Chuckie McHenry, of LRY (Liberal Religious Youth), Bethesda, MD
What was the youth group to which you belonged and what were the years?
I was part of UCMC, at Cedar Lane Church, Bethesda MD, Greater Washington Federation, from 1961-1966, This was before "that whole LRY fiasco" referred to, frequently, by one younger advisor at a District Advisors Training session in Colorado about eight years ago. Yes, I went on to be an advisor.
Was your family UU (or Unitarian or Universalist) and what was their generational history as far as involvement in UU? Had family members been involved in former UU or Unitarian or Universalist youth groups and do you know what their experience might have been? If you were from outside UU, what was your religious/spiritual/social upbringing?
My Grandparents attended All Souls in Washington DC. My Parents grew up Unitarian, knew each other from RE. They were part of Charmians (high school) and Wayfarers (post high school).They talked about Sunday afternoon hikes, and retreats and schooner afternoons, near Annapolis. Many of the group stayed friends over the years and became an extended family.
How did you learn of the youth group, or what attracted you to it? What kept you there? Why and when did you leave? Did it provide an environment that was missing elsewhere in your life? Were you looking for spiritual experience, social consciousness activities, intellectual stimulation, personal friendships? How were these things fulfilled or not? What growth/change did you feel?
LRY was an extension of RE. Many of my Sunday School friends were in LRY. (My older sister loved LRY and the things they did together.) We were able to be ourselves, and be a little goofy. We played youthful games. We didn't have to be like the popular kids at school. We had some deep conversations. (After all teens are not stupid and uncaring.) Youth Empowerment was our RE learning. Taking responsibility for ourselves. Planning topics for meetings, field trips, conferences and workshops for the conferences, (plus enforcing the rules at activities), Youth Sunday Service. The adult advisors spoke up when our plans went too far afield, having us consider the consequences of our choices and guide us to better actions. Supporting Equal Rights, peaceful protest. My growth/ change was that when I went away to college, I owned my responsibility for getting to classes, getting enough sleep, saying yes to a harmless fun activity and to say no to something that went against my moral or personal comfort level.
I am an adult counselor at our UU Kids Camp. YOUTH EMPOWERMENT! The High Schoolers run the groups interact with the kids, keep the kids from going too far, work to mediate problems, and know they can go to an Adult if the problem isn't resolving.
What were your experiences local and non-local? Did you prefer one over the other or did they complement each other well? Was non-local experience accessible?
Conferences were something we looked forward to. Both local and non local. Making new friends and seeing old friends. Continental '66 was amazing.
How did your experiences affect your life in the short term and long term? Were you UU as an adult--why or why not?
The History of UU youth empowerment was a tough lesson. My experiences were positive. In talking with younger LRYers that I knew It had progressed to "We don't need no stinkin' adults-this is our group" It was a place to score weed, Seeing if you could get laid at every Con.This may not have been country wide, but it was happening. So they eliminated LRY. YRUU was created with many rules, not all were well defined. Why do the adults have to run everything? How can our kids grow into responsible adults.
The advisors from our group are invited by the youth to attend, and then the youth vote on including them. A few were put in place by the RE director, and try to take charge of the meetings. The adults in the Congregation saw them as free labor. We have taught them that they need to come talk to the group, present their project and the Youth can choose to do it or not.
For fund raisers we have sponsored several, family friendly, themed dances. A good way to get to know each other.
It seems to me it would be useful to not just learn what individuals found beneficial or not about their experience in the youth group, but to contextualize it generationally. What was going on in your area outside the group in other formal and informal groups of individuals of similar ages? What was going on societally that you feel affected your experience of and participation in the youth group?
During my time in LRY the Civil Rights Marches were happening. Martin Luther King was teaching us about peaceful protest. Even so Jim Reeb was killed. We had known him from local conferences and it affected many of our local youth.
Added 2014 April 5.
Note: On March 9th, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, after dining at an integrated restaurant, Unitarian-Universalist minister Jim Reeb, with Unitarian ministers Clark Olsen and Orlof Miller, was attacked and beaten by white segregationists. He died on March 11th 1965 of injuries sustained from the beating. Elmer Cook, William Stanley Hoggle and Namon O'Neal "Duck" Hoggle were tried and acquitted.
James "Jim" Reeb was an LRY adviser from 62-63 in the Greater Washington D.C. Federation of LRY (1). Orlof Miller had been an Associate Director of LRY from 1959 to 1961 (2).
Return to Voices from the '60s.