Doing It Right – Philadelphia edition
While in Philadelphia for the January UUA Board meeting, I had the true pleasure of meeting a group of young adults from the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. In fact, the entire UUA Board came down to First Church for discussion and an open mic coffeehouse. It was just a lovely time.
First Church is an urban, gothic church in downtown Philadelphia. And though it proudly proclaims its heritage dating back to its first minister 18th century Unitarian luminary Joseph Priestly, the church is very much a contemporary institution embedded in its own time and place. Describing itself as a “regional community center,” First Church leverages its unique facilities to host cultural, wellness, education, civic and spiritual groups that bring 2200 people through the church’s doors each week. It’s also a well-known local venue for independent music, which is how some of the young adults I met found the church in the first place.
“Nowhere’s kept me like this church has.” – An FPUU young adult.
Though the congregation is not exceptionally large, it supports a healthy and growing group of young adults in their 20′s and 30′s. Efforts to get a group going have been underway since at least 2005, but in the last few years the Young Adults Group has swelled to about 50 people in its orbit, with events that regularly draw 15 or 20 participants. Here’s a selection of what they offer:
- Monthly Sunday brunches after services at nearby restaurant
- “Young Adult Night Group” weekend evening discussions at a local coffee shop, with a monthly theme and rotating discussion leaders
- Special events, like two mindfulness potlucks and the coffeehouse they hosted for us and the Board
- Regular planning meetings
The folks I met described their group as warm and welcoming, and having been built up by a few key leaders and with encouragement from the ministerial team. Peggy, who had grown up UU and been a member of other churches, shared that “Nowhere’s kept me like this church has.”
The group members’ friendly enthusiasm was contagious as they talked about where they want to take their group in the future: more leadership development, better integration with the congregation, and deeper spiritual exploration. They are planning their first retreat this spring on the New Jersey shore. We look forward to seeing where these UUs’ energy will take them!