Julie-Ann Silberman-Bunn of LRY (Liberal Religious Youth), Delaware Valley Federation*

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?

Princeton NJ 1978-1981

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?

I was raised UU and my older brother Paul Silberman was in LRY at Princeton from 74-78, neither of our parents was raised UU and they brought us to it when we were quite young.

Julie-Ann, then.

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?

I learned of the youth group through my brother and a friend who rode the bus with me, she basically said your brother and my sister ride together to LRY so will we. and so it was. It was my community, our group became quite large in the 40's during my time and it was my whole social world There were conferences somewhere on the Mid-Atlantic almost every weekend and if not we had a trip for our youth group or we were visiting with other youth groups. I was a hippy kid in the age of preppies and did not fit in at school, in our LRY group those distinctions disappeared. We talked about deep issues, were involved in social action, had fun and generally provided an intimacy that was lacking elsewhere in my world. I loved worship, I went from a very timid kid to a leader and I found a voice in LRY that I don't think I had elsewhere in my life. I was in LRY in one way or another through the Common Ground Process and into Leadership as the first staff in the YRUU office.

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 was deeply involved in local, district/federation, regional, conferences and UUA stuff. I attended Star Island Conferences and LRY Boards as well as Con Con. I was on the Con Con planning committee in 1980 and 1983. I went on to be involved as an advisor in YRUU, and as a chaplain at Con Con.

How did your experiences affect your life in the short term and long term? Were you UU as an adult--why or why not?

I have remained an active UU and have been a UU minister for the last 23 years. I have raised my sons UU and both have had a mix of positive and negative experience with UU youth culture. The experiences and friendships from my youth years sustain me every day. They have shaped me into the person I am and have helped me to become the youth advocate that I continue to be.

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 and involved in the leadership and youth empowerment model. I was at GA in 1979 as a delegate to advocate for youth programs, served on the LRY board for several years. Served on the UUA's Youth Adult Committee. Attended Common Ground 1, and ran for office in LRY and then again and was selected for YRUU.

What was your sense of youth-adult relations between the youth group and the host congregation? The youth group and advisors?

The relationship in our congregation was pretty good. Our advisers were pillars of the congregation, and we were very well integrated into the life of the congregation. The conference culture was supported in spite of concerns about behaviors.

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?

It was a preppy area and time and I think there was a lot of social division.

Julie-Ann, now.

Julie-Ann notes that the district lines did not match the federation lines.

Added 2014 May 29th.

Return to Voices from the '80s.