Today the Moderator of the National Youth Assembly 2011 made a report to the General assembly of the Church of Scotland. The report was fine. One thing struck me though. The moderator who is a young lady is married. On twitter, I opined that being married was a reasonable critera on which to exclude people from being Youth Delegates at the National Youth Assembly. Well I caused some discussion on that there twitter. So here is my reasoning in a general and rambling fashion.
Marriage as a rite of moving from youth to Adult. (if you wish feel free to replace marriage with civil partnership.)
Marriage. is a weird one. Jesus never got married but he did notably bring to wine to one wedding.
Marriage is the outward sign of a commitment between two people. It signifies a leaving behind of what went before, a joining together, and a hope and determination to become together in the future.
As a decision it is one of the only decisions at this age which is intended to be permanent. (undergraduate degrees do not by their nature ensure a permanence to their subject area in future work. neither do apprenticeships etc.)
Marriage is founded on the hope of permanence. Before entering marriage, you have to get permission for the council, find someone who will agree to marry you, usually in a church you have to do a wee marriage course. It is a process which is all about ensuring you have the time to work out this is it. And act in that way. At the end of this process, in the ceremony you give yourself to the other completely, and them to you to become one. You do this as a adult judged free and able to make this decision.
Youth assembly as it exists.
Youth assembly takes place once a year and is a meeting and debating space for 16 -25 year olds within the Church of Scotland. Over a weekend the delegates, meet, talk, debate, eat, have fun and enjoy themselves. Application is open to all interested in the age bracket. Over the last 20 years the delegates who have gone through assembly have gone to help shape the way the church of Scotland now works, what it does and in a one case, become one of trustees of the Church of Scotland. It has been, and will continue to be (hopefully), a force for good.
So why stop married people going.
If you stand up and say as an adult i am willing to change my life in this way with this person, then you declare yourself in front of all your friends and witnesses to be adult. You choose to change your designation voluntarily. You decide to leave behind the things of youth and be an adult. (NB adult does not equate to old.)
I think that if you do that Youth assembly should hear you, bless you and send you on your way.
Youth assembly age range.
youth assembly has an age range of 16-25 year old. without knowing what the considerations for this were, i guess some were, over 16s need less supervision, therefore more like a conference less like a youth camp. Over 16’s can deal with the assembly being in a location where there may be a bar. Over 16’s can self manage to a high degree. Youthlink Scotland regards 16+ as an age group with its own strategy and approaches.
There is an issue that Youthlink Scotland says that primarily the age group which youth work should particularly emphasize is 11-18 year olds.
The decisive pre-requisite for a young person’s participation in youth work remains their youth. Youth work’s focus is on the 11-25 year age group with particular emphasis on 11-18 year olds. It acknowledges the need to connect effectively with early intervention programmes and provision which focuses on children under 11 years.
The NYA in england say that ‘Youth workers work primarily with young people aged between 13 and 19, but may in some cases extend this to younger age groups and those aged up to 24. Their work seeks to promote young people’s personal and social development and enable them to have a voice, influence and place in their communities and society as a whole.’
Youth Assembly and Adulthood.
The National Youth Assembly of the Church of Scotland should be the key Youth work event of the Church of Scotland year. But its not for the majority of young people in church they are unable to attend. The time between 11-16 year olds is where most young people who leave the church will leave. Youth Assembly also seems intent on keeping hold of those at the other end of the age bracket who have opted to have designated themselves as adults.
Interestingly one of the suggestions from the Youth Assembly this year was the development of a liturgy for people whos marriage have ended, or who have separated. In my head what I heard was a liturgy which allows out of brokenness beauty. Out of an ending a way forward. Hopefully a liturgy for ending well. When a young person makes a declaration of being adult we seem not to facilitate a finishing well to youth.
I Hope this can be taken forward and actually thought about.
The age group of 16+ is fine but then it cannot be the National Youth Assembly. A National Youth Assembly which says under 16s is not eligible to come seems an anomaly at best, and dishonest advertising at worst. A Youth Assembly which says to someone who has chosen to declare as an adult they are changing their life, yet seems not reflect this, speaks of not finishing well.
No doubt I will be wrong in all aspects of this thought, but hey being wrong is how you learn, or summit.