Updated: Sep 20, 2018
At a recent national safeguarding conference, a speaker blithely announced that we, as safeguarders, would never be the most popular persons in our organisation. But in a call to arms he then encouraged us not to duck the issues, as the organisation absolutely needs us to be right, this time and every time. Whilst being right all the time is a position we might aspire to, the reality might be a little different, and besides, being an unpopular person in our church, is a lonely place to be. Church politics can be as poisonous as the manoeuvring of secular organisations and we don’t come to worship to be cast into the wilderness.
We know that emotional blocks can stop us seeing what is going on right in front of us, if we don’t want or, crucially in safeguarding, can’t bear to know. Jimmy Saville was hiding in the plain sight of people who either believed the things they saw were not really happening, or when they did speak up were not believed. For some, there is almost a natural instinct to cover things up, often motivated by a mistaken sense of wanting to make it better for everyone involved by doing so.
So how do we overcome this paradox of our instinct to diffuse responsibility and walk on by and our church’s expectation of reporting and confronting the difficult issues head on. How do we overcome this sense of being as welcome to Macbeth as Banquo’s ghost?
For safeguarders at a church and circuit level, who from time to time recognise the stifled groans of a weary meeting when the agenda item comes up, or find themselves in a church challenged by a view about forgiveness and repentance arising from an earlier concern that’s at variance with ‘respectful uncertainty’, one answer is an alliance. Seeking out likeminded people who get the agenda, who care passionately about their church being safe for their children, grandchildren and themselves in old age, who have some basic insight into the theology of safeguarding and what it means in practice, can be a helpful means of confirming you aren’t alone. Use them as a reference group to think things through weigh up options, plan how to get your message across and be there for you when others raise their eyebrows yet again.
Make it a church group like Knit and Natter or a breakfast fellowship. Coffee, cake and a conversation about safe space for all and making it less about ‘thou shalt’ and more about ‘why don’t we’ might just mean that your church approval rating goes sky-high!