OWL sex education noted in Boston Globe

Our Whole Lives (OWL) is a human sexuality curriculum that was developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. It is one of the programs I feel most proud of in our denomination. The curriculum offers courses from early childhood to adulthood, and some congregations teach multiple age groups. Typically our churches teach the OWL class for teens (either seventh- and eighth-graders or senior high youth).

Yesterday in a Boston Globe article about sex education in Massachusetts, OWL was mentioned as a program that is progressive. Well, it actually used the word “radical.” What I like about the program is that it gives a group of teens, an equal number of boys and girls typically, a forum to talk openly with each other about all aspects of relationships and sexuality. It teaches the “facts of life,” but more importantly explores how we relate to our own sexuality and that of others with respect and sensitivity.

Students universally leave the class with more confidence about navigating the expectations and pressures of our culture while maintaining their own sense of self. Northshore has had several people trained to deliver the OWL class, and Jim Lynch and Patty Rhode have just finished that training.

Northshore will be offering OWL for seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders starting the last week of March and going to June. There will be a mid-summer get-together, and then the class will resume in September. There are still openings in the class with first preference given to NSUU members’ children. Contact Fred Mills, Director of Religious Education, to register. You’ll find his e-mail address here.

Reflections on a new era

The election is over, and Barack Obama will be our next president. I am as amazed as anyone that this has happened. But what exactly has happened? This election was nothing like any other in my lifetime or before. I don’t think I quite fully realized it until the announcement came and I saw the excitement, joy and tears in the faces of the crowd in Chicago — and their almost uniform youth. Of course I knew it would be historic, a bi-racial president — monumental change! But I think much more than that has happened.

This was nothing like the liberal vs. conservative battles other elections have been. Barack Obama represents the newer generations — generations that never lived through World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, the culture wars of the ’60s, the Vietnam War or the Feminist Movement. He doesn’t represent the next liberal Democrat, but rather a new movement. He has already catalyzed a huge increase in the number of engaged people in our democracy. If he is true to his promise we will see a new form of governance — maybe not right away, but as Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier writes, “maybe, just maybe, something new has arrived: A post-partisan approach to governing, founded on the Obama Coalition, fueled by young and minority voters, powered by the 21st century technologies …”

By 2045, according to a recent government report, Anglo people will be in the minority in this country. We are becoming a truly multi-racial, multi-cultural nation. Barack Obama is no token; he is from a different mold, and he is ushering in a new era, albeit burdened by overcoming the devastation wrought by the old one. No wonder there was such awe and wonder on those faces in Chicago. Obama seems confident and ready, but I think if this new vision is to prevail, the continued engagement of all of us in our government will be crucial.

GLBT losses were huge this election: Arizona, Florida and California by popular vote made it constitutionally correct to violate the civil rights of GLBT person. In Arkansas, no unmarried person may now adopt or foster a child. This is a great sadness. I do not believe laws like these will prevail, but there is a long road ahead. And once again, I’m so grateful for the people of Massachusetts!

But meanwhile there is much to celebrate: A longtime UU and pillar of the community in Framingham who is African-American, Esther Hopkins, said, “I grew up in this country from the time when everything was segregated and there was really no hope then. Now I myself am in the position where there’s a black governor of my state and a black president of my country, and my son had the opportunity to vote freely for whom he wanted. I’m thrilled. I did not think I would live to see the day.” Neither did I.

As a member of our church wrote to me, “I feel as if I’ve been released from a long-term cocoon of cynicism, shame, and some depressed apathy regarding our nation and am joyfully caught up in the hope and fascination and possibilities for the future. I don’t yet know in what role, exactly, I might participate. But meanwhile I find myself praying frequently and fervently for Barack Obama’s life, health and success.”

What are your thoughts, feelings, hopes or fears about this election? If you’ll send them to me (note: remove NOSPAM from address) or post comments here, I’ll collect them for all to read.

Ric Masten: A singular life

On Sunday we’ll be talking about people we care about who’ve died in the past year. One of those people was not a personal friend of mine, but someone I hold a deep appreciation for. He is the author of one of our hymns: “Let It Be A Dance.” And he died at the age of 77 last March of prostate cancer. He was a Unitarian Universalist traveling poet and troubadour and many UU churches enjoyed his services.

There is a wonderful article about Ric Masten’s life in a local Monterey, California, paper, and you can read it by clicking here. I’ll tell the story of how Ric came to write “Let It Be a Dance” in the service. His incredible spirit allowed him to survive nine years after he was told he had six months to live. Stubborness and fierce indepence of thought was a big part of that longevity, but also his philosophy of life and death. You’ll read about that in the article.

Here is the ending to another one of his songs, “Waterfalls and Tigers.”

… Now waterfalls or tigers,
Somethin’s gonna get ya.
We’re here today. Tomorrow, we’ll be gone!
It’s the sound of one hand clapping,
if you try and fight it:
Brother, you’re gonna miss the song …
(chorus) Sing a song….sing a song,
When hope has been abandoned,
sing a song —
Brother it would be a real catastrophe
if you should fail to stand and sing a song …

Thoughts on the church burglary

As many of you know by now, we had a break-in at the church Sunday night. The thief probably entered the church through an unlocked classroom door, broke into the office, and stole the cash and checks collected at Octoberfair. Fortunately we have copies of the checks and were able to contact everyone to have them stop payment and reissue a check to NSUU. We lost approximately $3,200 in cash. Ellen in the preschool had a small amount of cash taken, too. The collection from Sunday was not stolen.

We are heartsick about this, of course; it’s sad on so many levels: for the many people who worked so very hard on the Fair, for the church budget, for the conditions and thinking that led this person to do this, and for our violated sense of security. On the bright side, the assets of the church that are much more important — the people, all of the spirit and love you bring to NSUU, and the building and grounds themselves — are all intact. I’m glad no one was here to be hurt.

We’ve been working with the police, and I’m asking for your help in the investigation. If you noticed anyone or anything unusual or suspicious on Saturday or Sunday, please let me or Nancy know. Nancy has contacted the insurance company, which will pay to repair the window in the office door and reimburse at least some of the cash. As we have information about that, we’ll let you know. The Board is working on how to improve cash management going forward. If you have questions or suggestions, let us know.

May the positive energy we’ve all generated these past couple of months keep us from dwelling on this too much, and carry us onward to better things.

With great faith in NSUU,

Van Jones Named “Hero of the Environment”

If you didn’t attend General Assembly last June you may not have heard the Ware Lecture given by Van Jones. He is an activist for racial, economic and environmental justice. What is unique and powerful about his prophetic vision and work is the way in which he sees the solutions to these concerns as integrated.

Time Magazine has just named him one of the “Heroes of the Environment.” I really recommend taking the time to listen to his lecture from GA. You can do this by going here and then scrolling down until you see the Ware Lecture #4061.


Shanah Tovah!

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is a time of introspection, repentance and new beginnings. If you have the day off today, I hope you have planned some deep rest and renewal. You can learn more about this holiday and its traditions here.

We all make mistakes and wish we could change the past. Jewish tradition allows for this special day to reflect on what we would like to change in our lives, our relationships, our way of behaving. It is easy to blame others, corporations, the government, the Republicans, the Democrats, Wall Street, for our unhappiness (so much material there!), but we do have a lot of power to create joy in our lives even in the midst of hard times. Let us look to the ways we can create more happiness for ourselves and others this day and in the year ahead.

To all of our members and friends at NSUU from Jewish heritage, I wish you Shanah Tova (Good New Year!) and many blessings in the year to come.


Our UU Principles and Purposes revised?

The UUA’s Commission on Appraisal is charged with reviewing Article II of the UUA Bylaws every 15 years. This probably seems obscure, but the article includes the Principles and Purposes that you have no doubt seen many times.

The Commission asked for and received lots of comments from the UU congregations about the original version and now has a draft of changes it is recommending. The Commission would like your comments before finalizing those changes. The UU World recently published an article on this process.

Copies of the new Article II will be in the office on Sunday and handed out as an insert in the Order of Service. You’ll find information there about how to send your comments in. This is a great way to participate with the greater movement in a process that will affect how people learn about UUism for years to come.

I don’t know if this was true for you, but the most common way people learn about our faith is through the Principles and Purposes, so do take the time to read the revised version.

See you in church!

Reflections on the Knoxville shootings

Sunday fifteen of us gathered after the service to share our feelings and thoughts about the shootings at the Tennessee Valley UU church in Knoxville, TN that took place on July 27th. I know that any of you who have followed the story grieve with the families in Knoxville. A terrible event like this raises so many questions. We seek to understand the motivations of a man like the shooter, Jim Adkisson: what forces in society influenced him to step so outside the bounds of humanity? What are the implications for us? How do we stay open, courageous and welcoming and not become fearful or paranoid? Why was this church, the liberal movement, targeted?

This incident has also created some very interesting connections between compassionate people of all faiths, the Knoxville church and our movement. Never in my lifetime have I seen so many articles about UUism in the media. We have been given a chance to show the strength of our convictions and the breadth of our love and acceptance.

Charles Wilson forwarded a link to an op-ed piece written by a woman who grew up in a UU church, the Northshore UU Church to be exact, in the late ’60’s. Laurie Patton is now a professor of religion at Emory University and the daughter of Chris and Anthony Patton, members of NSUU. She posted her empathetic response to the experiences of the children of the TVUUC. Her article is called “Liberal Hatred” and I think you’ll enjoy reading about how your RE classes shaped this woman’s life.

Greetings from Rev. Frieda

It is August 1st and today I begin my ministry with all of you at NSUU. Excited about this new beginning, I came in to the church today to start to get my office in order and plan the coming week. I was almost there when I realized I forgot my keys! I’ve entered the building through the nursery school and am writing this in the library. I’m glad I decided to come. In this silent church, in the deep peace of the meeting room, in the jumble of notices on the bulletin boards, I can feel your energy and activity. This is indeed a place of sanctuary, good works, and fellowship.

In August, I will be meeting with various groups and planning services and classes for the coming year. I am available for any pastoral care needs, counseling, or just to chat if you like. I welcome the chance to get to know some of you during this time. It will be a little while before I have a definite schedule in place. For now, e-mail is the best way to reach me, I check it frequently. If you’d like to get together or need me to visit, just send me a note and include your phone number.

I will be attending the service on Sunday. I look forward to Jeri Kroll’s topic, humor, it seems very timely to me in the face of so much that would burden our hearts. By now, you’ve no doubt heard about the shootings at the Knoxville, TN UU church. I was very affected by this news and perhaps many of you were as well. There is a previous post that gives you a place to express your condolences. There is also a relief fund set up by the UUA where you can contribute to aid for the families there.

In order to give us all a chance to talk together about our feelings, thoughts, and implications of this horrible event, I will hold a gathering for a facilitated conversation from 12:00 – 1:00 pm on Sunday in the Meeting Room. All are welcome.

See you Sunday!