We were driving back from the Suffolk coast on Saturday when we learnt about lockdown mark 2. We were relieved that we had been able to spend a few days away in a different place despite it being generally wet, wild and windswept. There were a couple of half days when it really sparkled and these provided the opportunity for some good walking.
On these occasions if we pass old country churches we often call in for a few moments, sometimes to appreciate the architecture or history and at other times just to take the weight off our feet. Invariably I’m drawn to the noticeboards to see if the safeguarding information is visible and up to date. Generally these are Anglican churches which have more of an open door tradition than Methodist churches, and so this busman’s holiday activity is not designed to name and shame! However in the current circumstances it’s not always been easy to gain access and as we grapple with what being open for private prayer means and how it can be effected, I wonder about how people will know that we aim still to be a safe church even if they can’t see visible signs of our commitment?
In late August all churches were sent glossy posters summarising our safeguarding policies with space for local information. To be displayed prominently, their aim is to ensure that all who visit our churches, for whatever purpose, know what we stand for and how to access advice and guidance, and care and support if required. The irony for the next four weeks at least is that these items will not be widely seen. We know that we will continue to strive to be a safe church, but how can we continue to represent this to the wider world and local community when we are not doing the things we usually do? I recall a song that says ‘they’ll know we are Christians by our love’ and of course our churches will no doubt continue to be highly active in supporting vulnerable individuals. The challenge is to demonstrate that we do this work safely, and that we continue to be vigilant so as to maintain our determined approach to safeguarding, even when we may not be open.
Being hidden from view, or appearing secretive, can be a rich breeding ground for abusive behaviour of many different types. Therefore let’s try to think creatively about the ways that we can show our ongoing commitment to safeguarding. I know this blog gets reprinted in some online church notice sheets. Do we need to append our safeguarding officers’ details to each week’s edition along with that of other key contacts? Would it help to provide a short monthly news item about what’s been happening locally and the roll out of online training? This is not a one size fits all approach, but simply an invitation to consider how best to keep the safeguarding agenda alive and kicking in these strange times.