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.


Robin Edgar said...

Interesting testimony there about ridiculously PC UUA censorship. . .

:We were dismissed after being told "YOU ARE MISTAKEN. THE UUA IS A BUSINESS AND A RELIGION."

Notice that BUSINESS comes before RELIGION. . .

YRUU Steering Committee, 2007-2008 said...

After doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of folks, this explanation really rings true. Due to the radical shift in YRUU in the past ten years or so, the UUA as an institution has systematically taken power away from YRUU youth leadership in order to stabilize the political dynamics in our Association.

Unknown said...

Sorry, that was a miss type. Amaxingly the quote is as follows:


Sorry. Bolding wasn't working out for me, so I retyped in caps, and didn't get that word. But that was the quote. From the head of the ministry department (and UUA presidential candidate in 2000)


Robin Edgar said...

Well that revised quote is even worse than what you had originally posted here Duncan. I have heard somewhat similar quotes from other top level U*U officials in the past hence my input here, but that quote is indeed an amazingly blunt and frank admission/confession. In light of that quote from Rev. Diane Miller, former Executive Secretary of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee and indeed the main rival of Rev. Bill Sinkford in the 2000 UUA Presidential elections, and Ben alexander's allegations of an unethical UUA financial grab of YRUU funding, there is all the more reason to "follow the money" in this YRUU fiasco.

....words and thoughts from me and such.... said...

I am so saddened by this news. I remember back when the LRY (Liberal Religious Youth) groups ashes were smoldering, and a couple of like-minded, brilliant and eager to leave a legacy of hope adults decided to pull the rag-tag group of us together and formed on of the first YRUU groups in the SW district. FUUC of OKC Oklahoma was my only solace growing up back in the 70's and 80's.It was the only atmosphere I gad ever felt welcomed and appreciated.
Recently, I've seen my sister try valiantly to get her 12 y.o., 9 y.o., and 7 y.o. kids involved and as in love with the church as we once were. But something--some vibe has been holding me back--not fully giving over of myself to the church and becoming actively involved.
I'm not an ageist, but I clearly could see a bias on vision--not much vision coming from the kneecapper's viewpoint (i.e. a kid), but all of it coming from a "social justice" yadda yadda minded group of people who couldn't handle a solo on an electric guitar--to raucous!
Man, part of me wants to storm the UUA castle and demand a youth driven decision about this! I've worked with teens and their families all over the country for over two decades, and I have never seen such a retrogressive move in such a progressive organization. I've been looking around for my new faith community, and not having been sold on the vibe at the local UU fellowship, well, this seals it.

Aaron Sawyer said...

adding this blog to DiscoverUU for the duration