It’s August and it’s meant to be quiet. If it’s not the weather making the news it’s Brexit or a commentary on the Royals’ holiday arrangements and who paid for a private jet. We’ve also had the tragic murder of a police officer in Berkshire and the seemingly random killing of a man in Newcastle who came up against a group of young people in the city centre. At the very start of the month was news of the conviction and sentencing of a churchwarden who targeted a couple of unsuspecting older people for financial gain. In one case he was convicted of murder. So August has not been the month when nothing happens. Don’t forget the First World War started in August and the second one missed the month by a whisker.
The case of the churchwarden who abused two deeply religious elderly people in a small village prompted a number of people to go on television and reflect that they should have been more observant of what was going on. Perhaps in our language not adopting any sense of respectful uncertainty, even when it became clear that all was not well in the lives of the two trusting pensioners. We often say ‘with hindsight’ we might know better what to do in future or there might have been an alternative course of action we could have taken. What we do know is that making a judgement about what we are seeing can be hard if things are not clear cut, involve people we respect or care about, and it’s easier, not to look the other way, but to seek another explanation.
I don’t think there is a magic answer to this conundrum. Most of us will not come across such troubling situations in our lifetimes and so, thankfully, we can’t practice getting it right. Social workers and police officers are highly trained to be observant and so they do get the opportunity to practice how to spot things that don’t seem as they should be.
In our churches, our congregational members may be the first to spot something that strikes them as a bit odd – but they may not have attended our safeguarding training courses which can help with the recognition of abuse. Here’s where the idea of ‘Safeguarding Sunday’ or articles about safeguarding in the church magazine or attached to the weekly notices can help to drip feed the idea that it’s OK to think something strange or ask questions. It’s true that some people don’t like being presented with these concerns, but if we are true to our gospel calling, looking out for each other is what we are all about. This blog for example is now copied in a number of magazines I understand. It’s really just about getting people to think twice.
Finally for regular followers, at the start of the new season, the safeguarding steward at Selhurst Park no longer has the white tabard with the word ‘safeguarding’ on it. I don’t know if he has been demoted but I looked around and didn’t see a new one. This concerned me so I might have to ask my own questions!