In the 1940s and 1950s, it was the Jefferson Club and the Thomas Paine Club. In the 1990s, it was the Twenties and Thirties group (aka TNTs). In 2002,
it became the Unitarian Universalist Community on Campus (aka UUCC). Now it is Young Adults – Radically Inclusive, Spiritually and Socially Enriching
(aka YA-RISE). Although the name has changed over the years, First Unitarian Church has a long tradition of providing a religious home for local students
and young adults.
We are very fortunate to be located near an enormous collection of students: 35,000 at the University of Pittsburgh, 13,000 at Carnegie Mellon University,
2,000 at Chatham University, and 2,500 at Carlow University, for a total of approximately 52,250 students within just two or three miles of our
church. In addition to the students, a growing population of young adults also lives in Oakland, Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze, Greenfield,
East Liberty, Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, Highland Park, and other nearby neighborhoods. What a golden opportunity for this church to share our
progressive religious message and make a positive difference in the lives of so many students and young adults! And what a golden opportunity for
our church to learn and become transformed through the new ideas and new energies of so many students and young adults!
In 2002, with the financial assistance and grateful encouragement of the Unitarian Universalist Association, First Unitarian Church hired a part-time
Campus Ministry Coordinator to lead our outreach to local students. We also set up a Campus Ministry Endowment as further evidence of our long-term
commitment to remain connected with the student populations at nearby institutions of higher learning. Jennifer (aka Autumn) Detchon now serves
as our Young Adult and Campus Ministry Coordinator, and her title indicates that our outreach has now formally and intentionally expanded to include
not only local students but also young adults (ages 18 to 35).
Many Unitarian Universalist churches do not have the opportunities we have for outreach to students and young adults, and most Unitarian Universalist
churches have not made the commitment to support a staff person who can lead that outreach. We can be very proud of our long-standing willingness
to provide this ministry with students and young adults, and we can be very proud that we have made positive differences in the lives of hundreds
of people over the years – including Rev. Kierstin Homblette and Rev. Catie Scudera, recently-ordained Unitarian Universalist ministers who claimed
and strengthened their identity as Unitarian Universalists in our young adult and campus ministry program.
Five and ten and twenty and thirty years from now, young adults will be serving in major leadership roles throughout our society and at First Unitarian
Church as well. I am pleased that our congregation has already welcomed so many young adults who have recently stepped into leadership roles
– Martha King on the Sunday Celebrations Committee, Kyle Gracey on the Annual Budget Drive Committee, Cate Flanagan on the Membership Committee,
Abigail Sjostrom on the PIIN/UUPLAN Bridge Team, Alexander Jacob, Jesse Jacob, Paul Kuntz, Arthur
Notaro, and Will Snavely on the Ushers and Greeters Committee, Vespera Barrow and Tara Tappen on our Board of Trustees not so long ago, Katlyn
Alves and Taylor Paglisotti on the OWL teaching team, and many others as well.
We are blessed by the presence and participation of people of all ages at our church, and being a truly multigenerational community is a remarkable
accomplishment. Nevertheless, from my perspective, our continuing outreach to students and young adults through YA-RISE, and the presence and
participation of so many students and young adults in the life of our congregation, are especially strong signs of long-term vitality and health
for First Unitarian Church. Let’s keep that momentum going!
See you in church!