Equity, what does Equity mean for me? It means that I believe that although people may be born with different resources due to financial status, race, and gender, we should give different people different resources to get them to the same point. Equality is like giving every runner the same size of shoes. Some pairs fit well and others won’t. That means some runners will probably do better in the race than others. Equity is providing shoes that fit each runner equally well. I do agree with the first principle that affirms “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” I believe that we are all inherently equal but not necessarily given equal opportunities in life.

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Interdependence is a very important part of my spirituality. It means that I believe everything and everyone are connected and need each other. A theory I like to describe this as the Butterfly Effect. In a nutshell, this theory is that “a flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can have huge effects like setting off a tornado in Texas.” Although I don’t believe it to be factually true that a flap of a butterfly’s wing can set off a tornado, I do believe that we can and should apply this theory to our everyday lives. We can remember that even a very small action can have a very large impact on others’ lives. Basically I believe that there isn’t one God that controls everything, but that the Universe is watching over us, and if you do good for others then it will come back around for you and vice versa.

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I believe in Divinity. I don’t believe in a more traditional God, for example a singular being or multiple beings, usually humanoid, that can punish and that are perfect. However I do believe in God being in our daily lives. In a way I believe that God is the gift of life. My most cherished memories are just being alive with family and friends and in nature. One memory that I considered to be a “spiritual experience” is from when I was very young at a family reunion at a log cabin on the porch. It was raining and my aunts and uncles were playing music, while my cousins and I were collecting water dripping off the roof with old bottles. It may sound strange for this to be a spiritual experience but it really was. The only way that I can describe it is that everything in that moment felt perfect, like nothing at all could go wrong. It felt like there was no past or future, just present.

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What does growth mean spiritually for me? A way I like to explain it is I believe everything happens for a reason, good or bad, and that we can grow from those things even if at the time things are too difficult to recognize it. In 2020, we got a pet snake from somebody in the neighborhood who couldn’t take care of it. A couple days later we noticed that the snake had a weird lump, so we did some research and thought we knew what it was so we gave him warm soaks that were supposed to help with the lump. After a week or two it didn’t get better, so we decided to take him to the vet. There was a lot of back and forth in between figuring out what it was, but in the end it turned out that the lump was cancerous and couldn’t be removed, so we had to put him down. At the time putting him down was really hard. It felt so unfair that we only got to have him for a month or two. Fast forward to later on in 2020, and our dog of 14 years’ health was deteriorating. His back legs started to go out and he wasn’t there mentally. He would spend the whole day pacing around and whining; he was only peaceful when he was asleep. We had to put him down on the first of 2021. It was very hard for our whole family, but having had to put down our snake helped me learn coping skills for having an animal pass away. By the time our dog died, I could better deal with the loss of such an important part of our family. Even if it’s hard to recognize, sometimes unfortunate events can help you grow later on in life.

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To be honest, I have had a hard time deciding what I want to say and whether I feel ready to share it in the service. I am only fifteen years old and I believe that I will be figuring out my answers to many questions for years and years to come. For some questions I may never have the answer and to me, that’s ok because this aligns with the fourth UU principle to search for truth and meaning.

I know there are a lot of different views and many religions in the world. I’m not sure if I will ever subscribe to one religion, but feel most inclined toward Christianity due to my family history and traditions. Our family traditions include celebrating Christian holidays. My grandfather was a Lutheran Minister. I admire him because he is a faithful person who has worked through lot of his own big questions. I think he feels very strongly about his religion and faith but is very open and accepting to other faiths. I admire that. At this point in my life, I believe in God, but God may be seen in different ways by different religions. This is something I am still thinking about. In the meantime, acceptance of all people is important to me.

I believe that I don’t need to figure it all out in order to be a good person, but religion can help you with the ideas that it can lay out for you about how to live in the world. I believe in doing the right thing, being kind to others, and many other characteristics that I am also learning through participation in groups such as Scouts. I was not in scouts in elementary school mostly because I was involved in other things like soccer, piano, and art classes, but later realized that a lot of my friends were involved in it. My parents also supported my interest in scouts after some of their policy changes such as changing their policy and to allow LGBTQ people to participate in scouts doing a better job of protecting against child abuse. So I joined in middle school. Through scouts I am learning new skills like leadership and how to be a good citizen in many ways. I believe many aspects in the Scout oath which states “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to obey the scout law, to help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” I also admire the scout law which states, “ A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”

In closing, I may spend my whole life trying to figure out what I believe about religion, but I DO believe in being a good person.

This sculpture you see is a tree gifted to my grandfather who passed away a few years ago. I spent a lot of time looking at this tree, and trying to figure out why my grandmother had kept it so long and why it sits in my dining room. It seemed like just a mass of entangled wires, but it clearly meant so much more to my family. This tree is more than seems, it is a symbol of my grandfather and a symbol of life.

Growing up I was always struck by the outdoors. There was something fascinating about the way that one miniscule caterpillar could grow into a beautiful pollinator, or the process in which a pinecone could transform into a tree 80 ft above me.

I never realized how significant these simple ideas of nature could be to me now. The ground that I walk on, the vegetables on my table, the wind that messes up my hair, are all a part of the beautiful thing that all of us are so fortunate to experience, life.
I rarely reflected on my beliefs at that age, and still didn’t, until this year. This class has given me the opportunity to contemplate these aspects of life and what I could make of the craziness that is being.

I learned that you don’t need to have the answer to be right. You don’t need to have the answer to have a belief. Now, I’m still learning about my beliefs, but if I know anything about myself it is that I believe in the interconnections of life, simply put, I am not alone.  A tree is not only a mass of carbon, but a wonderful symbol of life. Alone, it reveals the growth during a lifetime through its numerous rings that make the foundation of the trunk. Each mark and ridge an experience shaping this foundation, and building up into the branches that hold us, our personality, our originality.

When I was 7, I was staying with my Aunt for a week and having the time of my life. My cousin and I decided to go scootering, little did I know that sidewalks are not all smooth and slender, some in fact are the opposite. Completely oblivious to my surroundings I fell face first into the sidewalk after going full speed (aka 3 miles an hour).

I ran back to my aunt with a very bloody knee and tears in my eyes. She gave me a hug and told me ,“you’re going to be okay”. In that moment it didn’t occur to me that these painful minutes don’t last a lifetime. I can recover and grow from these experiences. I am now proud to have this scar on my knee as a reminder of the beautiful mistakes that I have made, my ability to recover, and the people that have helped me along the way.

A forest doesn’t consist of just one tree, but many. They intertwine, communicate, share roots, support life, and connect with one another in a beautiful ecosystem.

I am similar; the tiny seed that I once was, has grown strong roots through the support of my family, grown tall from my experiences, and widespread branches from the reinforcement in my school, church, and sport communities.

When I was young I would always complain about going to church services like this. I would think to myself I could never do that, I don’t understand, I’m hungry.

Looking back, I now see how these religious roots gave me the seven principles that shape my actions today.

In this life of mystery and unpredictability, I can rely on one thing. I can remember that I have been given the roots, the structure, the sunlight to spread my branches and flourish in any ecosystem. I am so grateful for the connections that have made me strong enough to not only survive where others support me, but I am able to support others.

When I was young, coming to church seemed like a loathsome, tedious chore that just had to happen every week. I remember my routine: sitting through what felt like hours of service before I could go to the playroom, then building a car racetrack with my brother, then finally heading out to the parking lot and getting bagels for lunch at Brueggers. I hated it, but that was how it was. Then, all of a sudden, over ten years passed.
Now as I’m standing up here and as I was writing this credo, I’m realizing that I still have a lot of these same feelings, mixed with the guilt of knowing church school is a valuable experience but being bored by it nonetheless. But mostly, I’m nagged by the idea that here, I have to think. At school and in my life, I’m told a lot of things: how a certain rule works in geometry, when I have to do a certain assignment, what I’m supposed to do at practice, things like that. But at church, I have to think for myself. Beliefs are not told to me or forced upon me, and sometimes, as strange as it sounds, I wish they were. To me, religion and spirituality should be something to fall back on, a stability that answers questions and provides comfort and reassurance. But here, religion is a way to look more deeply into oneself, and rather than answering questions, it demands more queries. To me, that seems unnatural and not comforting.

That said, UU beliefs are still and will probably always be my core principles. I think that the seven principles should be a way of life, even if I don’t think of them as a connection to the divine or spiritual. No matter what religious path I should choose in the future, my experiences at this Church and the core beliefs of Unitarian-Universalism will always stick with me and guide me. For example, growing up as a UU has really given me a strong respect for all people. One of the experiences in particular that I’ve had at Church that has strengthened this principle is the Crossing Paths program. This RE curriculum educates youth about the world’s religions and also has a focus on connecting students with people who practice the faiths that they are learning about. This was an impactful experience because it really humanized a lot of religions that I had previously only heard about in abstract. Before that class, I had read books and watched movies about people of different religions. But, I’d never really sat down and talked to someone of another faith other than Christianity or Judaism about their beliefs and practices. Doing this strengthened my first principle, my respect for all people – no matter their religion or identity. To compare, I have a friend who was raised Catholic. She now doesn’t really practice Catholicism, but she still is a little bit reluctant to accept other religions, presumably because she was taught that Catholicism was the only true faith. Being raised a UU, I think, has taught me to respect people of all identities. This is just one example of a way UU beliefs and practices have made me who I am as a person and shaped who I will be in the future.

So now here I am, caught in between my childhood and adulthood, and in between my beliefs as a person and as a congregant. I don’t know what path I’m going to take now or in the future. Maybe I’ll find a different church that I feel a connection to, maybe I’ll stay here, or maybe I’ll stop going to church altogether. I really don’t know what’s going to happen, but for now, I’m okay with that. Now, I’m ready to take time to decide what I want and what’s right for me.

My credo is about equality and while Equality is a fundamental human right that should be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of promoting equality for all individuals, regardless of their background. This has led to the implementation of various policies and initiatives aimed at addressing inequality and promoting diversity and inclusion.

One of the key areas where equality is needed is in gender. Women have historically faced discrimination and inequality in various areas of life, including education, employment, and politics. In recent years, there has been a push towards greater gender equality, with measures such as affirmative action and pay equity laws being implemented to address the gender pay gap and promote greater representation of women in leadership positions.

Another area where equality is important is in relation to sexual orientation. LGBT individuals have faced discrimination and inequality in many areas of life, including employment, housing, and healthcare. There has been a growing recognition of the importance of promoting equality for LGBT individuals, with measures such as anti-discrimination laws and the legalization of same-sex marriage being implemented to address these issues and promote greater acceptance and inclusion of LGBT individuals in society.

Equality is also important in religion and having the freedom to practice your own religion whenever and wherever. I believe everyone is human and everyone is equal and should be treated so.

I’m here today to talk about my journey with rowing.

Before I started rowing, I never thought of myself as an athlete. I played soccer and flag football for fun, and I never took practicing or training seriously. When I started rowing, I learned that training hard is absolutely essential to performing well, and that if I really wanted to be the best, I had to put in the effort. Rowing is a demanding sport that requires mental toughness in addition to physical strength and fitness. It taught me the importance of discipline, having a good work ethic, and showed me that if I truly wanted to be the best, I had to put in the effort.

But rowing is more than just an individual sport. It’s also about being part of a team. When I joined my school’s team, I was able to feel like part of a community and for the first time I had a sense of belonging with my peers. Once I felt I had skills to truly contribute to the team, I really felt that sense of belonging.

Rowing is a very expensive sport, and I’m extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to participate. My family has a history of rowers, and the connections that they provided was another big advantage for me. I believe that more people should have the chance to experience the fulfillment, sense of purpose, and connection with nature being out on the water that I have enjoyed, which is why I’m going to volunteer this summer for a program in Philadelphia that teaches kids how to row for free.

In conclusion, I have grown a lot with rowing. It has shown me that if I want something, I have to work hard for it, and that nobody is going to give it to me. I also gained a sense of purpose and community from rowing, which I believe should be available to everybody. My experience with rowing has given me a sense of how I want to lead my life.

My story is about me, my concerns, my goals, my friends. Other peoples’ stories are about them, their concerns, goals and problems. Our stories could be similar, but they will have their differences. For example, I participate in Boy Scouts, which is where I learned how important these values are:

  • To be courteous because that is what people expect of you and it will help you make friends.
  • To be helpful because helping people is kind and will make them feel better.
  • To protect and preserve the environment because it is everything around us.

I don’t think that any divine or sacred things control everything. I believe that everything just happens with or without reason sometimes.

I relate most strongly to the first principle, which is the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and I try to set and follow good examples so that the world will become a better place.

I have had the awesome privilege to reflect and now share my beliefs with you today. When I think about my beliefs and Unitarian Universalism, the 4th principle sticks out to me. The 4th principle states that everyone should have a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. As a 14 year old I am still searching for truths and meaning in my life. Two of the most important truths in my life are that it is always good to be kind, and trying hard leads to improvement. Being kind or performing small acts of goodness are key to good relationships with people and choosing good friends and being kind to them can lead to a better life. Furthermore if you are kind to someone, they will likely be kind back to you. Some of the kindest people/role models in my life are my band director, my french teacher, and my Odyssey of the Mind coach. My band director, Mr. Hess, is super kind and he has helped me for over two years now. He has put in tons of time to help me through marching band, pops band, and concert band. He has also answered my numerous musical questions leading to a better understanding of music on my behalf. My French teacher, Madame Simmons, is super kind and has put in extra time to help me advance beyond the 8th grade curriculum. Lastly Odyssey of the Mind is a club comprised of a seven person team who writes a skit, and makes a vehicle, costumes, and props. My Odyssey of the Mind coach, Mrs. Duffy, has supported me during the last four years helping me put my dreams into words and helping me build all kinds of things. I try to follow their examples by being kind, helping younger drummers, tutoring in French, and teaching kids new to Odyssey how to build things. Next, trying hard and practicing is very important. It has led me to becoming a better drummer, and a better student. The meaning of life for now, for me, is to enjoy it and work hard in school, and my extracurriculars, so I can pursue my dreams in the future. Aside from my school work I spend most of my time practicing drum set, and also building things for Odyssey of the Mind. Also, I have come to understand the world through a more scientific approach so I don’t really have any traditional religious beliefs.

I believe in science for pretty much everything so I do not believe in heaven or hell. When your body dies, so does your brain after a little while. One thing that I have thought about is life as a simulation. We could all just be in a celestial beings lab experiment and we are their lab rats. This is still a little far out, but its fun to think about. Also, I don’t believe in reincarnation. Sure people will remember you but I don’t think we will come back as one of those people or an animal. Throughout this class I have thought about my beliefs thoroughly and I have come to conclude that I have a scientific interpretation of the world and I believe that kindness and hard work are key to a good life.

I believe life is a journey, and the choices you make throughout your day can affect it greatly or ever so slightly. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that even in difficult times, there is always a purpose and a lesson to be learned. I trust that the challenges and obstacles that I face are opportunities for growth and learning.

The concept of karma emphasizes the idea that we are responsible for our own lives and that our actions have consequences that shape our present and future. I believe that karma is not just limited to my individual actions as it also takes into account the intentions behind my actions and the effects they have on others. This belief encourages me to be mindful of the impact I have on others to strive for positive actions that benefit the people around me.

Reincarnation is often tied to the idea of karma, which holds that a person’s actions in their current life will affect their future lives. I believe that after time on earth, we go into the afterlife. I believe that in the afterlife we will be reincarnated as a continuation of our existence beyond physical death and that our actions in this life determine our fate and personality in the next. I believe that after a person dies, their soul or spirit is reborn into a new body, allowing the individual to continue their spiritual journey.The cycle of birth, death, and rebirth continues until the individual achieves their highest power.

I choose to have faith that the universe is always watching over me, guiding me, and providing me with opportunities and experiences that I need to grow and thrive. I trust that the universe is constantly guiding me toward my highest good, and protecting me from harm. I know that I am never alone and that the universe is always with me, providing me with the support, guidance, and protection that I need to live a fulfilling and purposeful life and I am always grateful for the universe’s love and care.