Our Present is Formed by Our Past
We asked members of our
staff to share what moves them to do justice work. This month Ann Hanson, Minister
for Sexuality Education and Justice, reflects on a turning point in her journey
of faith as an educator.
Our Present is Formed by Our Past
It was twenty years ago, and I was finishing up a week-long
experience at a UCC Senior High church camp. The theme of the week was human
sexuality and we had spent about 20 hours together, talking honestly about
issues of sexuality – issues that affected each teenager and adult in
attendance. As the teens were writing their evaluations, a young woman came to
me and tearfully said, “Why didn’t someone share this information with me four
years ago? If they had, I may not have made some bad decisions about my
As I reflect on this experience, I realize that this was a
turning point for me in my journey of faith. I knew I had been called to engage
in the ministry of sexuality education. One of the most important steps for me
along this journey is the understanding our feelings, values and experiences
accompany us as we learn about sexuality. It is important we acknowledge this.
Our present is informed by our past.
Often, people equate sexuality with sex – particular, sexual
acts. However, sexuality includes so
much more. It includes issues related to
sensuality, intimacy, identity, health and reproduction. Because sexuality is often used to influence,
manipulate and control others in ways that are harmful and destructive to the
body and spirit, I have grown to understand that faith communities are called
to be witnesses to an ethic of human sexuality that embraces healing and
health, justice and mutuality.
Most religions seek to celebrate wholeness for all people,
including children and youth. Separating our sexuality from our spirituality
has not been healthy. Many people, reflecting the diversity of culture, race
and religion, believe that in order to provide an opportunity for wholeness, we
must provide information that will enable people to be able to make decisions
for themselves and others that affirm life – and this includes information
Many religious leaders lift up the child as a symbol of
hope. Yet, many still profess that we must protect our children and youth from
education about sexuality. What they don’t realize is that our children and
youth (and adults) are constantly being educated about sexuality and often times
the education is based upon unhealthy sexual images and messages.
In today’s political climate, issues of sexism, reproductive
justice and homophobia have once again been pushed into the public sphere. It
is more important than ever that we provide sexuality education that is
age-appropriate and medically-accurate.
The United Church of Christ, along with the Unitarian
Universalist Association, has published age-span sexuality resources – Our Whole Lives – Sexuality and Our Faith
is widely considered the best sexuality education resource ever developed. We
have trained over 6,000 facilitators and many churches have fully integrated
this ministry into their church programs.
After being in ministry in the national setting for over
eleven years, I am grateful that so many churches are using Our Whole Lives. Providing this
education is one of the best gifts a faith community could ever give their
As I continue to train facilitators and as I listen to our
youth, more and more I realize that this ministry of sexuality education has
deeply affected my faith journey. Being surrounded by people who value
listening to the stories of others and witnessing the transforming power of
truth-telling at a deep level, has profoundly guided my journey.
And, the teenager that came to me twenty years ago is now a
mother of three young children. We still stay in touch through Facebook.