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Safeguarding Conference offers something for everyone

Over 60 people met two weeks ago for the first time in two years at the Methodist Safeguarding Conference at Eastwood Hall near Nottingham. No chance to experience the local delights of DH Lawrence country though. It was a full on experience, with five key presentations over a 24 hour period.

Colleagues from the Learning Network mixed with District Safeguarding Officers, as well as Connexional staff, Safeguarding Committee members and District Safeguarding Group members, to explore the role of safeguarding in the inclusive church. What are the fresh challenges posed by new ways of ‘doing church’ and engaging with folk who may feel marginalised or excluded in some way?

Our presenters shared stories of ‘New Places for New People’ church projects and the thinking behind the Church’s Justice Dignity and Solidarity Strategy that challenges all Methodists to reflect on how they can make a difference to the life experiences of those who feel excluded in whatever way through age, disability, gender, race or sexuality. The Free Church Chaplain from Warwick University challenged the delegates to consider whether churches really do provide safe space for members of the LGBTQi community. Two academic colleagues from Nottingham University introduced us to the less well known phenomena of predatory marriages, which are precipitated by the grooming of vulnerable, often elderly, adults, that can wrest control of finance and property, as well as contact, away from concerned family members. Finally the Deputy Chair of the Nottingham and Derby District shared a moving personal story, that exemplified the challenge of maintaining our ‘All our Welcome’ approach when confronted by poor emotional wellbeing.

With time for informal networking and prayer, this was a good opportunity to recharge batteries and check out what everyone had been up to. The warmth of human interaction was apparent everywhere and although the virus is still out there making its presence felt, the conference showed what, with care, can now be possible.

For the wider safeguarding community of our Church, the conference offered fresh insights into how to ensure that safeguarding is embedded in all aspects of church life, whether traditional or a new ‘fresh expression’. Being inclusive is rooted in our faith and culture; so is safeguarding.

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