Building Beloved Community with “Our Whole Lives”

By Nancy Combs-Morgan

In appreciation of the tremendous community outreach of many of our Southern Region religious educators, who go the extra mile to extend much needed comprehensive sexuality education with “Our Whole Lives,” I felt compelled to ask Sarah White, the Director of Religious Education at the Holston Valley UU Church to write this reflection….

I have been the Director of Religious Education at Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (HVUUC) in Johnson City, TN since 2015. One of the first actions I took is to expand the Our Whole Lives (OWL) program, which now spans K-Older Adult within our congregation.

Expanding the OWL program was a passion of mine because of my role as a sexual assault advocate. I firmly believe that comprehensive sex education (CSE) is needed to enact a culture change to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence before it happens.

In 2018 I co-founded RISE: Healthy for Life with Cindi Huss, which has operated under the HVUUC non-profit umbrella. We have experienced overwhelming community support for our work in CSE. We have formed community partnerships with local organizations such as: Women Matter NE TN, Red Legacy, East Tennessee State University, two local Family Justice Centers, Cater Country Drug Prevention Coalition, Safe House, and A Step Ahead.

RISE: Healthy for Life has also received several grants from UU organizations. We received funding from the Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility two years in a row. We also are thrilled that we received a grant from the UU Women’s Federation to launch a Peer Educator after school program that was started by Planned Parenthood.

Let us know if you feel motivated to expand your congregation’s OWL programming. I, along with Kathy Charles, want to partner with you as you navigate offering OWL. We can help with planning/publicity and connecting you with other congregations interested in a community outreach vision for OWL.

About the Author

Nancy Combs-Morgan

Nancy Combs-Morgan has been immersed in Unitarian Universalist faith development for 26+ years, including 6 as a Director of Religious Education, and 20 years on UUA district and regional staff.

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