Happy New Year!
Church Meeting, on Sunday 17th January, will be asked to approve a new Safeguarding Policy for Children and Adults at Risk. The Elders, both serving and non-serving, have spent some time considering what should be included in the policy, using expertise and advise from the wider church, both the United Reformed Church and other denominations.
Why is this important? There are a number of reasons to have an appropriate safeguarding policy.
Firstly, and obviously, all Churches are required to have one. Sadly, churches do not have a perfect record in ensuring the safety of the vulnerable, both children and adults, and so it is now a requirement that churches adopt an appropriate policy. The church requires it, our insurers expect it and, regrettably, experience shows it is necessary.
Secondly, it is important that others can see we take this issue seriously. In our preparatory discussions the Elders were rightly keen to adopt a policy statement which would fit on one side of paper so that it can be publicly displayed, showing people how important this matter is to us.
Finally, though, and arguably most importantly, we are being asked to adopt an updated policy because it is about who we are as a community of God’s people, recognizing that we have a duty of care for everyone with whom we have contact. Hence the policy statement has two key clauses.
We have a duty to value all people, treat each person with dignity and protect them from harm.
We recognise that safeguarding is a whole church responsibility.
Keeping people safe and ensuring they feel valued is not something that is just the responsibility of the Elders or Ministers but is up to all of us to do. That is why it is important for Church Meeting to discuss and adopt the policy. After all, we believe, along with the whole Christian community, that each person is created in the image and likeness of God. Our duty of care flows from this basic understanding that each individual, young or older, in our churches is loved by God and is precious to God. Under God we have a responsibility to help each one find life and find it in all its fullness.
In order to have an informed discussion at Church Meeting both the Policy Statement for Safeguarding Children and Adults at Risk and the proposed Safeguarding Commitment will be available from the start of the month on Sunday mornings. Please do read these two documents (both are only one side of paper so it is not too daunting) and come prepared to the meeting to discuss what they say. If you would like a full copy of the policy document please see John Denison and he will provide you with one.
With love and prayers, Russell
Russell J Furley-Smith