Coming of Age

Coming of Age Ceremony

Coming of Age Ceremony 2013

“What would you do if no one judged you?”, the student leading the discussion asks. I sit back in my seat, expecting silence to stretch throughout the room. Immediately, however, one student speaks up. “I probably wouldn’t be as nice”, she comments. Explaining that being nice comes from expectations by society to act a certain way, she lamented this notion that if no one judged her, she wouldn’t be as good of a person. “Is judgement good or bad?”, an adult facillitator asks. “Do we need to be able to judge ourselves, or is judgement inherently negative?”. 1

Sitting in the classroom together, the students trade stories about times they felt judgement affected them positively or negatively. One student believes that their sense of self-judgment is necessary to be a citizen in the society that we live in. Other students say that they are happy to have self-judgment, because it allows them to understand how their behavior affects other. Some students are not so pleased with how much they regulate themselves, saying that they would probably be happier without the pressures of social media, which comes from trying to appear to have the “perfect life”.2

As the students take these self-judgement ideas and apply them to a discussion on morality, a student comments, "people were born into different childhood circumstances than each other. Why does society tell them it's their fault? What is our responsibility to do something about it?”, she asked. Stunned, I look around the room. “How old are these kids?” I ask myself. “High school seniors. Yeah, high school seniors”. 3

What is our responsibility?

I was in fact not in a room of high school seniors, but in a class of about 12 9th and 10th graders at the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis. Every Sunday from 9:30-10:45, these high schoolers sit together and engage in theological questions that they have in a search for meaning in their religion, Unitarian Universalism. Reverend Ruth MacKenzie, a minister at the church who sees it as her responsibility to help these youth become responsible citizens in today’s world, leads this class. 4 Ruth sees “a core principle of Unitarian Universalism is that in order for faith to really be alive and meaningful, there needs to be a free and responsible search for truth.” She sees her role as a facillitator in the class to help her students on a path to find meaning and what is true for each of them. Although she says that there are a number of students in the class who don’t identify as Unitarian Universalist at all- but athiest, humanists, or other religious identities, but she sees them as all having an understanding that “we are the thinking part of this organism of life”. 5

Since many students in the class do not identify as religious, Ruth was hesitant to label what the students discusst in the class as “faith”, “because faith for most people means higher power- God. Faith in God”. She believes that instead of faith as a creed or a “particular framework of practices in order to be saved, that Luther said the faith is really trust”. “Where do you place your trust?”, is the question she wants to be asking of the students in her class, instead of memorizing dogmas and belief systems. This creates the idea of what god could be, a verb, rather than a noun.6

  1. Emily Perlman, Observations of the Coming of Age Class at First Universalist Church Minneapolis, April 17, 2016.

  2. Emily Perlman, Observations of the Coming of Age Class at First Universalist Church Minneapolis, April 17, 2016.

  3. Emily Perlman, Observations of the Coming of Age Class at First Universalist Church Minneapolis, April 17, 2016.

  4. Emily Perlman, Observations of the Coming of Age Class at First Universalist Church Minneapolis, April 17, 2016.

  5. Ruth MacKenzie, Interview by Emily Perlman, April 17, 2016.

  6. Ruth MacKenzie, Interview by Emily Perlman, April 17, 2016.