Contents: UU World Back Issue

Trauma ministry helps clergy handle tragedy

Upon hearing that many religious relief workers were delivering evangelism along with aid to the victims of the 9/11 tragedy, the Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt decided she needed to develop another response.

Said McNatt, minister of Fourth Universalist Society in New York City, "There were people who were actively proselytizing in the midst of trauma, saying it was God's will. I knew we had to develop a liberal religious multifaith response to situations like this." So she created the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry consisting of UU ministers and lay people who are prepared to go on short notice to scenes of tragedy to assist local clergy in providing spiritual care.

When hurricanes struck Florida last fall, members of the Trauma Response Ministry accompanied ministers as they went through neighborhoods, checking on congregants. They were also there during the wildfires in Southern California. When a Massachusetts teenager died in a traffic accident members of the Trauma Ministry helped the teen's UU congregation. When a member of a New York congregation committed suicide they responded again.

About 50 UUs, both clergy and laity, have volunteered to serve as members of the team. More volunteers are needed for the ministry. "Sometimes all we need is someone to answer phones," says McNatt. "We hope to have people in every UU district who can respond on short notice."

To volunteer or seek the group's assistance, visit the organization's Web site at www.traumaministry.org or call (866) 730-8181. The group is supported by a grant from the Emergency Relief Fund of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York.

New vision for youth

by Tom Stites

UUA President William G. Sinkford and Megan Dowdell, the youth trustee on the UUA board of trustees, are initiating a process at the board's request to develop a new vision for the UU A's ministry to and with youth.

The first major step was to be a two-day February meeting of about 35 people Sinkford and Dowdell invited to plan the process.

They expect the process to culminate in a "consultation" after the 2006 General Assembly in St. Louis that would be charged with formally promulgating the new vision. Sinkford said that as many as 200 participants could take part in the consultation.

Participants in the February meeting were to include members of YRUU (Young Religious Unitarian Unversalists), the UU A-sponsored continental youth organization for 14- to 20-year-olds; other UU youth not affiliated with YRUU ; youth advisors from congregations with strong ties to YRUU and from others without strong ties; some parents of youth; and representatives from the UU Ministers Association, the Liberal Religious Educators Association, and Diverse and Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries (DRUUM).

The first day of the two-day meeting was to be set aside for the YRUU members to express their concerns about the UUA-YRUU relationship. Among the concerns they have expressed are top-down leadership and the UUA Youth Office's decision in December 2004 to withdraw its support of Con Con, YRUU 's annual Continental Conference. The steps leading up to the consultation were to be planned the second day.

The process was set in motion in October by a board resolution after two years of discussion between Sinkford and the YRUU Youth Council. Sinkford said in an interview that he was concerned that YRUU did not serve many congregational youth programs and that many youth, parents, and congregational youth advisors did not "find comfort" in the culture of its national gatherings.

In a separate interview, Dowdell said YRUU 's structure made it difficult for it to serve youth at the congregational level and thus is less inclusive than it might be.

Dowdell, 20, a student at Simmons College who helped found the youth group at her congregation, the First Parish Church in Beverly, Massachusetts, was elected to a two-year term as a voting trustee at the 2003 General Assembly. What does she hope the revisioning will accomplish?

"I'd like there to be accountability structures that both empower youth and engage adults," she said, "and create sustainable programming and spiritual community for youth at the local church level."

Said Sinkford, "I think we have an enormous opportunity to refashion the way we nurture and support the religious lives of our young people so they will be more comfortable with our faith and transition into an adult life of Unitarian Universalism. This is about as central to the mission of the UUA as it can get."

 Contents: UU World Back Issue
UU World : 44

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