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You can't say the word transgender and people really know what you're talking about. But anybody who says the word transgender means something different by it anyway, so it really is a story and not just a label. - Malcolm
Call Me Malcolm is an amazing story of the human spirit and God's spirit, and the liberating struggle to realize and express with confidence the marvelous gift of one's truest sense of self. As Malcolm shares his own story and through the stories of others we meet, Call Me Malcolm offers us a glimpse into the real lives of real people who are transgender. But it is only a glimpse. There are many stories to be told and Malcolm helps us make connections to our own stories, encouraging us to share them. That can seem daunting in a culture which has done more to heap shame on persons who identify as transgender. The good news of Malcolm's story is the way in which shame and fear are overcome by grace, compassion and knowledge. Viewers cannot help but come to a deeper understanding of faith, love, and gender identity, and by doing so, arrive at a deeper understanding of their own journey.
Produced by the United Church of Christ and Filmworks, Inc.
To play video clips from the film, click here and then on "Clips" from the Call Me Malcolm home page menu bar.
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For more information about the film: www.callmemalcolm.com
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Defend the rights of the poor and needy. —Proverbs 31:8-9
How terrible it will be for those who make unfair laws, and those who write laws that make life hard for people. They are not fair to the poor, and they rob my people of their rights. They allow people to steal from widows and to take from orphans what really belongs to them. —Isaiah 10:1-2
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. —Isaiah 58:6-10
Two central themes run through the Bible concerning justice. The first is God's all-encompassing love, concern, and mercy for all human beings. The second is our responsibility to love God's earth and to care for God's people.
God placed Adam and Eve in the garden and instructed them to care for it. In the story of Cain and Abel, God sent the clear message that we are, indeed, our brother's and sister's keeper. In the tradition of the exodus from Egypt, we learn of God's compassionate response to misery, oppression, and slavery. God's law not only calls for individual piety but also communal responsibility for the well-being of all.
God never asks us to love only those with whom we are intimately acquainted, but instead a more difficult love is required. Over and over, the law instructs Israelites to remember the stranger, the foreigner, the orphan and the widow those most vulnerable to hunger and poverty and ties this instruction to the exodus.
Look at Deuteronomy:
When you gather your crops and fail to bring in some of the grain that you have cut, do not go back for it; it is to be left for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. . . . When you have gathered your grapes once, do not go back over the vines a second time; the grapes that are left are for the foreigners, orphans and widows. Never forget that you were slaves in Egypt; that is why I have given you this command. (24:19-22)
Other laws provided for sharing one-tenth of the harvest with immigrants, orphans and widows (Deuteronomy 14:28-29), for lending at no interest to those in need (Exodus 22:25), and for the cancellation of debts every seventh year (Deuteronomy 15:1-2, 7-11). Every fiftieth year was to be a Year of Jubilee during which property was to be returned to the family of the original owner. The intent of this law, which may never have been carried out, was to prevent the concentration of wealth and make sure that each family had the means to feed itself.
The prophets, too, insisted on justice for everyone. Amos, for example, denounced those who trampled on the needy and destroyed the poor in order to gain wealth. He railed against those who lived in luxury while the poor were being crushed. The prophets' main judgments were leveled against idolatry and social injustice. The living God insists on personal morality and social justice, while idols offer prosperity without social responsibility.
The Psalms invite us to celebrate God's justice.
God always keeps promises; God judges in favor of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. (146:6-7) Happy are those who are concerned for the poor; the Lord will help them when they are in trouble. (41:1 TEV)
The wisdom literature in the Old Testament expresses the same theme, as these texts from Proverbs indicate:
If you refuse to listen to the cry of the poor, your own cry will not be heard. (21:13) Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Defend the rights of the poor and needy. (31:8-9)
Concern for poor, hungry and vulnerable people is pervasive in the Hebrew Scriptures. It flows directly from the revelation of God through the rescue of an enslaved people.
Jesus: Our model of love, peace, and justice
The justice ethic of Jesus is built upon the foundation of Hebrew Scriptures. Yet, as Christians, our understanding of liberation emerges from the divine act of salvation the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" conquered sin and death for us, we are forgiven, reconciled to God, born anew to be imitators of God, called to sacrificial love for others. Through the gift of eternal life, Jesus sets us free to make the doing of good our purpose in life (Ephesians 2:8-10).
The example of Jesus is our guide and inspiration. He had a special sense of mission to poor and oppressed people evidence that, in him, the messianic promises were being fulfilled. At the outset of his ministry, Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth and read from the prophet Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
The gospels depict Jesus repeatedly reaching out to those at the bottom of the social pyramid--poor people, women, Samaritans, lepers, children, prostitutes and tax collectors. Jesus was also eager to accept people who were well-placed, but he made clear that all, regardless of social position, needed to repent. For this reason, he invited the rich young lawyer to sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.
Jesus expanded the traditional meaning of the word "neighbor"—defining our neighbor as anyone who is in need including social outcasts. (Luke 10:25-37) Moreover, Jesus calls us to love not only our neighbors but also our enemies. (Matthew 5:44)
In his portrayal of the day of judgment, Jesus pictured people from all nations gathered before him. To the "sheep" he says, "Come you blessed of my Father, for I was hungry and you fed me. . . ." In their astonishment they ask, "When did we do that?" And he answers, "When you did it to the lowliest of my brothers (and sisters)." Conversely, to the "goats" he says, "Out of my sight, you who are condemned, for I was hungry and you did not feed me. . . ." (Matthew 25:31-46, paraphrased)
Clearly, in both Old and New Testaments the intention of God that all people find a place at the table is combined with a responsibility on our part for those who are most vulnerable, those most often kept from the table. This intention flows from the heart of God, who reaches out in love to all of us--rich, poor and in between.
Advocating for justice
Churches are already doing a lot to take care of needy people directly through charity work. By one estimate, religious congregations give $7 billion each year (about one-seventh of their total revenue) to people in need (New York Times, 1995). But Christians devote much less effort to influencing what governments do.
God, however, requires both charity and justice, and justice can often be achieved only through the mechanism of government. The view that nations, as well as individuals, will be judged by the way they treat the weakest and most vulnerable among them is deeply embedded in the witness of prophets such as Isaiah, who said:
How terrible it will be for those who make unfair laws,and those who write laws that make life hard for people. They are not fair to the poor, and they rob my people of their rights. They allow people to steal from widows and to take from orphans what really belongs to them. (Isaiah 10:1-2)
Jesus criticized and disobeyed laws when they got in the way of helping people. He healed people on the sabbath, for example, even though all work was prohibited on the sabbath. Religion and government were intermixed, so Jesus was challenging the law of the land. The threat Jesus posed to both religious and political authorities led to his crucifixion. Government is not the only or always the best instrument to deal with injustice. But it is one of the institutions created by God part of God's providence for the welfare of people. Because we live in a democracy, a nation with a government "of the people," we have a special privilege and responsibility to use the power of our citizenship to promote public justice and reduce hunger.
Compiled and edited by the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, UCC Justice and Witness Ministries, with adapted selections from Grace At the Table: Ending Hunger in God's World, written by David Beckmann and Art Simon for Bread for the World (1999: Paulist Press and Intervarsity Press) Used with permission.
One of the best places to find information that connects curriculum to the history, ministry, and mission of the United Church of Christ is the United Church of Christ award winning web site. Use this directory to find topics of specific interest for a particular Sunday or session.
Whether your church uses Shine, Deep Blue Kids, Caffeine, The Present Word, or another curriculum, you will find links below that will help you add activities and resources that reflect the United Church of Christ.
Some of these links direct you to pages on the UCC web site, while others connect you with resources which you may order from UCC Resources.
United Church of Christ History
Look for opportunities to help learners explore and understand the rich heritage of the United Church of Christ. These links will be of special help to those working with Affirming Faith: A Congregation's Guide to Confirmation.
United Church of Christ Identity and Information
These links direct you to basic information about the United Church of Christ.
God Is Still Speaking
What is the UCC?
Justice and Witness Ministries Home Page
Local Church Ministries Home Page
Wider Church Ministries Home Page
Pension Boards Home Page
United Church Foundation Home Page
Meet Our Officers
Calendar of Prayer
UCC Annual Reports
UCC Logo Page
UCC Electronic Newsroom
Confessing Our Faith: An Interpretation of the Statement of Faith of the United Church of Christ
United Church of Christ Ministries
The links below to national ministries of the United Church of Christ provide connections with ways your group may choose to respond.
Mission Throughout the Year
Many suggestions for specific Sundays through the whole church year are in the above document!
Making Our Churches Safe for All
The two links below are a gateway to a wealth of information for churches which use the Revised Common Lectionary to guide worship and education using the resources of Seasons of the Spirit. Worship Ways provide liturgies on themes for Sundays thorughout the church year and may be used to provide denomination specific connection to any curriculum resources.
Sometimes you want to know how to connect a specific office at the Church House in Cleveland or you want to know who on your Conference staff might provide information to you. The links below can direct you to the right person. The education institutions related to the United Church of Christ provide a wealth of information which may be used in your church's education program. Your Conference Resource Center has many resources which are available on loan to use in your program.
Resources to Order
The links below provide information about videos, books, and curricula which you may purchase for your church's ministry of teaching.
"How terrible it will be for those who make unfair laws, and those who write laws that make life hard for people. They are not fair to the poor and they rob my people of their rights. They allow people to steal from widows and take from orphans what really belongs to them."
What is Advocacy?
Advocacy is an action taken by individuals, groups, or organizations to defend, support, or protect others. Generally, advocacy is standing with or standing for a person or group that is disadvantaged or denied justice in society. In the effort to bring about justice, advocacy may include education, affecting public policy, joining coalitions, and participating in nonviolent direct actions. Effective advocacy enables and supports individuals and groups working to correct the injustices or abuses to which they are subjected.
Adapted from the website of the Latin American Working Group.
Do you wonder if your efforts make a difference with your elected officials? Check out our special section: Does Advocacy Make a Difference?
Why should I care about advocacy?
These are challenging times for our nation, as debate rages over fundamental decisions regarding our national priorities, values and commitments, and how they will be expressed in public policy. Events of recent times remind us that we cannot ignore economic, social, and ecological realities that have led to greater abundance for some and scarcity for many others. In the challenges before us today, we, as people of faith, can hear the echoes of prophets and believers who, throughout history, lifted up a vision of right relationship within human community and with God. God’s vision of the wholeness of creation has always challenged the human limits of our thoughts, imaginations, and hopes.
The Hebrew people were continually reminded that the way in which their human community was structured reflected their relationship to God. In the prophetic tradition, justice in human community is inextricably linked to being in right relationship with God. For as God had brought the people through great trouble, so they were to respond to those in trouble in their midst.
Jesus reminds us of the call to compassion and justice, showing special care and concern for those in his day who were considered “expendables.” “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
How do I develop an Advocacy Strategy?
Before any advocacy campaign begins, before the letter-writing, petitions, or protests, advocates must have a clear strategy. This is an overall map of where you are, where you want to be, and how to get there. Start by asking yourself these five questions.
1. What Do You Want? (Objectives)
2. Who Can Give It to You? (Audiences)
3. What Do They Need to Hear? (Message)
4. Who Do They Need to Hear It From? (Messengers)
5. How Can We Get Them to Hear It? (Delivery)
When developing your message, ask yourself this key question: what piece of information that is missing from the debate can I offer that might change someone’s thinking on an issue if they became aware of it?
Timing advocacy to influence legislation is the most important skill needed by legislative advocates. Once an issue is decided by vote, it is very difficult, often practically impossible, to reverse the action until the next year or the next session of Congress. For more coordinated and strategic advocacy, which differs from rapid-response advocacy, it is important to plan ahead.
One excellent way to do advocacy is to enlist the help of leaders in the community, like clergy and other religious leaders. Religious leaders command respect among their congregations and also from elected officials and those who do not belong to a faith community. Partnering clergy and leaders of faith communities is a great, strategic way to engage your elected officials, especially if among the faith leaders is the leader of that elected official’s faith group.
[Adapted from Democracy In Action, a newsletter of the Democracy Center, The Institute for Public Policy Advocacy, 1535 Mission Street, San Francisco, California, 94103, 415-431-2051]
Who are my elected officials?
There are a number of ways to learn who your elected officials are. The simplest way to find them is through our Find Elected Officials tool, where you can look up your elected representatives by zip code. Once you know who your officials are, visit their websites and learn more about who they are. The more informed your communication is with them, the better.
What is the timing for Advocacy on the Federal level?
The key working days for the House and Senate are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This allows members of Congress to travel to their home districts and provides time for committee work and various kinds of caucusing and negotiations. In Washington, D.C., Mondays and Fridays are better times for meeting with legislative aides, but advocates should not be deterred by this and may try to set up a meeting on any weekday. Even when there is floor action in the House or Senate, it may be the case that the important action is happening in committees, caucuses, and negotiations.
It is not easy to predict when members will be in home districts and states, but it is important to contact the home offices of members to pursue appointments, since it is just as effective to meet with a staff member there. Of course, don’t forget phone calls, hand-written letters, and emails. These are all effective ways to weigh in on important issues.
Why is it important to advocate on the state and local levels, as well as the federal level?
Advocacy on the state and local level is as important as your work on the federal level. Today, the relationship between the states and the federal government in shaping and implementing public policy is being redefined on a broad range of issues, particularly budget deficits, homeland security, health care, education, environment, election reform, and welfare reform. The connection between federal and state public policy is becoming more evident. In this new environment, public policy advocacy is critical at both the state and federal level. Every state and local legislative calendar is different, so check on your state and local webpages to find out when legislation is on the move.
Advocating for human sexuality education and justice is an important first step for people of faith to take as they begin to plan a ministry of human sexuality in their communities.
The Advocacy Manual for Sexuality Education, Health and Justice is a helpful manual for advocates of comprehensive sexuality education - education that enables young people and their families to obtain accurate information, articulate their values, develop relationship skills, and exercise responsibility in sexual relationships. It is a co-publication of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. It may be purchased from the United Church of Christ at anytime by calling 1-800-537-3394.
The Advocacy Manual for Sexuality Education, Health and Justice contains a variety of practical resources for introducing a comprehensive sexuality education program like Our Whole Lives in your congregation or community, as well as background information on sexuality education and its connection to spiritual and sexual health. Whether you are a parent, educator, student, clergyperson or lay leader, this resource will encourage you to employ your moral and religious values in advocating for comprehensive sexuality education.
Sarah Gibb worked with the Sexuality Education Task Force of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ from 1997-2001. Having grown up in congregations that provided faith-based sexuality education, she has witnessed the positive effects of the partnership between congregations and families in helping young people make healthy choices. As Outreach Coordinator for the Task Force, her work focused on building advocacy for comprehensive sexuality education among people of faith. Sarah has also worked with communities organizations on setting up training events for the use of Our Whole Lives. She has completed her Masters of Divinity degree from Harvard University's School of Divinity and works for the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Programming for Our Whole Lives
How do we get started? My congregation has never done sexuality education before.
How can Our Whole Lives work with our regular church school program?
How long are the programs?
Are the program lengths and sessions adaptable?
Can we collaborate with another church or community organization?
How much does it cost?
How is Our Whole Lives going in congregations? How many people have been trained and how many churches are using it?
Can the K-1 resources be taught at home by parents to their children?
Why isn't there a resource for 2nd and 3rd grades?
What are the criteria for selecting good leaders for Our Whole Lives?
Should we screen potential leaders?
What does teacher training involve?
How long are the trainings?
Why are there different trainings for different levels?
Who sponsors the teacher training workshops and when are they held?
Who leads the teacher training workshops?
My congregation is considering using Our Whole Lives. What materials can I buy before our teachers have been trained?
Can I preview the materials before purchasing them?
Where do I buy them?
Media, Interfaith Collaboration and Outreach
How do we deal with media inquiries regarding the program?
Can non-religious organizations use Our Whole Lives?
What are people saying about Our Whole Lives?
Introducing sexuality education into your congregation can be a wonderful opportunity to put faith into action. Effectively developing a congregational commitment involves a four-part process of (1) building allies, (2) forming an oversight committee, (3) education and inspiring the congregation, and (4) implementing the program and including it into the congregation's ministry on an ongoing basis.
Resources to help you get started include The Advocacy Manual for Sexuality Education, Health, and Justice, and the UCC Our Whole Lives Coordinator. The main ingredient in the success of implementing Our Whole Lives is a commitment to the sexual health and wholeness of the community. The impetus may come from the youth of your congregation, a parent's group, the pastor, a health professional, etc. There are people throughout the United Church of Christ who have been trained as facilitators, and have successfully implemented Our Whole Lives—they are willing to share their journeys with you.
Pick out the age group you want to start with (K-1/4-6/7-9/10-12 grades or Young Adult and Adult) and work with your association, conference and national settings to set up a training. Trainings are in the process of being developed all the time—current training schedules are available at www.ucc.org/justice/sexuality-education/training-schedule.html Back to top
Our Whole Lives is not meant to replace a faith community's Christian Education program. It is recommended that Our Whole Lives classes be held during the week, or on a Sunday evening. Some congregations do offer Our Whole Lives on Sunday morning and expand the time frame for the junior and senior high programs with the endorsement of participants, parents, teachers, and congregation. When it is offered Sunday mornings during regular church school time, alternative programming needs to be offered for newcomers, guests and children and youth who will not be participating in Our Whole Lives. Our Whole Lives programs are flexible and can be adapted to your program needs. The programs for the elementary (K-1 and 4-6 grades) are eight-session courses. The high school level is a series of 14 classes that can be integrated into youth group or classroom settings throughout the year, or grouped into weekend retreats. Our Whole Lives for Grades 7-9, 27 sessions, is a full year of programming. Some congregations are offering Our Whole Lives as a one-year 'part' of their confirmation process. Back to top
K-1 and 4-6 grades:
8 sessions, 1 hour each
Parent meeting: 1.5 hours, Parent/Child Orientation: 2.5 hours
27 sessions, 1.5 hour each
Parent Orientation: 1-2 sessions, 4-4 ½ hours total
14 sessions, 2 hours each
Parent Orientation: 1-3 sessions, 3—4 ½ hours total
12 sessions, 2 hours each
14 sessions, 2 hours each
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Our Whole Lives programs are flexible and can be adapted to your program needs. The older grades courses can be used in a retreat setting. In order to maintain the integrity of the program, it is highly recommended that all sessions of the resource be taught. Back to top
If there is another United Church of Christ congregation in your area, or a church that believes that sexuality education is an important part of their commitment to youth, it is appropriate to collaborate. The more diversity in a group, the richer the program. Because Our Whole Lives was written to be used in a secular setting, it does not contain religious references. It would be inappropriate to use the accompanying book, Sexuality and Our Faith with a community group. Back to top
Resource cost—Our Whole Lives—Sexuality and Our Faith
People attending Our Whole Lives—Sexuality and Our Faith trainings need to call the United Church of Christ warehouse and order their own resources. This needs to be done at least 10 days before a training to insure delivery. The number to call is: 1-800-537-3394. When calling, tell the customer service person that you are attending a training and should receive a 25% discount. Orders can be charged to your church's United Church of Christ Resource account.
For K-1 Training (Full Price, Training Price)
1 copy K-1 Our Whole Lives $40.00, $30.00
1 copy K-1 Sexuality and Our Faith $18.00, $13.50
1 copy Parent Guide $15.00, $11.25
1 copy Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
Full set $85.00, $63.75
For 4-6 Training (Full Price, Training Price)
1 copy 4-6 Our Whole Lives $40.00, $30.00
1 copy 4-6 Sexuality and Our Faith $18.00, $13.50
1 copy Parent Guide $15.00, $11.25
1 copy Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
1 copy "It's Perfectly Normal" $11.00, $8.25
Full set $96.00, $72.00
For 7-9 Training (Full Price, Training Price)
1 copy 7-9 Our Whole Lives $75.00, $56.25
1 copy 7-9 Sexuality and Our Faith $18.00, $13.50
1 copy Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
Full set $105.00, $78.75
For 10-12 Training (Full Price, Training Price)
1 copy 10-12 Our Whole Lives $60.00, $45.00
1 copy 10-12 Sexuality and Our Faith $18.00, $13.50
1 copy Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
Full set $90.00, $67.50
1 copy Our Whole Lives $40.00, $30.00
Sexuality and Our Faith $18.00, $13.50
Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
Full set $70.00, $52.50
Our Whole Lives $60.00, $45.00
Sexuality and Our Faith $8.00, $6.00
Advocacy Manual $12.00, $9.00
Full set $80.00, $60.00
Congregations must also budget for leader training. The total cost for a congregation will be determined by how far they must travel and how many days it will take. Once the teachers are trained, the actual cost of implementation in a congregation is small—each K-1 and 4-6 grade family needs a Parent Guide and each family in the 4-6 grade needs a copy of It's Perfectly Normal. Additional costs will come from printing, supplies and snacks. Back to top
Since 2000, approximately 1600 teachers trained in the use of Our Whole Lives. Because churches don't automatically report their use of Our Whole Lives, the number of churches using the resources is impossible to know. However, more and more are finding out the benefits from this ministry and are sending teacher to trainings. Several of our congregations have fully implemented Our Whole Lives (all levels) into the ministry of their church.
Each congregation's experience has been unique; however, some common themes have emerged. Overall, parents, teachers, and participants alike have found Our Whole Lives to be an extremely valuable experience. Older youth have commented on how it has helped prepare them to make healthier decisions and how important it is to be with other teens and teachers who understand them. Teachers have commented on how invaluable the training experiences were and how they see the real need for offering this resource. Parents have commented on how Our Whole Lives has opened up healthy communication with their children and how grateful they are that their faith community has implemented Our Whole Lives. And, adults celebrate the fact that this information is available for them and their families. Back to top
Yes, The Parent Guide to Our Whole Lives describes how parents can teach the K-1 resource at home. The other levels of Our Whole Lives are more difficult to use with just one child, as many of the sessions involve games and group work. Back to top
Substantial grant money was used to develop Our Whole Lives. It became apparent that the funding would not allow for the development of five grade levels. Therefore, it was the decision of the planning group that a resource for 2nd and 3rd grades would not be published. However, it is possible to take age-appropriate material from the K-1 and some from the 4-6, and use it for the 2nd and 3rd grades. Back to top
Each level of Our Whole Lives includes a parent orientation lesson plan. Trained Our Whole Lives teachers are encouraged to work with the minister(s) and Christian Education leadership to facilitate this orientation. The orientation session(s) includes a thorough discussion in regard to the materials that will be presented. Along with a few exercises, parents are required to sign a permission slip. Parents are acknowledged as the primary sexuality educators of their children. Back to top
While it may be advisable for a church to request consent from both parents for participation in church activities such as the Our Whole Lives program whenever possible, such dual consent is not mandatory. Back to top
The success of the Our Whole Lives program depends on the qualified and caring persons who are selected and trained to be Our Whole Lives teachers. Keep the following criteria in mind when choosing your teachers:
1. A commitment to value-based, comprehensive sexuality education. A teacher needs to have values (responsibility, sexual health,responsibility, justice and inclusivity) in harmony with the Our Whole Lives program and goals, and to feel comfortable with his or her own sexuality.
2. Experienced, skilled, and comfortable with the specific age group and its developmental needs. A leader needs to stimulate discussion by asking open-ended questions, encouraging communication among participants, and facilitating activities that foster experiential learning. A leader needs to use sexual terminology and age-appropriate language comfortably, relate well with the age group of participants, and convey warmth and a sense of humor.
3. Anti-bias awareness. A leader needs to understand, appreciate, and celebrate diversity of race/ethnicity, culture, age, ability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. A leader needs to have the skills to work with people of diverse backgrounds as well as the ability to create a safe and engaging/learning environment.
4. An advocate for sexual health and safety. A leader needs the knowledge and skills not only to educate about sexual health but to fulfill the trust inherent in the role of sexuality educator. This role includes the responsibility to recognize and report abuse. The leader must support your church's safety-abuse policy and must follow your state's process for reporting and investigating an alleged abuse.
5. Ability to build relationships. A leader needs to develop a relationship with participants, and with their parents. Leaders need to build community in the classroom and develop relationships of respect, reciprocity, and responsibility.
6. Dedicated learner and leader. A leader needs to be willing to become thoroughly familiar with the content of the program, to work with a co-leader, and to listen to and learn from young people and parents.
7. Person of faith. A teacher needs to be a person who is respected by the congregation and comfortable discussing the integration of sexuality and spirituality with members of the faith community. They should be aware of their own spiritual and religious grounding.
It is important to know that at the teacher's training, the teachers are being trained and evaluated. UCC trainers of teachers have a responsibility to the Our Whole Lives program to help ensure that teachers are qualified to lead the different levels of the program. Occasionally our trainers identify individuals during the trainings that might not be appropriate for teaching Our Whole Lives. Churches should know that their teachers may not be approved if there are concerns that arise during the training. If this is the case, the teachers will be notified directly by the trainers and the congregational contact person(s) will be notified. Back to top
The United Church of Christ Insurance Board, along with people working in Parish Life and Leadership, strongly advise that churches screen all people working with youth and children. We recommend conducting background checks on teachers of Our Whole Lives. Most local police departments would be able to assist your congregation in conducting such a check. National Background Investigations can conduct nationwide (US) background checks. They frequently work with non-profit organizations and can be reached at 1-800-798-0079.
Our Whole Lives policies insist on having two people (preferably different genders) with the children and youth at all times. In addition, when potential teachers attend training workshops and concerns arise about a leader's appropriateness for facilitating Our Whole Lives, the trainers leading the workshop will speak to the potential teacher and to the professional leadership of your congregation about their concerns. Back to top
Training helps prepare teachers by developing the comfort, knowledge, and teaching skills necessary for leading a level of Our Whole Lives effectively and appropriately. Training is required for the following reasons:
1. It offers the opportunity to see Our Whole Lives activities modeled by trainers as they were intended to be conducted.
2. It gives teachers a supportive environment to practice teaching and receive constructive feedback.
3. It allows teachers to network and share ideas about what will and won't work with their groups.
4. It provides an opportunity for teachers to get in touch with their own feelings, opinions, and experiences regarding sexuality. Back to top
Grades K-1 and 4-6, Grades 7-9 and 10-12, and Young Adult/Adult trainings are available and last approximately 20-22 hours.
These trainings are designed to offer in-depth training in the developmental level and subject matter of each age-specific curriculum. Training for the Grades K-1 program focuses on using age-appropriate language, establishing a safe and engaging classroom, working with parents, and leading songs and activities. Training for the Grades 7-9 program focuses more on understanding and addressing the specific developmental issues of early adolescents. When trainings combine the K-1 and 4-6 or 7-9 and 10-12, time is given to each age level. Back to top
A local church, association or conference may sponsor a teacher training event. For information on how to sponsor a training, contact the UCC Our Whole Lives Coordinator. Trainings are in the process of being developed all the time—current training schedules are available online: Training schedule Back to top
Teacher trainings are led by two-person teams of Our Whole Lives trainers who have been trained and approved by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Back to top
All the Our Whole Lives books may be purchased before a training. Back to top
Each conference of the United Church of Christ was sent a full set of the resource in the Summer of 2000. They are available for preview. Under special circumstances, a preview copy may be sent. Back to top
The number to call is: 1-800-537-3394. Back to top
Sexuality and Our Faith is the faith companion book to Our Whole Lives. One half of the book contains material written by the Unitarian Universalist Association, and one half by the United Church of Christ. Each session of Our Whole Lives has an accompanying Sexuality and Our Faith resource. Back to top
The Sexuality and Our Faith DVD for Grades 7-9 and Grades 10-12 are designed for use in UU and UCC congregations. They are optional. Comprehensive and effective sexuality education programs can be conducted without these visuals. Both the DVDs seek to underscore the values of the curriculum, and to answer participants questions about what sexual anatomy and activity look like in an environment of responsibility, respect, safety, and trust.
The DVDs can be purchased by UU or UCC congregations and only after the congregation's Our Whole Lives teachers have successfully completed training in the use of the resource. Individuals cannot purchase them. Back to top
Because sexuality is a sensitive and controversial topic, media inquiries regarding Our Whole Lives must be handled with care. Our Whole Lives has received excellent coverage in some publications; however, in a couple, it has led to harm. There are those 'out there' who would love to sabotage Our Whole Lives as much as possible.
If your congregation is contacted by a reporter who wishes to write about Our Whole Lives, it's best to refer them to the UCC Our Whole Lives Coordinator, 216-736-3718, email@example.com.
In speaking to people (other than reporters) about Our Whole Lives, the following talking points might be helpful:
Our Whole Lives is ... a faith-deepening opportunity
Our Whole Lives offers children and youth a profound opportunity to deepen their faith and put their values into practice. The curriculum promotes sexual and emotional health in our communities and fosters meaningful dialogue between peers, partners, families, and friends. The United Church of Christ's commitment to comprehensive sexuality education is ministry. With the support of ministers, religious educators, and lay leaders, this ministry will grow and flourish in our congregations for years to come.
Our Whole Lives is comprehensive sexuality education, which is about much more than just anatomy and health. It's about values, respect, emotions and justice too. It's about the sacred aspects of sexuality, which is part of the miracle of creation. This is why we teach Our Whole Lives in church—because sexuality is sacred, and sexuality education is ministry.
A response to a need...
Our Whole Lives was developed in response to the need expressed by congregations in the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ for high-quality, lifespan sexuality education resources. We have a proud tradition of sexuality education in our association. Our Whole Lives will bring the ministry of sexuality education to the United Church of Christ throughout the lifespan for years to come.
Responsible, healthy decisions...
Our Whole Lives helps participants develop and articulate their religious and sexual values. Our Whole Lives helps participants make responsible, healthy decisions based on those values.
An antidote to misinformation...
We live in a culture that is deeply conflicted about sexuality. Our Whole Lives is an antidote to a culture that is saturated with mixed messages and misinformation about sexuality. Our Whole Lives provides an opportunity to step back, reflect, and evaluate these messages, so that participants can more effectively act on and communicate their religious and sexual values.
Our Whole Lives helps parents fulfill their role as the primary educators of their children on sexuality issues. Our Whole Lives creates a partnership between the family and the church through parent orientation and parent education programs.
Our Whole Lives is responsible sexuality education. It is based on approaches that work—approaches that increase knowledge, communication, safety and health. Back to top
Yes, Our Whole Lives was developed for use by non-religious, as well as religious organizations. Many community health organizations and schools are using it. When Our Whole Lives is used in a faith community, the resource, Sexuality and Our Faith, is added to the program. Back to top
In addition to articles being written in major newspapers throughout the country, pastors, teachers, students and parents have expressed gratitude for Our Whole Lives. Here are just a few quotes:
"Sexuality is too important a subject for youth to be without a trustworthy source of accurate, reliable information. To be involved with these young people in one of the most important stages of their lives is an honor which is not taken lightly."
OWL teacher, parent and dentist
"The information presented in the OWL programs is straight, honest talk about respect for one's self, friends and community. OWL provides answers to basic questions and offers many opportunities to digest and reflect on what it means to be a healthy teen. How wonderful that, as a caring church community, we can offer so much to our children in a safe learning environment."
OWL parent, nurse practitioner
"Don't ever stop offering OWL at church. I took it when I was in high school and I think it saved my life. Every kid should see themselves the way OWL sees them."
"One parent gave me a hug, and thanked me for introducing Our Whole Lives into the church. Another was near tears as she told me how excited she was that we would be offering the OWL program, how impressed she was by it, how important it was to be doing this, and so pleased that her children would be in the program. Another just said, 'Look, you can tell how moved I am, I am trembling.'"
"Thank you, thank you, thank you. The training I received this weekend was the best training I've ever received. I arrived very nervous—what am I doing here? Now I'm leaving knowing that the youth from my church will be receiving excellent information—and I can do this!"
Our Whole Lives Teacher Back to top
Our Whole Lives helps parents fulfill their role as the primary educators of their children on issues of sexuality and helps creates a partnership between the family and the church through parent orientation and parent education programs. Children and youth who participate in the program will know that their church cares about sexuality as a God-given part of life. In the program, children and youth will build relationships with faithful adults who care about sexuality education and sexual development. The program offers comprehensive sexuality education, which is about much more than just anatomy and health. It is about values, respect, emotions and justice.
We live in a culture that is deeply conflicted about sexuality. Our Whole Lives is an antidote to a culture that is saturated with mixed messages and misinformation about sexuality. It provides an opportunity to step back, reflect and evaluate these messages, so that participants can more effectively act on and communicate their religious and sexual values. The program helps children and youth develop and articulate their religious and sexual values and to make responsible, healthy decisions based on those values. The program teaches that we are responsible to and accountable to God, others and ourselves.
Parents decide whether or not their children will participate. Most parents support sexuality education and very few choose not to have their children participate.
While it may be advisable for a church to request consent from both parents for participation in church activities such as the Our Whole Lives program whenever possible, such dual consent is not mandatory. There are two kinds of permission forms: A visual form if visuals are going to be used—or a non-visual form if the visuals are not going to be used.
Parents have the right to see all materials their children will see. This is done in the context of parent orientation session(s) where an open, trusting atmosphere is created, one in which all sincere questions are addressed, one in which there is an open, trusting relationship established and where questions and concerns are welcomed and addressed and no information is withheld.
Participate in the Parent Orientation session(s).
Sign a permission form to enroll their child(ren). While it may be advisable for a church to request consent from both parents for participation in church activities such as the Our Whole Lives program whenever possible, such dual consent is not mandatory.
Make a commitment to regular attendance by their child(ren).
Help out as needed (providing snacks, transportation, chaperoning, etc.).
Speak with the facilitators (pastor or religious educator) if you have any concerns or questions at any time during the program.
Parents are the primary sexuality educators of their children.
Our Whole Lives seeks to open and strengthen communication between parent and child. It directly and indirectly encourages youth to have conversations with their parents about a variety of sexuality issues.
As sexuality educators, parents may want to educate themselves about areas of sexuality they know little about or feel uncomfortable with. Some ways parents can engage in ongoing learning include:
Start a sexuality education resource library for parents, youth and others.
Participate in a program for parents as sexuality educators at their community Health Center, Planned Parenthood, etc.
Explore resources recommended by Our Whole Lives, both websites and printed material.
Start a parent's support group.
Advocate for the adult sexuality resource: Created in God's Image.
Participate in and/or advocate for an Open and Affirming program in the church.
Purchase the Advocacy Manual for Sexuality Education, Health and Justice: A Resource for Communities of Faith , an excellent resource for use in advocacy efforts in all communities. It may be ordered from United Church of Christ Resources for $12.00 by calling 1-800-537-3394.
UCC New Church Development Basic Planting Check List
A Guidebook for Planting New Congregations
A Guidebook for Planting New Congregations in the United Church of Christ.
God is Still Speaking through new churches in the United Church of Christ today.
The Guidebook may be downloaded here -
Complete Guidebook [PDF]
64 pages (301k)
Table of Contents/Introduction [PDF]
Part 1 - Seeking Leaders [PDF]
We need leaders who seek to be empowered by the Holy Spirit
Part 2 - Stirring [PDF]
Are you utterly convinced the Holy Spirit has called you to develop a new church?
Part 3 - Equipping [PDF]
God speaks to church planters
Part 4 - Financing [PDF]
Building trust around money issues is important pastoral work in new church development
Part 5 - Launching [PDF]
To claim covenantal partnership with the United Church of Christ requires an understanding of the denomination's policies and polity.
Part 6 - Challenging [PDF]
The Body of Christ is strengthened as new churches are born in our midst
Guidebook Bible Study Scriptures [PDF]
United Church of Christ Resources [PDF]
The Guidebook is a tool for:
United Church of Christ Conferences and Associations.
Committees on New Church Development.
New Church Pastors.
Potential New Church Planters
Core Group Members of a New Church Initiative.
Seminaries teaching about Evangelism and New Church Development.
Ecumenical Partners planting churches with the United Church of Christ.
And more . . .
We celebrate this new resource in the United Church of Christ! It is so timely to the The Stillspeaking Initiative. In December 2004 and January 2005, the Evangelism Ministry Team responded to the more than 320 email questions that came from the Find a Church Website.
41% of the emails came from people who could not find a church or had a question about a church in their neighborhood.
50% of those emails turned into "there is no church" in this community (21% of the total emails)
3% of the emails expressed interest in starting a new church!
The Stillspeaking Initiative has not only given great witness to a message of hope and extravagant welcome in the name of Jesus. It has given an invaluable visibility to the United Church of Christ, and it is also giving us invaluable information about the location and demand for new church development. The challenge before us is to begin communities of the still speaking God where there are none. What perfect timing for this resource and guidebook in that journey!
Use it! Order more copies for your people at United Church Press
Look for additional updates as new chapters are written.
Also Coming Soon ... Church Renewal Workbook!
By Patricia Hoertdoerfer
This guide is designed to help parents (and other loving caretakers) respond to children's questions and concerns about sexuality. It includes information about the sexual development of children and tools to help children grow up in sexually healthy ways. It is intended to guide, inform, and prepare parents for roles as sexuality educators. Each age-level program guide includes a summary of the topics of each session, question parents often ask and possible responses, and examples of how to take advantage of "teachable moments." The questions and teachable moments may be directly or indirectly related to each session.
There is a Ceremonies and Celebrations section that provides descriptions of ceremonies parents may wish to use for family celebrations. A glossary of terms used in both Our Whole Lives for Grades K-1 and Our Whole Lives for Grades 4-6is included. The resource section includes resources required for the program, suggested resources for young children, older children, and parents and families.
The Reverend Patricia Hoertdoerfer, author of The Parent Guide to Our Whole Lives Grades K-1 and 4-6, is a Unitarian Universalist minister of religious education. She serves as the director of children's programs and family ministry for the Unitarian Universalist Association.
By Elizabeth M. Casparian, Ph. D.,
and Eva S. Goldfarb, Ph.D
Our Whole Lives 4-6, designed for use by parents, teachers and pastors with either a grades 4-5 groups or a grades 5-6 groups (or just one of these grades), helps participants learn about and discuss the physical and emotional changes of puberty. The program offers accurate, unbiased information on human sexuality to preteens who need it to make responsible decisions and stay healthy. The first session includes both parents and children. Following sessions may involve parents in class and include a Home Link message from The Parent Guide to Our Whole Lives that connects classroom and home and engages parents and children in conversation about sexuality. Participants also read Robie Harris's best-selling book, It's Perfectly Normal.
Eva Goldfarb, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in health programs at Montclair State University where she teaches and conducts research in human sexuality, curriculum development, and evaluation of health education programs. Co-author of Filling the Gaps, a book on hard-to-teach topics in human sexuality, she has over twelve years of experience teaching courses, leading workshops, consulting on media projects, conducting seminars and developing curricula in the areas of human sexuality and sexual health. Goldfarb holds a doctorate in Human Sexuality Education from the University of Pennsylvania.
Elizabeth Casparian, Ph.D., has been a consultant in health and sexuality education for over eleven years, writing and developing teaching materials and videos, and leading training sessions and seminars with adolescents, parents, teachers and other professionals. Co-author of Filling the Gaps, a book on hard-to-teach topics in human sexuality, she has written and consulted on sexual health issues with universities, public service organizations and schools. Casparian holds a doctorate in Education Leadership in Human Sexuality from the University of Pennsylvania.