Ed Fuqua of LRY (Liberal Religious Youth) LSD (Lower Southern District)
What was the youth group to which you belonged and what were the years?
LRY, Lower Southern District, Augusta GA. Roughly high school, 72,73,74.
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?
No other UU in family; my mother was raised Methodist, my father Southern Baptist. I attended Baptist churches as a child.
How did you learn of the youth group, or what attracted you to it? What kept you there?
I'm pretty sure I was introduced by a friend, Steve Williams. After dealing with a high school environment of cliques (where I was part of the druggie set), it started out being an extension of a group to which I could "belong", however eventually it helped me realize that one doesn't need to belong to anything; that is to say, life isn't about finding people who are like you so that you don't have to feel different, that it's OK to feel and be different and you can do that without being an outsider.
Why and when did you leave?
I left LRY when I was well past the age limit, I didn't so much leave the church as drifted away.
Did it provide an environment that was missing elsewhere in your life?
Yes, as above.
Were you looking for spiritual experience, social consciousness activities, intellectual stimulation, personal friendships?
Yes to all of the above, most of the folks that I hung with in school were not that politically or spiritually inclined.
How were these things fulfilled or not? What growth/change did you feel?
I'm not sure how to best answer this. People involved in the local church and in my LRY group were involved in and advocated a lot of the self actualizing modalities that were around at the time - various Eastern philosophical schools, some Western "mystery school" stuff, Esalen/Gurdjieff/transactional/etc. I was an Army brat that had (to all intents and purposes) lived everywhere, three to six years at a time. That life teaches you how to blend in, how to not attach emotionally, how to make acquaintances but not make friends. In LRY, both locally and at regional or tri-fed conferences, I learned exercises that helped me be more open, less guarded, more able to connect. Not that I didn't do stupid stuff, nor can I say I became fully conscious there. But it did make my teen years a lot happier.
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?
Both, in addition to retreats, workshops and meetings with our local group, I also attended regional conferences in Atlanta, Birmingham and Nashville and Tri Federation conferences in Frogmore and Chapel Hill. The non local stuff was more of an adventure; you got to see people you had come to know, meet new people. The "road trip" aspect was always fun too. Being away from home, with advisors who were more like you that they were like your parents, was always fun.
How did your experiences affect your life in the short term and long term?
As I said above, I think adolescence would have been much lonelier and isolated without becoming involved. In the long term, I seriously doubt I would have been able to manage a long term relationship without some of the tools I acquired in LRY.
Were you UU as an adult--why or why not?
Another hard question to answer. From this perspective, a lot of it may have been that I was never a Unitarian, I was an LRYer. The people in the church who I was involved with, I was involved with through LRY. I stayed close to several friends made through the group quite awhile after, a few of the advisors. I even worked for one of my advisors well into college. Additionally, I was becoming much more involved in other endeavors.
What was your awareness of the group and its activities as far as being youth-directed and the history of youth-direction in UU youth groups? If you hadn't much awareness of the history of UU youth groups, would you have been interested in learning more? If you hadn't awareness of the history of the UU youth groups, would education in that history have further molded your experience and expectations of yourself and others? Would it have affected a sense of legacy? If you were interested in legacy, did you feel you were able to contribute beneficially or not?
I was absolutely unaware of any history and remained blissfully ignorant of a majority of it. The fact that there was an erstwhile autonomy was certainly an attraction, but never the main one. I became aware of the history of liberal activity of both the church and of LRY after I had joined, but didn't really have much of an awareness of anything prior to the mid to late 60s.
What was your sense of youth-adult relations between the youth group and the host congregation? The youth group and advisors?
I'm sure I had a pretty limited focus then, but everything seemed congenial. We never had a shortage of adults from the congregation who volunteered as advisors, no one seemed to think that we were running amok or incapable of handling our own affairs. We contributed to services, we hosted conferences, we had retreats. If there was any pro/con factions going on, I was blissfully unaware. I don't recall it even being a conversation within the group.
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?
Well, early to mid 70s in the South. So much of what I was interested in was marginalized. So much negative feeling about the anti war movement, civil rights, etc. As I said earlier, even the other "long haired hippie types" I went to school with were pretty apathetic, politically. Pretty much ANYBODY that was interested in what I was interested in, I met through LRY and the UU church.
Added 2013 Dec 31.
Return to Voices from the '70s.