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Proposed CSAI: Empowerment: Age and Ability Reconsidered

Congregational Study/Action Issues (CSAIs) are issues selected by Unitarian Universalist member congregations for four years of study, reflection and action. 

Issue

The personal is political. Young people and older people know what it's like to be abused, marginalized, and discriminated against because of their age and ability. How can congregations best empower young and old? How can people with different abilities, in different age groups, create the Beloved Community?

Grounding

Be the change that you want to see in the world. A primary purpose of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is to organize and support congregations. Our congregations are voluntary, self-governing groups that can empower individuals and that can demonstrate new possibilities for creating love and justice.

Topics For Congregational Study

  • What's it like to be labeled as "young" or "old"?
     
  • How do the different age groups experience age discrimination? What does "ableism" mean?
     
  • What are the social trends that are relevant to aging and disability?
     
  • Where do you want to be in ten years? How can your congregation be helpful?

Possible Congregational/District Actions

  • Consciousness Raising: Talk with others about aging and disability. Listen.
     
  • Empower the Powerless: Build justice-making congregations for all age groups.
     
  • Welcome all people to religious services. Love one another.
     
  • Support lifespan religious education. Surround people with love.
     
  • Involve your whole congregation in caregiving.
     
  • Create a safe, accessible, attractive environment.

Prior Resolutions

  • Deepen our Commitment to an Anti-Oppressive, Multicultural UUA—2013 Responsive Resolution
     
  • A Reminder to Support Our Youth and Young Adult Groups—2010 Responsive Resolution
     
  • Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities—1997 Business Resolution
     
  • Speak Out for Children—1996 General Resolution
     
  • Older Women—1976 Business Resolution
     
  • Senior Citizens Charter—1973 General Resolution
     
  • Concern for Older Adults—1966 General Resolution

Congregational Support

  • Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth, MA

Additional Documentation

Because of new technology, and because of cultural changes, the discussion about age and ability is changing. The first person to live to age 150 has already been born. She may be a Unitarian Universalist already or she may decide to join one of our congregations as she grows older. She may give birth to her first child at age 60 and she may start a new career while she's in her 70s. If she lives with a wheelchair, she may never set foot in a church. What's the future for organized religion? How can congregations, districts, camps and schools, and national networks be helpful?

Love reaches out. Instead of focusing attention on one age group, or on one agency or program, this discussion is multigenerational and inclusive. Every age group knows age discrimination and every age group includes people with different abilities. Alzheimer's disease and autism, hearing and vision concerns, pastoral care arrangements, and the future of family life, are among the many topics that need congregational attention. Resources in the Unitarian Universalist Association are noted in the paragraphs that follow:

  • Human Rights and Dignity: The personal is political. Decisions made in Congress, in corporate boardrooms, in universities, and in other power centers, will shape your personal experience. Consider the future of Social Security, the future of education and health care, and the future of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Social justice training for young people, for older people, and for disability rights activists is available. The Multicultural Growth and Witness staff group provides support.
     
  • Celebrations: Look at the religious practices in your congregation. Congregations are often defined by what they celebrate and by when and how they celebrate. It's important to also ask, "Who's included? Are your religious events accessible? Does your congregation provide coming of age ceremonies and rituals that honor your congregation's elders? Equal Access is a Unitarian Universalist affinity group that can help your congregation to reduce barriers. The Unitarian Universalist Association can assist your congregation in developing multigenerational and multicultural celebrations.
     
  • Religious Education: The Unitarian Universalist Association provides religious education materials for all age groups. The Tapestry of Faith curricula and the Our Whole Lives series for sexuality education promote lifespan education. Support the networks and the service projects that serve youth and young adults. Should similar programs be developed for other age groups? What programs are needed for caregivers in their 40s and for retired people in their 70s.
     
  • Caregiving: Faith-based organizations are developing new programs for caregiving. Some congregations employ parish nurses, many sponsor wellness programs, and many are involved in advocacy programs for young people and older people. Some congregations provide transportation to religious gatherings and community programs. Because of climate change concerns, some congregations are becoming increasingly involved with emergency services work. "Buddy systems" and pastoral care teams have developed in some congregations. The Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry provides assistance in the wake of mass disasters.
     
  • Buildings and Grounds: Religious buildings and grounds should be safe, accessible, and attractive, and they should demonstrate best practices for the whole community. The Policy Committee of Equal Access has prepared access guidelines for congregations. The Green Sanctuary program is also involved with access issues and with health and safety concerns. Improve the usefulness, quality, and beauty of the built environment.

For more information contact socialwitness@uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, November 1, 2013.

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