Claudia Center of LRY (Liberal Religious Youth), Milford, New Hampshire, NH/VT LRY (was also YRUU)
What was the youth group to which you belonged (also city, and congregation if you care to identify it), region, and what were the years?
I belonged to LRY from about 1981 to 1985. My family attended the Milford, NH Unitarian Universalist Church and we had a local group there. I was also affiliated with the NH/VT LRY federation or district. I also participated in regional and national conferences.
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 parents were UU. They identified more with Universalism than with Unitarianism, but they were UUs. When they were both living in Boston in the very early 1950s, Mom in college and Dad in graduate school, they attended different UU churches each Sunday. Dad's parents were not big church goers, but identified loosely as Unitarian/Universalist. Mom's parents were Baptists.
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?
An older teen in the local area with a car, Tom Bier, brought me and another kid or two to a weekend conference. I was immediately hooked. I liked the alternative "hippie" vibe. I liked the music. I liked relating to other kids who were similar to me. I liked the liberal values and hanging around being silly. I liked staying up late talking. A feeling of community and "fitting in" was definitely missing in my day-to-day life in rural New Hampshire. I had significant clinical depression that was ameliorated by the LRY scene. For about four years or so, I was deeply connected to my LRY and then YRUU communities. As I progressed in college, and began planning my move to California and graduate school, I fell out of sync to some degree with the LRY/YRUU worlds. But later I reconnected with a subsequent iteration via the Star Island Young Adults Conference.
What were your experiences local and non-local (conferences)? Did you prefer one over the other or did they complement each other well? Was non-local experience accessible?
I generally preferred conferences over the local, although I participated in both. I liked the excitement of a conference and meeting new people. I liked getting far away from my regular life and my parents. I usually had to find a ride to get to a conference, but I often had good luck getting a ride. I was persistent.
How did your experiences affect your life in the short term and long term? Were you UU as an adult--why or why not?
In the short-term, LRY helped me survive my depression and even have some fun until I could get out of Dodge and start college.
When I did start college, I found it difficult to incorporate my LRY/YRUU world into my college world. From my perspective at that time, LRY/YRUU was too different from college. I faded away from LRY/YRUU networks for a number of years. Later I reconnected.
As an adult, I attended UU church occasionally, and then I stopped. I have not attended UU church (other than on a periodic trip to Milford, NH) for years.
For more than 20 years, I have lived in cities and have worked as a nonprofit lawyer, primarily in disability rights and other civil rights. I am connected to strong networks of civil rights and disability rights advocates and lawyers. I believe that my being part of these communities is a major reason that I am not an active UU. In a day-to-day way, I am connected to like-minded people who are trying to make the world more just and equal. And, I believe as a result, I do not have an intense need for a UU community as a way to meet people, or to feel a sense of shared values.
When I retire, if I decided to move to a more rural part of California, I would likely join the local UU church, because in that context I believe I would need the institution to feel connected.
I am still connected via FB with more than 100 friends from LRY/YRUU networks. Some of these friends are very precious to me. Several of my friends are now UU ministers, which is funny because I don't even attend church anymore.
I have a vague sense that the UU world is evolving away from the semi-atheist church of my childhood, and is now more interested in/open to Christianity and God and church-y rituals. This is not really my cup of tea, although as I stated above I would attend a UU church if it were the means to the end of finding community and shared values.
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 very aware of LRY being youth-directed and felt very aligned with that mission of "by and for youth." I was not very aware of pre-LRY youth groups but I would have been interested.
I am not sure I fully understand the rest of the questions. I think knowing more about history might have helped during the LRY-to-YRUU transition -- it might have provided more context, might have underscored the importance of "by and for youth." That part seems to have gotten lost between then and now (to the extent I know what "now" is like).
As I remember the end of LRY, there was not much of a choice between an LRY path and a non-LRY path. By the end, LRY seemed tattered and dysfunctional and under-resourced and sort of tired and played-out. (Of course, lots happened before then.) So anything new, with resources and support and energy, was more attractive. Also, the world was changing, including the way the world viewed minors and liability. I'm glad I got to be part of some truly youth-led efforts before all of the changes.
What was your sense of youth-adult relations between the youth group and the host congregation? The youth group and advisors?
Hmmm. There was often tension with the host congregation because we would sleep too late and things would be messy. We did not [have] usually the same level of tension with the advisors, as we had ongoing relationships with them. Some of our advisors were amazing. Such great adults, and willing to spend so much time with us. We really needed them.
Sometimes there would be a creepy man advisor who had a habit of sex with younger females (not me). I wish we (the young people) had been more empowered to get rid of those advisors.
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, I lived in New Hampshire and it was the Reagan years. It was pretty bleak. No internet of course. Cold war, nuclear arms race. Jocks and stoners. Putting aside that there were a few theater kids, LRY was my main outlet for having a life before college. The lack of other options, and the conference experience of being submerged into alternative community for X hours, made my experience and participation very intense.
Added 2014 June 4th.