, let me say that I was active in LRY from 1972 until its demise at the end of the 70's. In fact, my current business partner Susan Buis was an LRY executive committee member (aka "Taco") during the development of the SCOYP report that led directly to the end of LRY. During my time in LRY, I served as president of my local group and federation, and was one of the planners of the 1977 continental conference (con-con). As Peter Wadsworth (Grasshopper to his LRY friends) already said, LRY changed my life and the lives of most of my friends. I, too, hoped that some day my 10-year old daughter would have the opportunity to experience something similar, but perhaps it is not to be.

As someone who lived through it, I want to take the opportunity to provide a different perspective on some of the accounts here. First of all, Tim and Heather stated:

"Common Ground's legacy is one of adult-enforced restructuring, prompted by the inability of LRY's leadership to address its own internal problems."

I disagree that LRY's failure was an inability to address its own internal problems. In fact, it was just the opposite: LRY was unable to address external problems, namely, the vendetta waged against it by certain members of the UUA power structure. In the mid-late 70's, LRY was large, active and healthy. Con-cons were regularly attended by 350-450 youth from all over the country, and conferences were being offered and well-attended at local, federation and regional levels throughout the country. We had a widely distributed newspaper, people soup, that was entirely youth written and published. We had local groups doing services for their churches, regionally-sponsored leadership development conferences, and a whirlwind of political activities, including promotion of gay-right issues (before anyone had heard of such a thing) and fighting nuclear power. LRY was not perfect. There was plenty of drugs and sex, which was a reflection of the times. However, to say that it was internal problems that brought LRY down is wrong. The UUA clamped down on LRY because it felt threatened by youth autonomy and it wanted to assert more control, clear and simple.

Tim and Heather went on to say:

"Given this context, it's time we acknowledge the possibility that a Common Ground III may result in a drastic restructuring of YRUU, if not its dissolution. We must also recognize, however, that we have the power to learn from LRY's mistakes. We should insist on having the chance to work out our issues in a way that keeps the ball in our court—and then we need to follow through with passion and commitment."

and Tim added later:

"The Youth Office [was] created as a compromise between the leaders of LRY and the UUA when LRY traded its financial independance for denominational support ..."

This is not what happened. LRY leadership had little say in the matter. LRY did not trade it's financial independence for anything; the UUA seized control of LRY finances in a move that many LRYers felt was unethical at best, if not a downright violation of the terms of LRY's financial endowment.

I am not pointing this out to criticize, I am pointing it out because I suspect that history is doomed to repeat itself. I agree with Eric Swanson, who said: "the actual authority to act has been held in the UUA's back pocket". Until the youth can wrest the power back, youth programming will continue to be held hostage to the interests of the UUA. Although I disagree with a lot of what Wayne Arnussen has to say about LRY, I think he accidentally got it right when he said that ""In my opinion, the biggest problem for LRY…was that it lost its institutional memory for how to sustain a strong service program to districts and churches." Not because LRY should have provided better service to the churches and districts, but because LRY's independence alienated church administrators, who reacted to the perceived threat by asserting their authority. Any new youth program will have to do a better job than LRY (or, apparently, YRUU) at staying in the UUA's good graces. Sad to say, the only hope for youth to regain some control is for UUA board members to support such a move, and that will only happen if enough UUA members have good experiences with the youth programs.

When I first came to school at Evergreen State College, one of my professors said, "I know I will have succeeded when my students kick me out of my seminar." Looking forward to the day when the youth run the youth programs again!

Ben Alexander
LRY 1972-1978
Hosea Ballou Federation (Vermont)
Currently at:
Sound Native Plants
PO Box 7505
Olympia, WA 98507-7505
(360) 352-4122

Rev. Dr. Daniel O'Connell

I think Eric Swanson's comments are persuasive. Hey Eric!

At first glance, there appear to be two contextual items: (1) youth autonomy; (2) budget cutting.

I was in LRY in the late 1970s, and in C-UUYAN in the 1980s. I served in a variety of leadership positions.

You can read in Wayne Arnason's histories of the U and U youth movement that our youth movements were the first to be autonomous-- the youth put up the structure and drove the programming.

This kind of thing wouldn't be allowed in more orthodox traditions. It was a great concept and still is. Have some adults provide appropriate boundary setting, and then let the youth run wild with creativity and experimentation in worship, social justice, etcetera.

In fact, this idea of a group of elders setting limits, but then allowing whatever creativity and activity that feeds into mission, vision, and values loose is precisely the idea behind policy governance that so many of our districts, congregations, and now even the UUA board, espouse. So, it is a little ironic to decimate decentralized national effort.

Things changed for the UU yough movement, because of the 1960s and 1970s, where many UU families went through upheaval.

Spouse swapping, divorce, drug use, you name it were in our congregations. And that was just the adults (one day I'll have to write a memoir...).

Some youth advisors basically abdicated their limit setting abilities, and some youth conferences degenerated to the point that even youth didn't want to attend anymore.

Then the collapse came, and eventually common ground and yruu, a more structured version of lry.

But it is easy for those in an administration-- whether the UUA administration or any other-- to centralize power and programming, rather than decentralize it-- there are more examples of this than I can name.

Once we heard that YRUU and UUYAN offices were going to merge, it became apparent what was going to happen. You don't merge when you expect growth. You merge as a pre-condition to decreasing program, etcetera.

Side note: Frankly, I'm surprised how much money UUYAN has gotten over the years. In our early years, UUYAN was entirely self-funded. Then we became trendy, and the UUA did a capital campaign, part of that money was to support YA programming.

Finally, I have to point out that it is somewhat ironic that the letter from the YRUU Steering Committee says that:

"youth programming on the district and congregational levels will continue relatively unaffected."

Why is that ironic? Because the UUA doesn't pay for any of that, and has no control over it. Districts and congregations-- ultimately adult UUs pay for it.

Rev. Dr. Daniel OConnell
President, Central Midwest District of the UUA
Lead Minister,
Eliot Unitarian Chapel
100 South Taylor Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63122
(314) 821-0911 (office)

Tim Fitzgerald and Heather Vail - Fall 2004

Is it Time for Another Common Ground?
Why Young Relgious Unitarian Universalism Must Change or Die

by Tim Fitzgerald and Heather Vail
Fall 2004

Note: This is an extended version of a shorter article appearing in the print version of Synapse!

Recently, many youth and adults have recognized a need for a re-evaluation of Young Religious Unitarian Universalism (YRUU), raising concerns about YRUU's accessibility and ability to meet the needs of UU youth locally, in districts/regions, and continentally. In 2003, leaders within YRUU organized a Long Range Planning meeting, and a group of youth and adults from across the continent came to Boston to consider the future of YRUU. Unfortunately, the conference received little institutional support. Because money promised by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) for reform never materialized, YRUU found itself cutting back on staff and structure rather than strengthening it. Since then, adult leaders in the UUA, including UUA President Bill Sinkford, have pushed YRUU to address some of its issues, calling for a new Common Ground conference. The first two Common Grounds occurred in the early 80's and served to disband and reorganize the UUA's previous youth program, the more independent, more risky Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), and create YRUU. The proposition on the table now is for a Common Ground III.

Originally, we intended the focus of this article to be solely on Common Ground III and the repercussions of Youth Council's recent decision (YC '04) to not pass the resolution that would lay its groundwork. After a lot of discussion, though, we've decided to focus here on the larger institutional issues behind the need for reform. We do this in the interest of starting a dialogue within YRUU about its problems and about how we, as youth, can take responsibility for them. We see this as vital not only for the long-term success of YRUU, but also so that we can enter future dialogue with the adults of the UUA on a solid footing to articulate our needs, including those of the youth to whom we currently need to be more accountable. YRUU's leadership must recognize, and take responsibility for, its institutional failings before the UUA Board of Trustees decides that it has no choice but to impose something as drastic and potentially disempowering as a Common Ground.

We see the role of adults in this process as one of advising and facilitation, not unlike the relationship that we expect all adults in our communities to maintain with youth. What we believe is that YRUU, on all three levels, needs some drastic re-visioning work, but that it is the responsibility of youth, and not adults, to call for and design this process. We feel that this internal re-evaluation needs to happen before any alliance with the UUA's adult leadership can yield progress that both addresses YRUU's institutional concerns and upholds youth empowerment. All UU adults can help this process by working to restore a sense of youth empowerment to the intergenerational UU community. Necessarily, a sizable component of this process will involve a dedicated and conscious focus on the part of the adult leadership of the UUA to actively promote and demonstrate a commitment to anti-ageism.

What, then, are the problems with YRUU? Here are some issues that we see, and that others have raised during conversations we have had about Common Ground:

There is a lack of transparency in, and accessibility to, continental YRUU structures, decision-making, and culture, affecting youth at the local and district levels. The only link between the continental and district levels of YRUU are each districts' Youth Council Representatives (YCRs), who hold the responsibility to bring continental culture, resources, and politics down to district level communities. Over time, YCRs have become increasingly complacent about the historical lack of success those holding the position have had in completing that duty. The link between district-level YRUU and local youth groups is similarly weak. Top-down communication between district leaders and local youth groups is often blocked by wary adults in congregations unclear on their proper roles as intermediaries. District programming tends to revolve around conference communities that exist for their own sake, rather than as assemblies of representatives of local youth groups. Therefore, members of these conferences communities are increasingly less likely to be active in their local youth groups. As a result of these circumstances, local youth groups are often oblivious to the existence of district-level YRUU activities and thus can not receive support from their districts, or continental YRUU via their districts. This broken chain prevents YRUU processes from being accountable to most of the association's youth.

There is a lack of transparency in, and accessibility to, continental, district, and local YRUU structures, decision-making, and culture, affecting low-income youth, Youth of Color, disabled youth, and transgender/genderqueer youth. As part of continental YRUU's struggle around anti-racism and anti-oppression work, the topic has been raised of how inaccessible expensive continental conferences, such as General Assembly, Continental Conference (Con Con), and the YRUU Social Justice Conference, are to working and low-income youth. Additionally, racism, transphobia, and ableism affect Youth of Color, genderqueer and handicapped youth throughout all levels of YRUU—problems that YRUU inherits from the outside world in which it exists and in which all of its participants live. These are crucial issues, and although they are being actively addressed in the small and exclusive continental YRUU community, our commitment to these struggles must be re-affirmed and maintained in the larger population of Unitarian Universalist (UU) youth. Developing efforts to spread anti-oppression ideas to districts and local youth groups are a step in the right direction.

At the same time, on the continental level, emphasis on anti-racism experience as a pre-requisite for leadership has reduced the leadership pool to a select group of youth who have already been assisted in constructing a strong anti-racism analysis. Although local-level programming is being implemented to inform youth at all levels of YRUU about the work continental YRUU has done, it hasn't occurred fast enough to prevent a giant cultural gap from forming between the levels of YRUU. Staff and leader selection processes that require an already-functional analysis of anti-racism issues seem appropriate given our understanding of how much damage oppressive leadership can cause to our communities and to individuals within them. At the same time, by closing leadership opportunities to white folks who haven't yet been helped to develop an A-R analysis, we are closing the circle around a very small group of established leaders. All white people have steps to take on their journeys as anti-racist allies, and we need to resist the urge to draw lines in the sand, which is often a reaction to our own internal struggles—and no fault of white folks who are potentially somewhat more ignorant of the roles they need to play. All leaders should participate in anti-racism-focused programming that matches their level of experience with the concepts at hand. Youth with an interest in serving their communities in leadership roles are the lifeblood of the movement and they must be welcomed and pointed in the right direction.

Youth Council (YC), YRUU's governing body of Youth Council Representatives (YCRs) and a small-number of at-large youth, has demonstrated over the past few years a distressing inability to get crucial internal business done. A quick glance at the YC Resolution archive reveals a stunning contrast: recent assemblies have passed only a small number of resolutions pertaining to YRUU business that were not directly related to social justice work. In 1999, seventeen out of the eighteen resolutions passed were directly related to YRUU's programming, community, or institutional-structures. In fact, the number of resolutions that even reached the floor during the Youth Councils of 2002, 2003, and 2004 combined exceeds the total passed in 1999 by only one. Changes that could share responsibility for this trend are: Youth Council's switch from Robert's Rules of order to a problematic formal consensus process; the decision by YRUU's Steering Committee to (in violation of YRUU's Policies and Procedures) eliminate the ex-officio moderator, usually an older youth with a sense of institutional memory; and efforts begun by Steering Committee 2001-2002 to actively and passively discourage the submission of resolutions in the interest of saving time for anti-racism training. Regardless of the cause, this is an issue that must be addressed; Steering Committee, YRUU's most powerful group of leaders, is drawn directly from Youth Council, and is subject to the same problems.

The passing-down of this culture among YCRs has contributed to a slow shift of Youth Council duties onto the shoulders of the Youth Office, already overburdened due to the loss of one of the three YRUU Program Specialist (YPS) positions. YCRs usually serve for two years, an even shorter period than the average four-or-five year turnover of the entire YRUU community. As a result of inevitable continuity issues, the culture that produced such successful and productive youth assemblies in years past has been nearly lost, and the only individuals still in positions of leadership who were part of this culture serve not on Youth Council, but in the Youth Office. Additionally, YCRs have always been less effective than those who designed YRUU in the early 1980s had intended, and over time the Youth Council has passed a number of resolutions passing YCR responsibilities onto the Youth Office staff. As a result of these circumstances, continental YRUU's leadership has become unfortunately dependant on the Youth Office for both guidance and the raw support labor required to sustain YRUU's programming and functionality. The consequences of this shift include not only the inevitable neglect of many of these duties, but a shift in the balance of power, onto the shoulders of YPSes who ideally serve in strictly ex-officio roles on continental Steering Committee and Youth Council. When YRUU was created, the Youth Office was intended to support and facilitate, not lead and design, initiatives and programming. It's also worth noting that Common Grounds I and II stripped LRY of its full financial independence and placed control of YRUU's budget in the hands of the UUA Board of Trustees via the Youth Office. This places unfair restrictions on the types of resolutions that YCRs can effectively submit and pass.

Adult/youth relations are in shambles: a fading commitment to anti-ageism as an active pursuit, and to youth empowerment as an ideal, has, over a long stretch of time, resulted in a large trust gap between the youth and adult UU communities. Many adults have confused empowerment for abandonment, leaving continental YRUU with a drought of active and invested adults. Consequently, YRUU has turned inwards, attempting to operate without the benefits of a healthy intergenerational community, struggling to maintain an appropriate level of empowerment without enough adult allies. And as youth have taken responsibility for YRUU onto themselves, enduring success and struggle, adults have become anxious. In this anxiety, adults at all levels of the UU community have found justification for engaging in disempowering relations with youth, including: the aforementioned keeping of information about YRUU events and leadership from youth in local youth groups, denying youth a 24-hour space at General Assembly, disbanding annual regional YRUU conferences and/or placing adults in positions of inappropriately high power, the banning of certain language in a number of district communities, the tokenization of youth on the UUA Board of Trustees, and the push for Common Ground III after the failure to support the Long Range Planning Meeting. It will be difficult for youth and adults to repair this relationship without a great deal of intentional work on behalf of the adult community to restore an expectation of right relationship with youth. Youth must also be willing to tackle this issue as a matter of empowerment and struggle, recognizing that a youth community in conflict with the adult UUA community is not sustainable, and that an intergenerational and anti-ageist community is the best ultimate goal.

YRUU leadership is slowly decaying due to our community's lack of a collective memory and its seeming inability to effectively pass leadership skills and vision on to younger youth. YRUU and young adult joint work, though potentially very positive for both communities, is currently serving to exacerbate this situation by allowing bridged-out YRUUers to continue to participate in YRUU politics. In the YRUU 15-year review, current UUA Board trustee Wayne Arnason reflected on his experiences as a youth leader during the collapse of LRY: "In my opinion, the biggest problem for LRY…was that it lost its institutional memory for how to sustain a strong service program to districts and churches." YRUU needs to create a sustainable process for achieving a smooth flow of ideas, empowerment, and leadership skills between older and younger youth, or it will probably continue to decay slowly, requiring total cultural overhaul every 20 or so years. The main reason why this 20-year cycle is problematic is that it results in a long period of time where the institution fails to serve most UU youth, with no alternative to meet their needs. It is extremely important that older leaders, before they are too old to participate in YRUU governance, pass down YRUU culture by mentoring younger youth. We older leaders must then trust the next generation to carry on and advance the institution without young adult assistance.

There are no doubt many other issues that need to be addressed in YRUU. Having an open and accountable dialogue about these problems is the best way to move forward in solving them. Steering Committee and Youth Council need to take immediate action to lead this conversation with vision and a sense of purpose, fueled by our principles and institutional goals of accountability, community, and democracy.

Common Ground's legacy is one of adult-enforced restructuring, prompted by the inability of LRY's leadership to address its own internal problems. If YRUU is going to respond to the adult leadership's push for a new Common Ground, it should do so with an understanding of the history attached to the name. Arnason's account of Common Grounds I and II (Appendix D of the 15-Year Review) offers an excellent summary of that history.

Given this context, it's time we acknowledge the possibility that a Common Ground III may result in a drastic restructuring of YRUU, if not its dissolution. We must also recognize, however, that we have the power to learn from LRY's mistakes. We should insist on having the chance to work out our issues in a way that keeps the ball in our court—and then we need to follow through with passion and commitment. We may need to re-examine our approach to anti-oppression work—not because it isn't crucial (we believe that it is) but because we must maintain our institutions and our community if our effort is to be sustained. We will need our adult allies to accomplish our goals and to help other adults to be youth allies. As always, however, the future of YRUU is in our hands. YRUUers—step up! We need a revolution!

Lorne Tyndale -

"a few years ago I was going through some
of my archival YRUU material and decided that it needed to be available.
I've often felt that YRUU didn't know enough about its own history. So I
started a website. The purpose of this site is to be a central online resource
for historical YRUU material. Anyone can submit material and while I havn't
added much to the site lately, I do have a bunch of material on the 'add to
the site soon' pile."

For anyone interested, the site is

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Peter Campbell

I am a lifelong UU (51 years); former active member of Liberal Religious Youth (LRY - YRUU's predecessor), and the father of an eight year old boy whom I'd envisioned joining YRUU someday. That idea has been going downhill for a while, but, with this news, we'll be burying it. I have a historical perspective about what the UU youth program of the 60's and 70's did for me -- which was considerable -- and what it now offers for my son, which seems negligible. And I'll get out of the way right now the thought I had when I was active at my local church: if the adult UU's don't understand that youth are the future of the church, and therefore remarkably important to invest in, they're really short-sighted.

I was in LRY from 1970 until 1974. Before that, I attended Sunday School at the Arlington Street Church, in Boston, and went to a UU summer camp at Ferry Beach, Maine. It's clear to me that the UU Youth programs and community greatly supported me in:

1. Accepting myself for who I am (I was always a quirky individual - still am)
2. Resourcing me to determine my own religious beliefs
3. Helping me overcome social difficulties and have the confidence to meet people
4. Fostering a deeply embedded social conscience in me that is with me to this day.

LRY did all of that and more, of course. By 16 I was the leader of my local (Boston) LRY Group. By 17 I was a regional director in New England. By 18 I was planning week long conferences and coordinating activities that professionals get paid six figure salaries to do as adults. More than that, I was studying concepts of leadership and group dynamics, and engaging in sophisticated collaborative activities and discussions. Today I am a technology executive for a good sized non-profit organization, and, unlike most techs, I have strong leadership and people skills. I got them from LRY.

Some parents, clearly, were shocked by the level of youth autonomy in LRY. Adults were only there as chaperones. The teenagers planned the events, booked the facilities, designed the menus, cooked the foods, and led the sessions. But what's more shocking to me is that there seems to be no equivalent experience that will be there for my son when he becomes a teenager. We spent a year participating at a local UU church, but we bowed out for a few reasons, the primary one being that the investment in the Sunday School was lame. Volunteers led the classes, and the quality was akin to day care.

I don't know what went into this decision to abandon YRUU at the National/International level, but it certainly seems like the UUA is unable to lead or strategize around one of the key constituencies of any long existing institution - the future. And, given my experience in LRY, and the similar stories I've heard from YRUU members, they're abandoning something that is pretty unigue - the youth group that recognizes the spirit, intelligence and capabilities of our youth, and provides a place for them to learn and model skills and talents that will take them places in the world as adults. It's sad.

Here's hoping that more opportunistic and strategic minds eventually come to power at the UUA, ones that understand that investing in youth does not mean controlling or ignoring them, and that a heritage is built by resourcing the generations to come. It doesn't seem like the current leadership is offering that to the youth they just abandoned, or the younger ones like mine, who are looking for a community to support their growth.

Tim Fitzgerald

The End Times of YRUU -- April 22nd, 2005

Philocrites, RadicalHapa and Steve Caldwell have all posted regarding
the most recent steps taken by the Sinkford Administration of the
Unitarian Universalist Association to (as I see it) effectively
disembowel the UUA's empowering youth ministry, YRUU. I'm not sure how
often I will get into UUA politics on this blog, but this seems like
as good a time as any to weigh in. Previously I have co-written an
article in Synapse, the sometimes-published journal of YRUU, and
commented over at Philocrites. I recognize that this is a little
lengthy, but I haven't seen anyone write a subjective summary of these
events, so if you haven't been kept up to date or don't know much
about YRUU, this is kind of written with you in mind.

For those who are unfamiliar with YRUU, it's the youth movement in
which I was a local, district, and continental leader for 6 years,
ending last June. Over the past two years, YRUU has experienced a
great deal of change, driven from the inside by youth leaders, and has
become increasingly politically radical and has pushed the UUA to put
its money where its mouth is in more and more direct ways. The
reaction from the UUA's President, Rev. William Sinkford, has been to
take more and more drastic steps in violation of the UUA's covenant to
support and empower YRUU. YRUU is an organization that is accountable
to actual communities of Unitarian Universalist youth -- which elect
representatives to a continental Youth Council -- but President
Sinkford wants the UUA's resources to be distributed to congregations
at a local level, and not to serve a continentally-centered
organization like YRUU.

The process that the UUA has engaged in to reach Sinkford's vision for
youth ministry has been personally painful to observe, because I loved
YRUU and invested my whole self in it. I was co-Dean of ConCon 2003,
so the recent decision to cancel it was hard to swallow, and although
I agree with the justifications for doing so, the fact that it was
done by the Youth Office -- and not by the YRUU Steering Committee --
represented a decision with huge political consequences, and probably
played into the administration's broader plan.

It's also been ideologically painful, because I believe that youth
minister to themselves best, and I believe that most congregations
lack the motivation and training to seriously minister to (i.e.,
empower) youth. The role of adults in YRUU is something that has
blurred over time, but this is due to no failure of YRUU, but rather a
lack of dialogue in adult communities about youth empowerment. The UUA
leadership has done nothing to address the ageism that affects so many
relationships between youth and adults so negatively, in the world and
in our denomination. And I fear that they have done little to address
ageism within themselves, as well, because if they had, I feel they
would better understand that the role of adults is not to implement,
design, or run youth groups or youth ministry programs. The safe space
that YRUU was for me and for my peers depended on our advisors who
knew how to empower and mentor us without oppressing us or abandoning
us. I believe that if adults on the congregational level did not
systematially fail to support and empower youth, YRUU would function
and could serve all UU youth. So, the idea of adults dismantling YRUU
-- a structure built, maintained, and designed by the collective
vision of 20 years of youth community, and by the legacy of LRY before
it -- with the goal of better ministering to youth is, to me, not just
oppressive and shortsighted, but deeply disappointing and in violation
of the UU principles that have always seemed to me to be foundational
to the idea of youth empowerment.

Finally, this chain of events has been politically difficult for me as
a one-time player in the continental UUA political arena -- a venue in
which the ideas of youth disempowerment and adult control are
currently winning. From 2003 to 2004, I was the elected Youth Observer
to the UUA Board of Trustees, and as the token agitator on issues of
youth empowerment, I came to an understanding of a Board of Trustees
that, while very spiritually and intellectually devoted to their idea
of the UUA and a great group of leaders, nevertheless lacks the
motivation to tackle issues of constituency accountability and which
has been more than happy to disempower youth when it suits their

What I didn't gain as much of an understanding of is Rev. Sinkford
himself -- he is a very private and reserved person. But I campaigned
for him when he ran for President -- the youth community largely
endorsed him and had a major role in his victory -- and I have always
felt that he has served the Association with a reverent spirit and a
level head. Recent events, however, have changed my opinion of his
priorities and ability to help design youth ministry without causing
much more harm than good.

Rev. Sinkford has spent the past three years pushing for a major
revisioning of YRUU -- selling it first to the UUA Board of Trustees
and then later to YRUU. But from the moment I joined the BoT, it was
clear that Bill's "Common Ground III" wasn't just a suggestion or
something that he expected to raise to YRUU, it was something he was
more or less promising the BoT was going to happen. He spoke about it
in terms of how his plans were coming along, and not in terms of how
dialogue was being engaged in to figure out what plans should be set.
This made me nervous, and it took me until the end of my time on the
Board to really figure out why.

General Assembly 2004 marked the end of my 1-year term as Youth
Observer. At that GA, Rev. Sinkford met with representatives of the
YRUU Steering Committee, and the meeting resulted in a plan to
structure a conversation around how to move forward with Common Ground
III. After the meeting, several members of Steering Committee who had
been present expressed to me their concern about the way the meeting
had gone. They felt intimidated by the presence of their
denominational leader -- they felt silenced by the way that he engaged
them, apparently oblivious to the power dynamic between a group of
youth leaders and the spiritual and political (and adult) head of
their denomination. And they felt unsure about the result, and whether
it was something they really wanted to happen. YRUU has been aware of
its need to change for years and has taken steps independantly to
revision itself; it's not like Steering Committee didn't go into that
meeting interested in working with Bill. But it sounded to me that
Bill was proceeding with his plan, not with an actively empowering

The meeting at GA was intended, as far as I could tell, to get
Steering Committee on board for a Common Ground III resolution that
Bill got them to draft and submit to Youth Council last August. Youth
Council did not pass the resolution; it seems, in retrospect, that
this was the point at which Bill mostly gave up pretenses of being
accountable to this structure. Bill had made a plan, had told the
Board of Trustees it was moving along well before he had any kind of
accountable youth support, and now the youth had sent him back to the
drawing board. I just don't think he was going to have it.

Since then, at least two (?) meetings have taken place between Bill
and various groups of adults and youth, and although I haven't been
invited -- which is also something that makes me wonder, given my
involvement up to this point and the opinions I have chosen to voice
-- I don't know any youth at all who are particularly excited about
the process. There are always way too many adults, and there is a
definite effort made by Rev. Sinkford to make sure that the youth he
invites are mostly youth that are completely divorced from YRUU and
the UUA's youth communities. By and large, these are youth that have
been prevented by adults in their congregations, not by other youth,
from participating in YRUU. These youth aren't neccessarily empowered
voices and have no sense of the youth culture that the UUA has
cultivated through the much-better-suited-for-youth-ministry YRUU.

Finally, things have come to a head. After eliminating one of the
three YRUU Program Specialist positions about a year ago, ostensibly
due to budget cuts, in January Rev. Sinkford re-added the position to
the UUA's staff roster -- except now it's not a YRUU Program
Specialist, it's a Youth Ministry Specialist, and YRUU Steering
Committee -- the only qualified, accountable body of youth leaders --
has no role in recommending this person, and they are not required to
answer to Steering Committee at any level. At the time, it didn't seem
-- to me -- like a catastrophe, it felt like a compromise. Bill gets
someone to focus on the congregations -- which, you know, would
actually be sweet in a way; no one is arguing against that idea -- and
the other two YPSes get to tend to the business of YRUU.

But now the axe has dropped, and we can get a sense of where this has
all been heading. YRUU Steering Committee, citing issues with the
Youth Office, made the very questionable decision to request that the
Youth Office staff leave their meeting space during their election of
what was to become the new September YPS. This did violate right
relationship, but it's not like the UUA and Bill haven't been
violating right relationship with every act that has displayed their
willingness to disempower youth and undermine their accountable
leaderships' ability to exercise their vision for YRUU and its
effective ministry. But regardless, like a prisoner who is taunted and
then thrown into solitary when ze finally snaps at zis guards, YRUU
has basically been eviscerated by Sinkford's April 11th letter to YRUU
Steering Committee, which explains that "business as usual can no
longer proceed" and that from now on, the UUA will hire only Youth
Ministry Consultants and not YRUU Program Specialists.

So, I guess you could say that the End is Near. YRUU has one YPS left
and he will be the last. At that point, the Youth Office -- created as
a compromise between the leaders of LRY and the UUA when LRY traded
its financial independance for denominational support -- will no
longer be accountable to anyone but the UUA, and will begin to serve
exactly whom Bill Sinkford has hoped and dreamed it would:
congregations -- or, more accurately, adults who run congregations and
who lack the ability, motivation, and drive to minister to youth, who
should be ministering to themselves. No doubt the name of the Office
will change, too -- if it doesn't it will be a slap in the face to all
who remember the days when the left side of the 5th floor at 42 Mt.
Vernon Street really did belong to Youth.

I want to hold up my personal respect for all of the people whose
actions I have criticized in this post. I know that we are all
dedicated to the larger UU community and to maintaining right
relationship. But I deeply believe that the steps being taken
represent a fundamental failure to do the soul work that must be done
before engaging in any identity-based ministry, and it is deeply
painful for me to experience this being done to -- more than happening
within -- a community that I just bridged out of and that many of my
friends and personal allies are still hugely invested in. It is also
very painful to experience the large-scale silencing that I have felt
as a youth -- now young adult -- voice in this conversation. It is
very difficult in the UUA to be heard if you disagree with those in
charge, and that is very unfortunate. Not that I expect it to
accomplish much, but for whatever it's worth, I have got to use my
voice as a young adult ally to call upon Rev. Sinkford to restore the
YPS positions to Steering Committee's control, re-dedicate himself to
opposing ageism within himself and within the UUA's congregations and
governing institutions, and to call a moratorium on all unaccountable
and disempowering actions taken by adult leaders in the name of the
youth they care about.

Eric Swanson

I was trying to keep this brief, but I'll settle for shorter-than-a-novel length.

I'm a long-time adult advisor on many levels, and as a youth I was a delegate to Common Ground 2. My resume overlaps with those from previous posters Matt, Tim, Betty Jeanne, Sara, and others. 'Nuff said on that front.

First I want to talk about history, and what it felt like to be part of the birth of YRUU. When I arrived at Common Ground 2 in Maine, I was a 15-year-old who had never known LRY. My colleagues there were a mix of folks from districts where LRY had stayed functional and reasonably sane (like my current home district, PCD), districts where LRY had collapsed or been shut down and something new had been started already (like my district at the time, PNWD), and districts where LRY was failed or failing and nothing was starting yet. This led to hugely diverse discussions -- there was a lot of really thoughtful talk about which parts of LRY constituted baby and which constituted bathwater. As someone who didn't know much UU history, I got a massive lesson in a big hurry at CG2.

But the "common ground" we all really shared there was that we had all arrived knowing our job was to start something new. We had the representation to do the job credibly, we had the authority to act in a binding way, and we had the shared/overlapping/distinct goals of all the delegates present, from long-time LRY veterans to folks like me who had experienced a glimpse of something new.

This sense of what ground we actually hold in common seems to me to be missing from the current process. While the summit and its related process have solicited input from many quarters over the past couple years, the actual authority to act has been held in the UUA's back pocket.

For that matter, the entire process of the Consultation on Ministry to and with Youth has been proceeding on (what appeared to me to be) predetermined lines. Some of the earliest documents during formation of the Consultation process referred to exactly the goals that are now claimed as the result of the process -- notably that a congregation-based approach will be the emphasis.

Rather than "common ground," this feels to me like "designated ground" -- I feel that the Consultation staked out a patch of ground based on its initial biases, which has biased who came to the ground to talk, which of course biased the final result.

This brings me to my next point: In the years since CG2 I have worked constantly as, with, and near UU youth in various settings. And one thing I know for sure about adolescents (especially early adolescents) is that they need to place themselves in a context of something larger than a typical church youth group -- larger even than a phenomenally huge local church youth group. As 11- to 14-year-olds pull their identity strings loose from their parents, they have their first opportunity to form an identity as part of something big, something that transcends the scale of their family-centered life experience. I have seen YRUUers become lifelong UUs in a matter of hours or days when they realize that they can exercise their power on the world stage in a way that is significant by getting together with others of like mind.

My experiences in this area have led me to the firm belief that focusing on local youth programming at the expense of district and continental youth programming is simply a wrong choice -- that the sense of a larger community is a core need of youth in this age range. I fear the cost to the UU movement of this misguided decision.

This leads me to my final point: We have been here before. During the 1990s when Continental YRUU shortened its age range, Youth Council (and other bodies) cited the idea that YRUU's long age range was stifling development of other programming for early adolescents and young adults, and that cutting off the age range would stimulate growth of new programs. In fact, no such thing happened. Young adult programs had only a slight increase in younger membership, and early adolescent programs have remained entirely absent at the continental level and terribly limited in districts. The theory that a program vacuum creates programs has in my view been entirely debunked by this history.

What creates programs, of course, is people working on creating programs. Whether it is by soliciting a massive volunteer effort or funding paid staff positions, forming something new takes lots of work. And it doesn't happen overnight. Of all the problems with the UUA's decision, this is perhaps the most troubling -- we are being told "not here, not this way," but there's no "over there, try that thing" yet. I'm struck by the parallel with what we get when young adult "bridging" doesn't work -- I call it "cliffing," which paints a word picture I'm sure will be familiar to some.

And so I complete the circle: CG2 was an event for youth creating youth programs. As nearly as I can tell, the UUA administration has no plan to give youth the power to do any such thing as part of the current UUA. If I could convince myself that we were seeing an act of creation here, I'd sigh deeply and get on board. But all I can see right now is destruction.

Eric Swanson, SF Bay Area

Will Floyd

A Youth and Young Adult History of Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression Work in UUism
By Will Floyd

      The genesis of today’s anti-racism/anti-oppression work in UU youth and young adult communities comes from a long history of Unitarian and Universalist youth involvement in social activism and a desire for justice in our lives. Racism also has a long and devastating history within our denomination as well as in our youth organizations. With the 1997 GA resolution, “Toward an Anti-Racist Unitarian Universalist Association”, the UUA made a commitment to doing institution-wide anti-racism work through the Journey Towards Wholeness Initiative. According to Joseph Santos-Lyons in A Brief and Personal History of Groundwork 1998-2007, “addressing race has been a legacy [within the UUA] since the 1960s. Yet many who have engaged race relations have experienced serious resistance and frustration to the point of burnout and even sadly a reconsidering of their Unitarian Universalist faith. Institutional commitment has consistently ebbed except for a roughly five-year period from 1997-2001 during the last term of President John Buehrens through the leadership of the UUA Journey Towards Wholeness Transformation Committee and the Faith in Action Department. Anti-racist/anti-oppression/multiculturalism adopted as a primary strategy for addressing and redressing generations of White Supremacy, segregation, and marginalization of People of Color, took root with the near unanimous passage of the Journey Towards Wholeness Resolution at General Assembly 1997 in Phoenix. This strategy… has seemed to slowly recede from the collective UU consciousness.” Here Santos-Lyons explains how institutional commitment to anti-racism as an institutional analysis has declined over the years in the UUA as a whole. This is not to discredit the efforts of professional and lay leaders committed to developing anti-racism/anti-oppression resources and organizing trainings, etc. However, a critical institutional analysis around oppression has been strikingly absent from discussions of anti-racism in the UUA, while an interpersonal analysis of racism and oppression has been prevalent in “anti-racist” circles. It is within this context that an AR/AO/MC consciousness developed in UU youth and young adult communities.
      An anti-racism focus developed in YRUU during the Journey Towards Wholeness process, but became most active after 2001. YRUU Youth Council passed a resolution in 1997 in support of the Journey Towards Wholeness Initiative. But with the Resolution It’s Time We Did Something About Racism in YRUU in 1999, a process for a drastic cultural change within YRUU was laid out. This resolution required an analysis of all continental leadership and training activities through an “anti-racist lens.” At the same time anti-racism training began being included in continental events like Opus and Concentric. Joseph Santos-Lyons observes that “by 2001, youth and young adults were taking very seriously race and racism, really for the first time since the 1960s on an institutional level. Workshops and trainings were being incorporated into Opus, ConCentric, GA, Con Con, Youth Council, Youth Social Justice Conference, etc, and the youth and young adults were learning and seeking to lead anti-racism, sometimes on their own. There were only a couple of youth-young adult facilitators, who developed informally. Most were closely associated with the UUA staff, the Journey Towards Wholeness Initiative…” This effort developed largely separately from other efforts in the UUA (such as resource development and Jubilee trainings) with the dedication of youth and young adult leaders and select staff.

      Efforts by the youth and young adult leaders to present anti-racism were met with skepticism and resistance. “Critics [of anti-racism] hid behind rumors of dogmatism, shame, and guilt methodology and ideologies of color-blindness, individualism, and an intellectualization of the supremacy classism as the source of racism.” At the same time, the young leaders were faced with the challenge of transforming UU communities and often lacked the experience, resources, mentorship, and staff support needed to do the job. According to Santos-Lyons, “Issues of paternalism undermined the quality of work, primarily through tokenizing Youth of Color and struggling to identify the workings of White Privilege among leadership…”

      In January of 2002 representatives from YRUU, DRUUMM, C*UUYAN, the Youth and YA/CM offices, as well as at large participants gathered in Clearwater, Florida where goals were developed and prioritized and DRUUMM YaYA was formally organized. The meeting provided a blueprint for the next few years of youth and young adult anti-racism work, but still “there were few opportunities to develop and mentor anti-racism/anti-oppression leadership in an accountable, collective, and systematic way. Jubilee I and II trainers were mostly all over the age of 35, there were complaints of ageism…” While critiquing the resources developed under the direction of the Journey Towards Wholeness Initiative, the participants of the Clearwater meeting agreed that “it was [the Journey Towards Wholeness] programs in particular that were not developed in ways that were accountable to UU youth and young adults, and it [was] these programs about which UU youth and young adults have had very legitimate critiques, both with regard to content and to process.” The failure of Jubilee trainings and other resources to be accessible to youth and the lack of opportunity for youth and young adults to take leadership in Journey Towards Wholeness anti-racism initiatives created a great need for a youth and young adult-specific anti-racism training program.

      As Santos-Lyons recounts, “In late 2003, the Youth and Young Adult/Campus Ministry Office, in cooperation with the C*UUYAN and YRUU Steering Committees, agreed to sponsor a new program – the Youth and Young Adult Anti-Racism Trainer Program.” The first training-of-trainers for this new program was held in Boston in May of 2004. The effort was supported by a few experienced UU anti-racism trainers and “elders in the Journey Towards Wholeness and DRUUMM communities. It was very difficult however and the need for more dedicated staff and funding was felt acutely… and each year letters were written to our supervisors and up the UUA hierarchy requesting financial support. These were denied.” This collective was named ARTOP (Anti-Racism Trainer Organizer Program) and then renamed Groundwork in 2006 and a second training-of-trainers was held during the Fall of 2006.

      Groundwork has served as the primary source of anti-racism/anti-oppression education for UU youth and young adults in recent years. Groundwork’s collective governance and critical analysis of oppression is reflective of the combined youth and young adult approach to anti-racism over more than a decade. The relatively independent youth and young adult anti-racism work provided a critical analysis of the Journey Towards Wholeness. For example, at the 2002 Clearwater meeting participants brainstormed criticisms of the Journey Toward Wholeness. These criticisms included: “POC and youth are tokenized and sucked into the energy vortex; forgetting to link oppressions (it’s all tied in, race, class, gender, sexuality, etc); generational split; gatekeeping at all levels (not everyone is invited to experience the analysis); programming spawned from the majority often leads to tokenism; need to use linked oppressions to the advantage of the movement; need more discussion of outside the box action!; analysis is not ‘growing’ (little room for new perspectives); model was never developed with youth and young adults in mind…” With increased communication between UUs doing anti-racism work, these concerns might have been addressed. However, this communication often did not occur due to barriers of age and ideology; these are barriers that prevented anti-racism/anti-oppression work from growing in a multi-generational context.

      The development of youth and young adult specific anti-racism programming would not have been possible without the benefit of youth empowerment in YRUU.

- The Groundwork collective of trainer/organizers needs to funded by the UUA, and the collective must have control over their programming
YSJT (Youth Social Justice Training) must continue to be staffed
- Youth and Young Adults must be empowered to decide how to engage anti-oppression work
- Support must be available for anti-oppression work as a whole, recognizing how oppressions intersect and how theses oppressions can be addressed together within UUism
- Funding should be available for youth and young adult identity-based ministries: DRUUMM YaYA, a White Allies (ARE) YaYA, an Interweave YaYA, etc.

* We must build and honor past collaboration of YaYAs on AR/AO by empowering YaYAs to continue that work with staff support, funding, and organizational self-determination

This account developed mainly from the following sources which were quoted throughout the piece:

Groundwork Manual. “A Brief and Personal History of Groundwork 1998-2007,” Joseph Santos-Lyons.

Minutes: Unitarian Universalist Youth and Young Adult Anti-Racism Resources Development Meeting. January 17-19, 2002, Clearwater, Florida.

I regret that I was not able to compile additional sources and viewpoints for this piece.

Matt Moore

My name is Matt Moore, and I served as a Youth Council Representative for the Ballou Channing District and two terms on the YRUU Steering Committee from 1999-2002. I then served one year as Youth Observer to the UUA Board of Trustees, followed by two years as a member on the Journey Towards Wholeness Transformation Committee. My mom, my sister and I have collectively served five terms on the YRUU Steering Committee over the last eight years.

In my tenure and subsequent observations, I've learned that YRUU has never possessed an effective institutional memory. Year after year, YRUU was presented with a constant flood of novice enthusiasm and energy. The byproduct of this system what twofold: it could create quick and and dramatic changes in culture (e.g. the sudden shift of YRUU focus towards anti-racism/anti-oppression work, the rapid adoption of consensus, or proliferation of new ice-breakers). Also, this constant turnover of energy was an inherent weakness. Given the motivation, more powerful institutional bodies like the UUA Board of Trustees, the President's Office or the General Assembly could culturally and methodically dismantle the structures which had served youth for over two decades. So what happened? Why was YRUU such a threat?

The current Steering Committee (of which my sister is one of the active members) gave a good summary of the issues which have unfolded in the final hours of YRUU. However, I believe this dismantling started many years ago during my years of involvement. I want to explicitly underscore that this dismantling happened because the UUA felt threatened by the greater youth movement and exploited the inherent high turn-over of leadership and the poor institutional memory of YRUU.

Youth in church basements and at weekend cons don't represent a threat to congregations. That is, they rarely have an opportunity to upset the structures of power and authority which guide the congregation. In the eyes of churches, weekend cons and church basements are suitable places for youth because they don't interfere with the stewardship of the congregation or district. More often than not, participation of youth within congregations is by invitation only (e.g. an offer to light some candles, participating in a coming of age ceremony, serving food at church functions, reading during a service). But the continental youth moment represented something much greater than the invitation only status.

This started at Youth Council 1999. Four important events happened at this Youth Council: 1) the adoption of the resolution “It's Time We Do Something About Racism in YRUU!”, 2) the rejection the annual budget for the first time in anyone's institutional memory, 3) the first time there was an anti-oppression training at Youth Council, and 4) the approval of a resolution to support the adoption of a Youth Trustee to the UUA Board of Trustees. The next Youth Council was the first to do away with Roberts Rules of Parliamentary Procedure and, in it's place, introduce Formal Consensus. This was a tremendously exciting time for YRUU. The YRUU leadership of time, including that of the Youth Office, was one of radicalism and a strong thirst for destroying the status quo. The main voices in the movement were ones of passionate dissent.

It's also significant to point out that the youth population of the Youth Caucus at General Assembly 1999 (Rochester, NY) was huge. No longer were a hundred or less youth attending General Assembly. Three, four, and even five hundred youth were attending—each summer bigger than the last. I consistently attended GA from 1997-2004 and saw this steady upward growth. The youth community was spotty and disjointed but politically they were energized. Youth were workshop organizers, delegates, and rowdy participants. They rallied around statements of conscious, they sat in a block in plenary, they voted for their youth observer to the Board of Trustees. For such a small part of the entire Association, they constituted a significant voice at General Assembly and even more importantly, they were heard.

At the same period of time, small groups of youth were also meeting regularly with the UUA Board of Trustees as part of an internal restructuring effort. And here is the problem: the youth that were participating politically in all these decisions had no officially sanctioned accountability to the Association. The UUA is an Association of Congregations, as I was repeatedly told when I was a Youth Observer to the Board. Youth Council nor Youth Caucus nor Con Con nor district YACs nor Steering Committees nor district conferences were viable memberships to the Association. The only thing that mattered in the eyes of the Association were invitation-only congregational youth groups. When they are talking about accountability of youth, they are really talking about money, membership, and dues. While these youth organizations represented a significant part of a youth's experience in Unitarian Universalism, none of the youth institutions paid dues to the Association. Yet, they had the privilege of being given an annual budge—a privilege not given to Affiliate Organizations (for instance, CUUPS). (Technically, both YRUU and CUUYAN are considered “Sponsored Organizations”, although that's a meaningless definition—literally)

The Board of Trustees now had the motivation and the means to dismantle YRUU. The budget for Synapse (the annual YRUU newsletter) was removed, the funding for Con Con was removed, the Youth Office was restructured and given new leadership, and now Youth Council is being removed. These things were changed as a direct result of the leadership decisions of the Association. In addition, the Board of Trustees took it as their prerogative to appoint the youth working in the Youth Office and the adults At-Larges at Youth Council (both previously selected by the YRUU Steering Committee) as well as the selection of the Youth At-Large Trustee. The Board not only controlled the money but now they had a direct mechanism to hand-pick youth leadership.

If you look at many of the youth that were hand-picked by the Board and put onto Committees and in positions of power—and I unfortunately include myself in that group—they are what a former YRUUer would call “STARS”. Which stands for: Smart, Talkative, Articulate, Responsible and Solo. These were talented youth but who were able to adapt to the adult culture but who were not part of the larger youth movement anymore (the term “Uncle Tom” comes to mind). They were individual young people that were coaxed and nurtured into these token positions with no meaningful political ties to decision making bodies of YRUU—mainly Youth Council.

Simultaneously, many of the youth that had been instrumental in becoming a catalyst for change at the 1999 Youth Council were quickly aging out. The voices of radicalism and dissent had become phased out and the intense internal struggle with racism and oppression had momentarily crippled the spirit of YRUU. The youth movement was in desperate need of energy and new youth leadership. Instead, funds that were once used to create community were funneled into educational training conferences—where the primary goal is not to build culture and community but to teach leadership, anti-racism, spirituality, and youth advisor skills. I've lead these conferences and on day one described the conference to the participants as a “working conference.” Trainings don't constitute a threat to the Association and they are an adequate consolation prize for the YRUU death.

For those of you that have an institutional memory to share please help construct the rest of this picture so that future generations of youth in Unitarian Universalism can see what a fucked up deal they inherited.