It wouldn’t be British not to mention yesterday’s exceptionally wet weather, which hit us driving back from Yorkshire. The main reason for being ‘up north’ was my contribution of a workshop at the Yorkshire Regional Safeguarding Conference held near York on Saturday. The flooded and closed M25 in Surrey tried its best to dispel the memories of a successful conference and enjoyable weekend away, but it didn’t succeed.
The Conference had the overall theme of ‘Watching Over Each Other’ and the workshops delved deeper into this subject by looking, for example, at our use of social media, how we promote wellbeing and how we can maintain healthy boundaries. The latter was the workshop I led and it had a particular focus on touch.
Tim Carter introduced the day by bringing delegates up to date with our Methodist safeguarding journey so far and ‘horizon watching’ for future challenges, leaving us with a series of key questions to judge for ourselves locally how well we are doing. This type of self-assessment can have a real impact on how we work to keep our churches remaining safe spaces in the future. Revd Helen Cameron’s keynote address was a thorough and engaging review of the theology of safeguarding and how the gospel story and our missional responsibilities are inextricably linked with safeguarding. As some others have done so before, she extolled the joy and privilege of ‘doing safeguarding’ in the church, but reminded us of pockets of resistance where local churches continue to ask why they needed to do so much.
For my Yorkshire DSO colleague, Laura Gallery, this conference was also a fitting send off as she leaves to embark on a new adventure. With the Yorkshire DSOs and Learning Network colleagues working in close partnership, the day proved highly successful with around 80 people present.
I’m glad to say that yesterday’s heavy rain across London and the South East in particular, did not spoil the parade. Equally the joy of this conference, and no doubt that of others around the country in recent months, will not be diminished by the concerns of those who may find safeguarding burdensome. The rain refreshed my garden; conferences and other events such as ‘Safeguarding Sundays’ offer the nourishment we all need to keep enthusiastic about our collective responsibilities.