I must confess to never having read Proust’s monumental masterpiece ‘A la recherché du temps perdu’. I think it’s one of the longest books ever written. But for me it’s just the title that inspires and conjures up a vision of bucolic scenes described brilliantly in the works of French impressionist painters. The sun always appears to be shining, the sky blue, the corn golden and country folk quietly going about their business. Of course the book is more complex than that and is full, I understand, of a wide range of insightful personal experiences in fin de siècle France. And we also know images of rural tranquillity can mask a wide range of issues and tensions.
So what’s this got to do with the first safeguarding blog of the new Methodist Year? Well, as we start the year with varying amounts of energy and enthusiasm it’s often a time when we look back and compare notes over what we’ve done over the last couple of summer months. Was this the year when we planned to fix the garden, repaint the garden shed, have more bar-b-q-s with friends, get out more, just chill or none of these? Was this the summer we can look back on as being the one that lived up to expectations or was it the one that, yet again, ended in frustration, with nothing quite achieved? Of course many readers will have been working hard without a break and may now be looking forward to an autumn holiday instead.
Something about our first school term rhythms, the start of the new Methodist year, Piers Morgan back on Good Morning Britain and dare we say the new parliamentary session, affects our consciousness and gets under our skin, making this early September period a time for both reflection and anticpation. Our church also cranks into life again with circuit meetings due in the next couple of weeks. So it’s a chance now to check that all those safeguarding tasks are up to date, that the things we said we would do over the summer have been completed and that our houses are in good order in terms of the three pillars of best practice – safe recruitment, training and up to date policies. This is the bedrock of what we are as a safe church.
For some Connexional and District Safeguarding staff, it may well be a case of asking ‘where did our summers go’, how was ‘le temps perdu’ as it were, as they worked hard to complete the IICSA questionnaire and supply the requested data. We are just about there now, but we will go into the hearings next spring more confident if we know that all our churches have reviewed their safeguarding arrangements and implemented plans to address any shortcomings. We have a good story to tell – let’s not lose the chance to prove it.