Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Classes That I Am Taking!

I just started my new semester at seminary, and am taking two classes this fall. I have a liturgy writing class on Mondays called "Writing the Rites" that will undoubtedly make an appearance here in the blog. And my other class, Sex and Spirit, is on Thursdays! I wanted to share a bit, after all, sex and religion is a powerful mix!
birth.gifIn Feri, Sex is considered the life force that connects all living things, and it is the origin of the universe (not just genital sex, but it includes that, too). Sex is not always about procreation, rather it is about creation of all kinds, be it of another human being, a work of art, a good orgasm, or an ecstatic experience. In Feri, there is no shame in sex- and there is no guilt, either. Sex is a good healthy thing, when consensual.

But I know that other religions have their issues with sex for whatever reason and often have prohibitions on what kind of sex one is allowed to have (if any), when you can have it, and with whom. That is why I am glad to be in a class with people from diverse religious and cultural perspectives. I am glad to see that future clergy of many denominations and traditions will be sex positive.

As a future priest and present parent, the messages that I transmit about sex to those around me matter. Sex is a normal bodily function and a part of creation. I want my son growing up embracing his human birthright to have sex and hold it as sacred, as a gift.  I want him to get pleasure from his body as is his right. I want him to know the names of all his body parts, and the names of other body parts he does not possess. As a young girl, I was not told the names of all my body parts, and had to learn about sex mostly on my own. I already have a great children's book for Rowan when he gets a little older called a Kid's First Book About Sex. He will learn anything he wants to know, and he will get information without having to ask. Teaching him about sex will be like teaching him about art, math, or insects. It is a commonplace thing, and happens to almost everyone in their life.

About the class (from the syllabus):

If we want to bring our whole selves into connection with Spirit, we can’t forget our sexual selves. In this class, we will explore the effects of erotophobia on sexuality and, by extension, spirituality in order to discover how we can integrate these foundational aspects of our humanity. Some topics we will discuss include: sexual well-being, the effects of shame on relationships, sexual diversity, how our sexual selves can inform our spiritual practices, and the dance between boundaries and connection with others. The class will include lecture, interactive exercises, group discussion, and personal reflection in order to offer a range of perspectives and experiences.

Course objectives: By the end of the course, you will be able to:
  • Discuss how sexual well-being, shame and interpersonal boundaries influence and are influenced by their relationships with the Divine.
  • Identify and commit to at least one step they can take to deepen their understanding of sexual diversity and overcome erotophobia.
  • Explore ways in which their personal sexualities can both inform and hinder their roles as ministers.

Sound good? So far, it is! My professor for the class is an old friend, actually- Charlie Glickman. We worked together at Good Vibrations, among other things, back in the day.

I'll be journaling for the class and posting some of those entries here. For homework for our first class, he asked us to write about this:
What messages have you received about sex and spirituality? How have those messages shaped your studies? Your spiritual journey? Your daily life?

Interesting questions for me to ponder. How about you?

If all goes according to plan, I should become a better, more creative writer in the next 14 weeks: "Writing the Rites" is my way of getting up to snuff in the writing department.

Technically, it is a liturgy writing class for wannabe Unitarian Universalist ministers. But what is liturgy if not creative writing for religious thinkers? And not just "the big 5" have liturgy. My religious tradition has gorgeous liturgy written by poets more talented in that arena than I. But I aspire, and in order to succeed, work is to be done! We will be writing as a daily practice, checking in with a writing partner weekly on top of class time, and checking in monthly with the professor about our journaling. I am looking forward to honing my skills!

We started the class by doing some automatic writing and (gulp) sharing it in front of the class - twice. I took a chance and made myself vulnerable, exposing personal details about my life. It's going to be an interesting semester, I think!

From the syllabus:
I. Description:
This course will provide religious leaders with tools to create meaningful, multi-vocal worship in the UU congregational setting. In class and in the community we will be creating and leading traditional and transformational worship for people at all ages and stages. Students will gain and understanding of the psychology and spirituality of ritual and liturgical forms within an historic context. In addition to the Sunday service, we’ll create a calendar and write ceremonial rites to prepare for the leadership of weddings, memorials and other special religious occasions.
II. Course Aims and Learning Objectives:
This course will include a lot of writing. In and between sessions students will be writing for the various elements that make up Sunday services, and traditional rites of the Unitarian Universalist community. Students will explore the necessary rhythms of writing for professional sustainability.
Students will share their writing with others and be expected to offer, and receive, affirmation and critique. We will create a community of hope expressed in written and spoken words.
Learning Objectives:
By the end of this course, students will: Have a portfolio of writing samples for various religious
occasions; Understand the history and intentions of various liturgical rites and
increase in their confidence and ability to lead congregations
through familiar and new rituals; Be able to adapt written material from a variety of sources with
attention to the integrity of the original and the issues of
appropriation and fair use; Find meaningful tools for incorporating writing into a public and
pastoral ministry.
I'm looking forward to creating some gorgeous litugy for Feri rituals in this class!


  1. You have very interesting classes. I envy you.

    "What messages have you received about sex and spirituality? How have those messages shaped your studies? Your spiritual journey? Your daily life?"
    --I wish these were some of the in-depth questions we needed to tackle in my Catholic schools. I think it would have spared us a lot of hang-ups. But then, before any RC lay school could offer these, the main organization would have to face these first.

    Are any of your classmates from The Big 5?

  2. Oh, yes. My school is part of the Graduate Theological Union- which has 9 member schools, all of which are of the Big 5. Anyone is free to take classes at any GTU school. So there are Lutherans, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims and more in my class. I think I am the only witch in the class, although there are a couple people dabbling in paganism (just as people dabble in a multi-religious context).

  3. Dear Lilli: Classmates from the Big 5---and you did not receive any sidelong glances or nasty comments about 'going to Hell' (like from some posters in the Parentdish article)? <>

  4. FM Jemena:
    Well, people in the Bay Area live in a progressive bubble. Even those that believe that I may be "going to hell" wouldn't say so out loud.

    But more than that, most people in seminary are more intellectual and educated than the layfolk of the big 5 religions- therefore they tend to be at least more tolerant. And they tend to be more open to religious diversity, as they are curious what others believe and experience.

    My seminary is known as a progressive bastion for multi-religious education and social justice. (We have folks on staff from many traditions, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Alternative Catholicism, and Pagans.) People who take classes at SKSM (even of they are from another school at the GTU) know this and find affinity with us. Otherwise, they are very uncomfortable for a semester.

    It has happened, though. There was a very conservative Muslim in one of my classes last fall who did not like progressive Islam as taught at my school, and had a hard time with feminist ideas and queer rights, too. At the same time, my school has amazing scholars and the Islamic studies advisor for the GTU is at mys school, so he wanted to be at SKSM. We butted heads many times, but in a respectful way. I think he didn't quite know what to make of me (or some others at school)!


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