Worship Service on Sexuality Education and Religion, General Assembly 1999
General Assembly 1999 Event 234
The Worship Service on Sexuality Education and Religion, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Administration, was held on Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. Rev. Linda Hart opened the service, which included an introduction by UUA Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery. Throughout, spirited musical accompaniment came from the UUA Staff Choir's Chorale. Montgomery emphasized that sex is a religious matter, and sex is a matter of justice. It is also particularly difficult subject to talk about, and that's why the UUA solicited sermons on the subject.
Rev. Linda Hart, minister, and Erin Fitzgerald, Program and Education Coordinator, both at Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane, delivered messages in the sermon. Hart spoke on "Opening Pandora's Box (PDF)", graphically reminding us of how difficult it is in fact to talk about sex. Imagine, she said, a room full of mostly women, "mostly middle aged, and a few who were older than that" (as she characterized them) in the Spokane area learning how to put a condom on a wooden anatomical model, or a room full of other adults talking about common names for body parts. The humor is an important part of how we talk about sex, but "many of us never learn to be simply straightforward about it."
Sexuality education is important because the lives of our children depend on our ability to communicate to them about the beauty and power of sexual intimacy. We also need to talk to them about this because of the risks of sex are greater now than they have ever been. We need to be reminded of the gift of right relationship; the passionate intimacy of sex needs to be spoken in a place like this.
Erin Fitzgerald reflected on the role of sexuality education in the recent history of Unitarian Universalism in her sermon on "Where We've Been (PDF)". She spoke about the importance of the About Your Sexuality (AYS) and Coming of Age curricula to our Unitarian Universalist (UU) Youth. Youth constantly cite these two programs as major reasons for their commitment to Unitarian Universalism. AYS's roots came from the ferment of the 1960s and the changes in sexual attitudes in the U.S. at that time. The program's openness to all subjects, and emphasis on the process of growth within the youth taking it, made it unique in the era. Its emphasis on coeducational environment for the youth, the use of a coeducational teaching teams, and the training required of those teams all made the program extraordinary. In the last 30 years that program has been used widely, in many settings.
Comfort with one's own sexuality and the sexuality of others seems to be a hallmark of AYS graduates. "How does this sex thing work, anyway?" might be the central question of AYS. We trusted youth, and believe that if they have accurate and compete information, youth would make healthy decisions about their own sexuality. We can't know the full extent of the effects of sexuality education, because each participant touches the lives of countless others: their peers, their parents, and ultimately, as parents themselves, their own children.
In "Where We're Going (PDF)", Fitzgerald reflected on AYS: If it was so good, why develop a new program like Our Whole Lives? There are several reasons. The obvious reasons include the growth of sexually transmitted diseases and their virulence; the more subtle ones include social attitudes that in some ways have not changed that much. We also had the opportunity to partner with the United Church of Christ's United Church Board for Homeland Ministries. "The philosophy statement which is the foundation of the program is: "We come together as representatives of two denominations to create a vision for a positive and comprehensive lifespan sexuality education program. It is our religious heritages that compel and guild us to create a safe environment within which people can come to understand and respond to the challenges facing them as sexual beings. We are grounded as faith communities in a common and continuing promotion of justice for all peoples. We affirm the dignity of the individual, the importance of personal responsibility, and the essential interdependence of all people."
In "Living in Wholeness (PDF)", Linda Hart concluded with some reflections on how integral our lives as sexual beings are to our lives as human beings. The mysteries that we uncover in relationship to one another are those that give comfort when there is despair, and those that put us "ever in the process of discovery of all the facets of ourselves as human beings, as relational beings, as sexual beings."
Reported by Jordan Young.