Ann Hanson had no idea as a mother of three and grandmother to seven she would become the United Church of Christ's outspoken advocate for comprehensive sexuality education. In her twelve years of ministry with the UCC's national offices, she has been the voice of the Our Whole Lives (OWL) program, sharing her knowledge with people of all ages, and calling on faith communities to "break the silence" about sexual education. But at the end of December, Hanson will pass the torch, retire from the UCC and return to her native Montana.
Hanson has been educator, trainer and facilitator for the UCC's sexuality resources after joining the national offices in Cleveland in 2000 after eighteen years with the Montana-Northern Wyoming Conference. She joined the national offices after OWL was published, becoming the advocate for the program in the faith community and secular world.
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, says her team has been blessed with Ann's outstanding ministerial leadership.
"Ann has taken the Our Whole Lives training program to a whole new level in the church, impacting every corner of the UCC and surrounding communities, in addition to many places around the world," Jaramillo said.
Jaramillo also points out that in the Christian Faith Formation assessment completed in September, a survey indicates Our Whole Lives topped the list as the most well-known curricula in the church.
More than 1,500 people have been trained as facilitators of Our Whole Lives, and Hanson estimates she has led about 30 trainings at conferences and gatherings around the UCC. Our Whole Lives was developed by the UCC and Unitarian Universalist Association as a sexuality education resource, equipping participants with accurate, age-appropriate information on sexuality to make informed decisions.
"I've never met a youth, young adult or adult who hasn't been grateful for the gift of holistic sexuality education," Hanson said.
Born and raised in Montana and a graduate of Montana State University with a bachelor's degree in education, Hanson has written numerous articles for publications, websites and other faith-based venues. She has traveled extensively to 29 UCC conferences, and three times abroad, to work with people who believe that sex education is "helpful, not harmful."
"We will certainly miss Ann's powerful ministry among us in so many ways including her mature way of solving problems, her collegial style of supporting the inter-sections of our work, her pastoral presence to so many, not to mention her great sense of humor," Jaramillo said. ""I have no doubt that we will call upon Ann in the future as she is a committed member of our beloved United Church of Christ."
Hanson's portfolio of work will be carried on by her colleagues in Justice and Witness Ministries.
"As I leave my position in the national setting of the UCC, I leave with wonderful memories of people and experiences that have enriched my life," Hanson said. "Thank you, United Church of Christ!"