Coming of Age Program Overview
Coming of Age Program Overview
“We have had to learn how to get along and forgive each other’s faults, give each other room to grow but always remember that we are not alone, we are together.” ~ CoA Candidate
In almost all cultures around the globe there comes a moment in a young person’s aging that is marked as hir Coming of Age. Though the truth is that there is not one singular moment or magical year at which one comes of age. Rather it is a process, a becoming, a transformation that once completed is worthy of being honored in community.
The journey towards Coming of Age cannot happen in isolation – it takes community: community to launch the young ones, community to witness the progress and change, and community to greet them towards the end.
The Coming of Age Program (CoA) was initiated by members of the First Unitarian Society in Newton in 1983. The stated purpose of the program was “to provide our young people, who are entering eighth or ninth grades, with a liberal religious context within which to express and celebrate their growth towards adulthood.” Since that time we have had twenty-six graduating classes with a total of 483 graduates.
Every year the program culminates in a worshipful Coming of Age graduation ceremony held in the sanctuary. During the ceremony, each candidate presents a personal Credo. Upon graduation from the Coming of Age Program, each graduate is eligible to apply for full voting membership in the First Unitarian Society in Newton.
The Purpose of the FUSN Coming of Age Program is...
- To provide resources and tools for adulthood, including continuing education in the principles, purposes and sources of Unitarian Universalism;
- To provide a grounding in spiritual, social, and environmental principles;
- To provide experience of the personal and evolving nature of one’s credo;
- To provide comprehensive values-based sexuality education;
- To facilitate a sense of connection with caring adults, with peers, with the FUSN community, with Unitarian Universalism, with society at large, and with the world;
- To celebrate the transition from childhood to youth as a major milestone worthy of a public rite of passage.
Goals . . .
- To know oneself as a whole,
- To know oneself as part of a greater whole, and
- To be recognized by the community.
Each Coming of Age Candidate is matched with an adult from the congregation, often of the same gender. Parents are encouraged to help in the matching process, including asking their youth for suggestions.
The Coming of Age program provides structured opportunities throughout the year for youth and mentors to work together to get to know one another, including CoA Fridays and a group trip to Thompson Island. Additionally, mentors and candidates are encouraged to meet a minimum of 1-2 times a month. Many pairs find the required activities of the program a helpful way to structure their time together.
On the CoA Friday of each month Mentors in the program gather at 6:00p for a dinner provided by the parents/guardians of Coming of Age Candidates. This dinner gives Mentors the opportunity to share their successes and struggles with each other. Candidates join their mentors from 7:00p – 9:30p for group activities, which range from ice-breakers to team builders and from project planning to credo writing.
For years the Coming of Age participants (Candidates, Mentors, and Coordinators) have traveled to Thompson Island for an overnight retreat early in October. Usually running from Saturday morning through Sunday afternoon, the retreat includes worship, team building, personal growth opportunities, meals, and much fun.
Our Whole Lives (OWL)
OWL is a comprehensive values-based sexuality education program that helps participants gain the knowledge, values and skills to lead sexually healthy, responsible lives. One of the primary goals of the OWL component of the Coming of Age Program is to nurture communication between parent/guardian and child as well as support parents/guardians in their role as the primary sexuality educators of their children.
All parents/guardians who wish to enroll their children in OWL are required to participate in an orientation session in which they will have the opportunity to gain an overview of the program, view the curricular materials, ask any questions they may have, and express their hopes and concerns for their children’s participation. All custodial parents/guardians are required to provide written permission for their children to participate in the OWL classes (the form will be provided during the OWL parent/guardian orientation).
The living tradition of Unitarian Universalism draws from many sources. Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. Throughout the course of the year Candidates will learn about different faith traditions and visit some of their houses of worship. The class generally meets on Sunday mornings 1.5 hours prior to a visit to learn about the religion whose house of worship they will be visiting. Upon returning to FUSN the class meets for about a half-hour to debrief their experience. (Visits to Jewish temples and Muslim masjids sometimes require a Friday night or Saturday trip).
Parents/guardians are responsible for coordinating and providing the transportation to and from the visits. Mentors and parents/guardians are welcome to join the class for any of these visits. Candidates are also expected to attend a minimum of four FUSN services during the year.
In Unitarian Universalism, the ultimate source of religious authority is the individual and hir conscience. People and institutions of diverse belief form our congregations and movement. Therefore we have placed high value on the development of individual beliefs among our young people.
If we dig into its Latin roots, we discover that credo literally means “what I set my heart to.” This definition opens up the credo-making process to something deeper than the affirmation and rejection of religious truth claims. Our personal credos are about what we ultimately value and what greater purpose we live for. Our credos are also deeply about what we have faith in, what ultimate meaning we bind our lives to.
Towards the end of the program each Candidate is encouraged to write and share their credo with hopes that ze will share it with the gathered community during the graduation ceremony. Two CoA Friday gatherings are reserved for Credo Writing Workshops to help give the Candidates the tools necessary to articulate their credos.
Faith in Action service project
Engagement in social action is one of the ways we live our Unitarian Universalist faith and values. Part of Coming of Age is learning about our wider community and providing service to those in need. For many years, candidates and mentors have served a meal at Long Island Shelter, which included raising money to provide the food for shelter guests that evening. Last year we also participated in a program called City Reach of the Ecclesia Ministries, a program of St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Tremont Street in Boston that serves the homeless. Candidates and Mentors learned about the homeless, took a guided Friday evening walk in the neighborhood, slept over in St. Paul’s sanctuary, and then spent Saturday distributing food and clothing at the church as well as bus and train stations around the city.
See COA resources for more information, including the program book and current calendar.