Unitarian Universalists welcome young people into adulthood with the Bridging Ceremony.
The Bridging Ceremony at the 2014 UUA General Assembly in Providence, Rhode Island, honors young people making the transition from youth to young adulthood. (© Nancy Pierce)
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The world’s religions and cultures have their own unique ways of welcoming young people into adulthood. For Unitarian Universalists, it’s a bridging ceremony.
Bridging, the process by which UUs celebrate the transition of young people from their youth communities into the young adult community, can take place in a number of venues: individual congregations, camps, youth and district assemblies, and, of course, at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s annual General Assembly.
“Bridging honors youths’ transition from youthhood into young adulthood,” said Bart Frost, the UUA’s director of youth and young adult ministries. “The term refers to the path between the two.”
Kara Marler, a freshman at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, participated in bridging at General Assembly last year just as she graduated from high school in the Seattle area. “You are entering a new phase of life,” she said of the bridging ritual. “It symbolizes that your faith community is there to help you go through that and to help you transition into young adulthood.”
Every year at the UUA General Assembly, as many as 85 to 100 young people participate in the Synergy Bridging Ritual. While bridging rituals held in local congregations—where young people may have spent many years in religious education programs and youth groups—can be quite personal and sometimes emotional, the bridging that is held each year at GA takes the ritual to a new level.
“It’s an honoring of moving into adulthood, but it’s also a sending out,” Frost said. “This is much more of a call to action, becoming a part of the wider faith. The focus is on how you are going to go out and live your UU values, how you are going to live as a UU.”
Recent participants, who often have participated in rituals in their home congregations as well, agree that bridging at GA is special. Some of the speakers at the ceremony are young people who participated in it themselves just a year or two before.
“Bridging at GA is different, because you’re doing it with so many people and in front of so many people,” Marler said. “It was powerful to me to hear these young adults ready to bring us into their sphere.”
Any young UU making the transition to adulthood—that is, participating in high school graduation, or the equivalent, if they have been homeschooled or are not completing high school—is invited to take part in the Synergy Bridging Ritual during this year’s General Assembly, which is June 22–26 in Columbus, Ohio. Plans are underway now for the Synergy Worship service, a General Assembly event produced exclusively by young people, scheduled this year for Friday, June 24 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
“We spend 18 years with some of these young people, in religious education programs,” Frost said. “It’s meaningful to be honored in front of the entire Association for your accomplishments, for becoming adults.”
More information on bridging at General Assembly is available at uua.org/re/youth/transitions-and-rituals/bridging.
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Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who is also a member of the UU Church of Studio City, California.