Gathering The Facts
AIDS scares all of us. Many of us know people who are infected with or who have died from the disease. While some of us may not yet have been touched by the disease and others of us may think that this is not an issue the Church needs to address, all of us fear that it may come crashing into our lives.This discussion guide is one response to a growing problem that exists within our Church. Entire Orthodox villages in Alaska have become infected with the HIV virus, and instances of AIDS in our Canadian and US parishes are on the rise. The discussion guide is designed to be used with pre-teens and teens as one way of showing our young people that the Church a) is vitally concerned with these types of problems in the “real world,” b) has something to say about the issue that we as Orthodox Christians need to know, and c) constantly challenges us to find Christ as we deal with our problems. Remember: pre-teens quickly become teens and young people make life-changing decisions every day!
The Discussion Guide is in three parts:
Before discussing this issue, make sure that participants have a correct, and therefore positive, understanding of Christian sexuality. Be careful to avoid the temptation of presenting sex simply as a bad thing, rather than discussing it as a special and sacred way God has given a husband and a wife to express their love for each other.
Also, look through the fact sheet and procedures outlined before you meet. As you plan, remember that pre-teens appreciate an active approach and teens respond well to direct, honest discussion. Avoid lecturing and preaching!
Remember we need to express that the Church has something valuable to say, not simply that it wants to “tell us what to and not to do!”
Reality Check (about 40 minutes)
Tell participants that today you are going to talk about HIV/AIDS, us, and the Church. Invite everyone to call out or write down what they assume are facts about HIV/AIDS and write them down on the visible writing surface.
NOTE: If you have enough participants, split them into two or more groups, and, with the writing surface a distance from them, do this as a relay. Each group lines up with persons running to the “board”, writing one idea down, and then running back and “handing off” the marker. Give them 5-10 minutes to come up with as many facts as possible. Repeat this exercise asking them to call out or write down what they think the Church has to say about HIV/AIDS.
When all ideas are exhausted, hand out the AIDS Facts Sheet. Give each group 3 or 4 minutes to read through the sheet and revise their list as they want to.
When everyone is finished, discuss the following:
Give participants Divine Liturgy books and Bibles with concordances. Explain what a concordance is and how to use it. Ask, “Look through the Bible and Divine Liturgy for any words or phrases that you think relate to the topic of AIDS.” Tell them they can look up the Bible citations mentioned in the Fact Sheet. These may lead them to others.
Be sure to allow for discussion. The goal of this session is to evaluate their perceptions about HIV/AIDS and the Church and begin the process of clarifying them. Be sure to draw on these responses during future sessions.