Sunday, May 22, 2005
Coming of Age season: Let's party!
It's Coming of Age season in Unitarian Universalist congregations — the time of year when young teenagers enrolled in the Coming of Age program present their individual "credos" to their congregations. Religious educators, ministers, and others involved in the endless Unitarian Universalist bout of anxiety known as revising the Coming-of-Age curriculum will find Mark Oppenheimer's article about bar and bat mitzvahs in today's Boston Globe interesting. For instance:
The ritual's origins are impossible to trace; neither the concept of the newly vested boy nor the ceremony to honor him is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Most Americans, Jewish or Gentile, would be surprised to learn that the ritual seems not to have existed until the Middle Ages, and it was not celebrated with a party until about the 16th century. For most of the 20th century, few boys in the Reform movement, now Judaism's largest, even practiced the bar mitzvah. When my father, for example, was 13, his Reform temple in Pittsburgh offered only "Confirmation," a ceremony for adolescents loosely modeled on Protestant rites. (The lack of a family precedent may be one reason that, growing up in Springfield in the 1980s, I too never became a bar mitzvah boy.)
Oppenheimer, author of Thirteen and a Day: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah Across America, spends most of his essay justifying the lavish bar/bat mitzvah parties people throw for their kids — a practice that influenced several very nice Coming of Age parties thrown by parents for the kids in the COA programs I led in a certain wealthy town near Boston — but one other paragraph will also interest Unitarian Universalists:
In Fayetteville, Ark., Jacob Newman celebrated his bar mitzvah with a potluck lunch in the Unitarian church. There's no synagogue building in a town with so few Jews, and even his guest list was overwhelmingly gentile. And there's not much money in Fayetteville, no cavernous banquet halls or expensive caterers. So he celebrated in a way fitting for his time and place. Had he lived in Newton, he might have done things differently.
Which is another way of saying that Unitarians probably do things differently in Newton than in Fayetteville, too.
What does Coming of Age look like in your Unitarian Universalist congregation?
("My Big Fat American Bar Mitzvah," Mark Oppenheimer, Boston Globe 5.22.05)
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 22 May 2005 at 7:41 PM