White Supremacy Teach-In

Posted by jennicadavishockett // April 26th 2017 // no comments

Resources for Youth and Young Adult Ministry

When you hear or read the words “White Supremacy,” what thoughts come to mind, what emotions surface? For some of us, it is a fear-filled phrase that conjures images of white hoods and robes that seems totally dissonant with our Unitarian Universalist faith. For others, it is a term of criticism that exposes the ways our wider culture and even our systems within UUism continue to privilege the feelings, ideas, success and lives of white people over people of color. Because of our lived experiences and our intersecting identities, we may all have different reactions to this phrase. As Rev. Sofia Betancourt, interim co-president for our Unitarian Universalist Association, stated, “Whatever your reaction was to the words White Supremacy, it’s a fair reaction. It’s real. It’s part of the journey.” She reminds us that, “We are not saying there is an inherent evil in Unitarian Universalism, at all. We are saying there is a desperate need for the the kind of beloved community work that we offer in the world and we want to do that work better.”

Out of the deep desire to do that work better, Black Lives of UU (BLUU), Aisha Hauser, Christina Rivera and Kenny Wiley have curated resources for a #whitesupremacyteachin so that we may evolve together. On April 30th and/or May 7th, your congregation is invited – including your youth and young adult ministries – to shift your regularly scheduled Sunday morning programming to participate in a teach-in on racism and white supremacy. This post highlights additional resources for youth.

You know best where your community is at and where they’re ready to go so feel free to adapt and add to these resources to meet your community where it is now.

Addressing white supremacy with youth in 9th-12th grades

Suggested activities

Engaging Youth Online

For youth who cannot make it to church on Sunday, you can still create space for them to learn and discuss. Invite them to participate in a conversation through a facebook group or a messaging app like GroupMe.

Supporting Youth and Young Adults of Color

As the Teach In resources explain, “The #UUWhiteSupremacyTeachIn is not the time to ask people of color (POC) congregants to teach about White Supremacy. We recommend that if you have a POC facilitator it be either an outside paid facilitator or a religious professional who has VOLUNTEERED to take on this task.” This goes for UUs of color of all ages. Prepare yourself with this webinar on Ministering to Youth and Young Adults of Color or read on for a few ways to make the Teach In a learning and empowering experience for UU youth and young adults of color:

  • Ground the space in celebration of people of color’s identities and the positive gifts of family, ancestry, ethnicity, legacy, and history. This will support youth and young adults of color to feel empowered and resilient as they also grapple with the violence of white supremacy.
  • Intervene on dynamics that ask youth and young adults of color to speak for all people of color or all people of their race.
  • Remember that all youth and young adults of color are unique people. Use phrases like “I don’t know how you identify…” or “I don’t know if this fits for you…”, instead of assuming their experience.
  • Affinity based space (sometimes called caucusing) can be a powerful tool. Here are some resources about framing and holding race based affinity space.
  • If youth and young adults of color are looking for UU of color spaces that are not available locally see below for multigenerational UU of color spaces:

Please add additional resources in the comments for other seekers, or let us know how these resources worked for you.

Youth Ministry Training Webinar 9

Posted by jennicadavishockett // April 14th 2017 // no comments

In the April Webinar, Natalie Briscoe, Congregational Life Staff in the Southern Region, and Kim Sweeney, Congregational Life Staff in the New England Region, talked about new models and methods for stellar Youth Ministry that may challenge our assumptions about what ministry to and with Youth can and should be. 

When asked to sum up the webinar, Briscoe said “In particular we lifted up a vision of whole Unitarian Universalist communities where youth are a part of the entire congregation as well as having youth-specific space for developmentally appropriate stretching. We also explored methods for relationship-centered ministry (rather than program-centered ministry) that builds sustaining, multigenerational connections throughout the congregation. These models both rest on the foundational idea that youth are a valued and important part of congregational life.”

Now you may be saying to yourself, “Well, that all sounds great, but now what?” To that, Briscoe responds, “Many of the models we described in the last session incorporate significant aspects of adaptive, or cultural, change in the congregation, which is not as easy as implementing a new program or augmenting an existing one. Those large-scale changes can seem overwhelming and insurmountable. As Religious Educators or Volunteer Youth Advisors, we may not always have the time and resources to make these kind of grand changes, no matter how much we wish we could.”

Never fear! Support is here! Please join our next Youth Ministry Webinar on May 10 at 1pm Eastern to learn the next, practical steps for implementing these models in your congregation. The webinar will be led by Shannon Harper, Youth and Young Adult Coordinator in the Central East Region and a panel of experienced Religious Educators who have employed exciting models of Youth Ministry in their congregations. They will tell us how they went about making these changes, the steps they took in implementing these models, and what they learned to avoid along the way. There will be plenty of time to ask questions of both the panelists and the leaders of last month’s webinar in this interactive and practical session.

Register now at uua.org/ymwebinars

Congratulations Tanner Linden, Youth Observer

Posted by T. Resnikoff // April 12th 2017 // no comments

Meet the Next Youth Observer to the UUA Board of Trustees.

We are pleased to announce that the 2017-2019 Youth Observer Election has come to a close and we are have a brand-new Youth Observer! Seven congregations participated in this year’s election and the results were close. Our next Youth Observer will be Tanner Linden. Tanner will begin his term at the end of General Assembly, and serve alongside Bailey Saddlemire during the second and final year of her term.

Tanner has experience serving on the Pacific Southwest District Youth Board, as well as serving on other committees, councils, and positions in the Pacific Western Region.

Please welcome Tanner to his new role.

Register for General Assembly Now!

Posted by T. Resnikoff // April 11th 2017 // no comments

Registration for General Assembly 2017 in New Orleans, LA, June 21-25 is in full-swing. It’s not too late to join fellow Unitarian Universalists in worship, learning and action!

Learn more here.

Reflection on White Supremacy in Our UUA

Posted by T. Resnikoff // March 28th 2017 // 32 comments

From the staff of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries

UPDATED 3/31/17. [Since the publication of this post from our office, the President of the UUA has resigned (read the reporting of this event on UU World here), and the Leadership Council of the UUA released this statement.] – ed.

A very important conversation has been happening about the insidious white supremacy in our Unitarian Universalist Association, centering currently around our hiring practices. We encourage you to do some digging and read multiple perspectives in this conversation. A good place to start is the 3/27 UUWorld article, statement from Black Lives of UU and this Compilation of Responses.

With gratitude to those reminding us to do this work, we in the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries (YaYA Office) have been thinking about how white supremacy manifests in our corner of this institution. In this country and within Unitarian Universalism, white supremacy is one of our collective sins. As Unitarian Universalists and a Buddhist, we recognize that our interdependence means that none of us are free until we are all free. We practice our value of interdependence by struggling together for collective liberation.

The YaYA office has six staff members: five white people, Rev. Annie Gonzalez Milliken, Bart Frost, Deborah Neisel-Sanders, Jennica Davis-Hockett, and Ted Resnikoff, and one person of color, Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen. Rev. Nguyen is the only person of color on our team and was hired specifically to support youth and young adults of color. She does amazing work with limited resources and continually pushes our office toward more accountability and dismantling white supremacy in all our work. But supporting youth and young adults of color and committing to anti-racist and anti-oppressive work is not only Elizabeth’s work, it’s all of ours. At the same time, there is currently no portfolio dedicated to providing white youth and young adults with anti-racist and anti-oppressive identity development and organizing skills. While each of us integrates anti-racism into our work, we acknowledge that for those of us whose portfolio doesn’t focus primarily on youth and young adults of color, we could be doing a lot more to support the spiritual and leadership development of young people of color and to dismantle supremacy of all kinds in our office, our UUA and the world.

The first step in healing from the damage white supremacy does to our spirit is to face our reality, process our defensiveness as it arises, so that we can be truly honest about our starting place. As James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Many are finding his words useful in this moment, and are grateful for this reflection from Kimberly R. Hampton M.Div that also uses these words.

So here’s the reality of white supremacy in the YaYA Office as we can currently see it. We recognize that some of these things are within our control, some of these things are part of our institutional history which we did not determine, but which is still ours to own.

  • Five out of six staff members are currently white and the one person of color on staff supports youth and young adults of color specifically. This position is part time. This staff configuration sends a message that ministering to Unitarian Universalist young folks, generally, means ministering to young white folks and that ministering to young people of color should only be handled by people of color and that it’s ok to devote fewer resources to this ministry than others we serve.
  • Our supervisor is a white male, replacing a person of color in 2014, and he supervises a team which is 80% women. White supremacy and patriarchy support each other, so it is necessary to name both the racial and gender dynamics around power in our office.
  • On UUA.org we have resource pages for identity development for young people of color but haven’t yet created identity development resources for young white people, which sends the message that young white people don’t have work to do regarding their racial identity.
  • We have not prioritized ensuring the voices of people of color are equitably represented in leadership in YA@GA panels, Youth Caucus Staff or Youth Observer candidates and do not prioritize removing barriers for youth and young adults of color to participate in leadership. We have also failed to publicly acknowledge the absence of people of color, which again erases the white supremacy at play.
  • White staff members benefit from the relational capital of staff and volunteer leaders of color by asking them to identify other people of color to participate in our programs, speak on workshop panels and serve in leadership positions, which are often volunteer. These asks can feel like we want token people of color, or can feel risky to leaders of color who are not sure if they can trust white staff to treat people of color well.
  • White staff generally default to centering whiteness, are not proactive in calling colleagues in when they center whiteness in our resources and ministries and need reminding from colleagues of color to include voices of people of color.
  • White staff rely on reminders from colleagues of color to include ancestors of color in our stories about Unitarians, Universalists and UUs.
  • We prioritize the visibility of people of color in the images on UUA.org and Blue Boat Blog, but do not prioritize giving power to people of color.
  • We put the burden on people who experience oppression to advocate for changes, name microaggressions and push for resource redistribution.

That’s a long and incomplete list of where our office has fallen short. We name these instances in order to face them; we face them in order to change. Together we must forge a culture of care for all, which includes reparations and reallocation of resources. We need a culture of risk and vulnerability, of speaking truth to power, of paying attention to who is not at the table, and of celebration that also acknowledges our work is not done. As we forge this new way, we lean on our ancestors for guidance and walk with our young people, the inheritors of our faith.

We have the power to resist white supremacy from wherever we are. As UUA employees in the Youth and Young Adult office we struggle against our wider culture that rewards us for going along with the status quo, pushes us to look out for ourselves more than our kindred, and seduces us to believing that business as usual is neutral. It’s easy to say “not us,” “we’re not the ones who are the decision-makers.”

This response is an attempt to model, however imperfectly, looking in the mirror ourselves and taking responsibility for what is ours – where we have missed the mark and let the violence of white supremacy harm ourselves and the youth and young adults we serve. We invite others to join us in reflecting on how you and the organizations in which you have power are complicit in white supremacy and what your sites of resistance are.

Gratitude is one of our spiritual practices so we want to share gratitude to Christina Rivera, the Black Lives of UU organizing collective, DRUUMM, UU leaders of color – lay, youth and young adult, ministers, religious educators, musicians and music directors, and UUA staff who have put their often unpaid labor, heart, spirit, attention to the work of liberation.

With gratitude and ongoing commitment,

Annie, Bart, Deborah, Elizabeth, Jennica, and Ted

Youth Ministry Training Webinar 8

Posted by jennicadavishockett // March 24th 2017 // no comments

UPDATE: This webinar will be hosted live on April 12th at 1pm EST and it will be recorded. We are canceling the previously scheduled Thursday evening webinar to encourage attendance the #Uuwhitesupremacyteachin  webinar on Thursday, April 13 at 8 PM eastern. More information about that webinar available on the Black Lives of UU.

For a long time many Unitarian Universalist congregations have successfully used the traditional model of youth ministry consisting of a weekly youth group, maybe some off-site trips or overnights, and a yearly youth-led worship service. As Natalie Briscoe, Congregational Life Staff in the Southern Region notes, “These traditional models are effective delivery mechanisms for often stellar curriculum, especially if that curriculum is a part of the Tapestry of Faith programs. The Youth Group model also certainly serves the particular needs of youth by providing a space for growing leadership, exploration of newly discovered beliefs, and the intimacy of small group ministry.”

But that’s not true for everyone, and for some congregations for which that model has worked in the past, times they are a changing. Briscoe notes that the traditional model of youth group “has often created an unintentional silo within a well-meaning congregation, where the youth become a hidden and completely separate entity. The attempt to give youth a cohort-specific space can also marginalize the youth and prevent the formation of meaningful cross-generational relationships. Other congregations struggle with sporadic attendance, an absence of a core group of committed individuals, and the pull of so many other obligations and options during the youth group meeting time.”

If any of these descriptions sound familiar, please join our next Youth Ministry Webinar on April 12 at 1pm Eastern (April 13 at 8pm Eastern webinar cancelled) to explore Models of Youth Ministry. We will discuss exciting new ideas for augmenting the traditional youth group-based model, as well as mentor-based Youth Ministry and methods for creating intentional multigenerational communities with a focus on integrating youth through meaningful and respectful relationship. This webinar will be full of creative ideas and groundbreaking models that are sure to meet the needs of the Youth Ministry in congregations of every size and shape.

Register now at uua.org/ymwebinars

Talk Amongst Yourselves, I’ll Give You a Topic…

Posted by jennicadavishockett // March 24th 2017 // no comments

Cojourners on the Spiritual Way

The Unitarian Universalist Association Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries has two new discussion guides for youth based on Summer Seminary sermons: Grappling with the First Principle and What is God?.

Today my body is a little sore from rock climbing and I think I might be getting a cold. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can be most effective in these trouble times to create beloved community and my spirit is really trying hard to find meaning in the mundane.

We all use check-in questions. Sometimes as a check in question I ask folks “how’s your body, mind and spirit this week?” (Thanks Annie Gonzalez Milliken for teaching me that one!). It’s so important for me to get to know a bit about what’s going on in the lives, minds and hearts of the people I work with before we delve into business as usual. Not only can we share the practice of celebrating or grieving together, we can build empathy and vulnerability to be our authentic selves together, not just worker bots.

At it’s core, “how’s your mind, body and spirit?” really means “What does it feel like to be you today? (body), What have you been thinking about or pondering over lately? (mind) And do you feel connected to that part of you that has always been there and that which is bigger than you? (spirit)”

Do you feel connected to that part of you that has always been there and that which is bigger than you?

Who else but a faith community is concerned with uncovering the personal, multitude of truths in that question? Who else but a faith community is dedicated to partnering with folks as they search for ways to identify that sense of connection with self and the divine? How do we as Unitarian Universalists serve as cojourners¹ with our youth in these discoveries?

When I use the word “cojourners” I mean that youth ministry is not about adults simply creating the space for youth to explore their spirituality, youth ministry is about adults discovering our own sense of connection to self and the divine alongside youth. Just like youth, our answer to the question “how’s your spirit?” changes daily if not hourly. For Unitarian Universalists (UU), there is no promise of a final arrival at an eternal sense of connection, but there is a profound recognition of the eternal sense of longing for connection and strategies (traditions and rituals) that help us meet that longing.

One such strategy/tradition is deep conversation. Many UU communities offer small group ministry as a way to deepen connection and spirituality. Through careful listening and intentional sharing young people can explore meaningful questions and strengthen their own commitments to their faith journey. Sometimes we don’t prioritize deep conversation because there are a million other things we think we have to do to have excellent youth programs like fundraise to get youth to events like service trips, national events or cons/rallies for example. And in the bustle of making sure we’re meeting our deadlines, it can be easy to forget about connecting to that part of us that has always been there and that which is bigger than us through careful listening and intentional sharing. As Mark Yaconelli says in his 2007 book Growing Souls: Experiments in Contemplative Youth Ministry,

There’s nothing wrong with all-night lock-ins and high-voltage activities if they serve ultimately to awaken young people to their deepest identity as beloved and lead them into relationships with others who support them in their growth in Christ. Programs, activities and events all have a place in this journey of ministry with youth. But what is most essential is the quality of presence we bring as ministers who know who we are and whose we are.

The Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries has a new resource that youth and adults can use to deeply discuss “who we are and whose we are” together – the Summer Seminary Discussion Guides.

Developed by the Summer Seminary program leader, Jennica Davis-Hockett and two Summer Seminary alumni, Kadyn Frawley and Ella Boyer, these deep discussions use sermons delivered by Summer Seminary students as a jumping off point to discuss the complexity of living by the First Principle (the inherent worth and dignity of every person) and both the vastness and preciousness of divine presence in our lives.

Make the time to (re)connect to the unique role of our faith communities serve in the lives of our young people and have a conversation with them about the intimacy and ultimacy of our human experience.


¹ Cojourners is the art of accompanying someone on their spiritual journey.

ELECTION: 2017 Youth Observers to the UUA BoT

Posted by T. Resnikoff // March 18th 2017 // no comments



Learn about the voting process for the Youth Observer to the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees here. (Remember, youth vote as a block with their youth group.)

Read their candidate statement here.

Watch the videos by Aine Hunt and Tanner Linden explaining why they want to be your Youth Observer to the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees. (The videos appear in alphabetical order.)

Access the On-line Ballot here.

Or the paper ballot here.

Be a Delegate at GA 2017

Posted by jennicadavishockett // March 16th 2017 // no comments

Did you know youth who are members of their congregation can represent their congregation at General Assembly by serving as delegates and voting in General Session (aka “Previously Plenary” aka “GenSesh” aka the way we conduct the business of the association)?

Talk to your congregation’s leaders as soon as you can to start the process. They may be able to financially support your way to General Assembly. You’re also encouraged to apply for a scholarship because serving as a delegate increases your chance of getting a scholarship. The deadline to apply for scholarships is March 31st, so now is the time!

Hannah Rigdon, Sr. Business Manager for Youth Caucus has some words of wisdom about the importance of youth serving as delegates:

In all seriousness though, being a youth delegate really is the key to having an amazing General Assembly. There are not a lot of communities in which adults affirm youth under the age of 18 as capable, informed and equal participants of a governing structure, so you should take advantage of it!

Perks of being a delegate include:

When you’re a delegate you’re able to speak at the microphone and vote during General Session, which means that you play an essential role in deciding the future of our faith. General Sessions also serve as a critical way in which we, as Unitarian Universalists, practice the Fifth Principle- use of the democratic process.

Being a delegate offers a unique opportunity to take the UU values we all share and contemplate the best ways to put them into practice as an Association. This GA is an especially exciting year to be a delegate because we are voting on the next president of the UUA. And this is an historic election because it is the first time we have had 3 (three!!) female candidates. In choosing the next leader of our faith, it is especially important to have youth voices be represented because we are choosing our future.

Speaking from personal experience, my status as a youth delegate proved to be transformative to my General Assembly experience in 2016. My delegate status and voting responsibility got me involved and invested in the issues being voted on and compelled me to help be the change I wanted to see in our faith.

In response to the disappointment I felt after the racial justice Congregational Study Action Issue lost the vote last year, I  helped author and pass a responsive resolution with several other youth to call our association to recommit to racial justice. It is a powerful experience to see your own words being passed out to voters and projected on the screen. However, it is even more powerful to stand on a stage and look out into a sea of bright green voting cards in the air, affirming your words and beliefs.

While any GA attendee can write a resolution or participate in a mini-assembly, only delegates are allowed to vote on what comes out of those. It is a lot more meaningful to get involved in the business process when you can vote on your own actions!

Delegates are congregation-specific, so in order to become one, ask your minister or DRE to help you figure out what the selection process is like at your congregation. Plus, some congregations may offer financial assistance for youth delegates to get to GA, so it doesn’t hurt to ask!  And don’t worry if you are feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility. Annalee Durland-Jones, Jr. Business Manager and I are here specifically to help you navigate what can seem like a daunting task.

We, as youth, bring the unexpected ideas, the unanswered questions and the unexplored routes.

When we make the choice to speak up, stand with, or second an action, we are amplifying the voices of all the unrepresented youth. So go to your congregation right now and become a Youth Delegate. Do it for all of us!

What Does Sanctuary Really Mean?

Posted by emcdavid // February 28th 2017 // no comments

by Elissa McDavid

We are facing reality, as a faith, a nation, and individuals who may not have been as active as we should have been before the election results of November 8th. Those that lived-in fear before, now live in greater fear as families and communities are torn apart, on an even larger scale. Like many people, I am figuring out how to help those that face deportation, fear, and intimidation. I am trying to understand this as a Unitarian Universalist and as a young adult. I am also an intern with the Unitarian Universalist Association Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, working with Young Adult and Campus Ministry Associate Annie Gonzalez Milliken,  on campus ministry/young adults with the sanctuary movement.

The term sanctuary has been widely used the past few months, with sanctuary campuses, cities, and churches. But what does sanctuary really mean?

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk about First Unitarian Society of Denver, sanctuary, and what this means as a youth/young adult with Eliana (a youth) and Julia (a young adult and youth advisor), who attend First Denver. Recently, their congregation has been in the spotlight. They have been providing sanctuary for Jeanette Vizguerra. Jeanette is an undocumented immigrant who had her request of stay of her deportation denied. This act is not the first for the First Unitarian Society of Denver. They began the process to declare themselves sanctuary church several years ago and in 2014 they provided sanctuary to Arturo Hernandez Garcia.

I asked Julia and Eliana what sanctuary means to them –

Eliana: “I think providing sanctuary is providing everything you can, to someone who needs it. It is faith in action”

Julia: “Being Unitarian Universalist is about speaking your truth. Providing sanctuary is doing that. It is living our principles”

Understanding what you are providing to those who are seeking sanctuary is key to engaging with sanctuary and living our Unitarian Universalist values.

Eliana and Julia also acknowledged immediately how small first Denver’s action is, in comparison to the number of people who are affected. The actions we do take can feel nearly as ineffective as no action at all, when we realize the enormity of the injustices our country is facing and the size of our faith communities. But our small actions have a much more significant impact when we are part of a network or community all acting in the same way, resisting together.  Julia reflected this truth, wondering out loud, “What if every congregation who had the resources did provide sanctuary to someone?”

Not every congregation can provide the type of literal sanctuary for an immigrant or immigrant family. First Denver had a clear plan and structure in place, before taking Jeannette in. They had long and intensive conversations as a congregation in how and what sanctuary looks like. But as Eliana told me, that we must “resist at the level we feasibly and meaningfully can.” In defining sanctuary, we Unitarian Universalists are striving for an expansive definition that includes many actions that make our communities safer for immigrants and all those targeted by harmful and racist policies.

For some with the resources, you can take similar actions to what First Denver is doing. You can educate yourself on how to defend folks from ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) or prepare yourself for collective actions to protect your community from raids. You can take de-escalation trainings, which are helpful for any situation. Your congregation can also offer its space for immigration justice organizations or  legal aid to meet.

What as a faith are we being asked to do? How can we effectively help?

If you are a college student, you can advocate for your university to become a Sanctuary Campus, with specific demands and actions to hold your institution accountable. Will they protect undocumented faculty, students, and staff from ICE coming onto campus?

Take a resource and skill inventory of yourself, with your youth group, campus or young adult group, and congregation and ask how you can provide sanctuary? What skills, resources, tools do you have? How can you actively use them in providing sanctuary?

For me, providing sanctuary means providing the sacredness – the safety you feel when you are in your own church’s sanctuary for others. It is turning the feeling you get when you are in that sacred space and providing it to those that do not have that protection and privilege. For us who do not face the fear and threat of deportation constantly, we must take our own safety and include others in it, to expand our sanctuary walls.


Want to learn more expanded definitions of Sanctuary? Check out this video from BYP 100 and Mijente! ~Ed.