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Our Whole Lives sex-ed program should be offered by United churches, says minister

Rev. Shannon Mang says the program is designed to empower young people to better understand their bodies, healthy relationships and sexual orientation.

By Anne Bokma

A Calgary minister says the United Church should offer its young people sex education, especially in light of #MeToo, ongoing discrimination against LGBTQ2 people and the Ontario government’s decision to roll back its sex-ed curriculum.

Rev. Shannon Mang is encouraging United Church congregations across the country to adopt the Our Whole Lives (OWL) sex-ed program, which was developed jointly by the United Church of Christ (U.S.A.) and the Unitarian Universalist Association. It’s designed to empower young people to better understand their bodies, healthy relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation and sexual health.

“Frankly, it can save lives,” says Mang. “It gives congregations and parents concrete tools to help people of all ages celebrate the gift of sexuality.”

Mang became an OWL facilitator while working as director of religious exploration at the Unitarian Church of Calgary before her current post as interim minister at Living Spirit United. She says that the United Church’s abuse prevention and education committee recently endorsed the idea of offering the program.

OWL includes six sets of curricula for age groups spanning kindergarten to adulthood. The Grade 7-9 program, designed to inform kids before they become sexually active, is the most comprehensive at 27 weeks long and is usually delivered on Sundays at the same time as church.

Rev. Amy Johnson co-ordinates OWL for the UCC (U.S.A.) and says about 10 percent of its 5,000 congregations are delivering the program on a regular basis. Any church is welcome to use it once selected members receive the necessary 22 hours of training, delivered by two OWL trainers at a cost of $750 each.

Mang encourages any interested churches to contact her at mangshannon@gmail.com.

This story first appeared in The United Church Observer's January 2019 issue with the title "Sex-ed program for churches."

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Author's photo
Anne Bokma is a Hamilton-based journalist.
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