As Christmas approaches so do nativity plays and the question of photographs. It’s a time when our church media policies can be tested, so digging out the policy and making sure that we understand how it’s meant to operate may be a good idea.
Here’s another example of when the ‘safeguarding brigade’ are sometimes seen as ‘killjoys’, getting in the way of people taking pictures both for the family album and church posterity. Which of course is not the intention at all. It’s about making sure proper consent is agreed and that images are carefully produced, their publication managed and storage secured so as to minimise the potential for abuse or inappropriate viewing.
It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. So pictures that tell a story of church life are a valuable means of enabling our communities to learn more about who we are, what we believe and what we can offer. Hiding our lights under bushels is not what we should be about, and shining our light can also mean illuminating dark places too. The Christmas story is all about the coming of light to our uncertain world and our now well embedded PCR and training symbol is a candle that has brought light to the darkened world of some survivors. But of course sometimes shining a light will also unearth some facts we would rather not know about as well. We need to be prepared for this when it happens.
So the photo of costumed children, taken with consent, gathered round a wooden crib can speak to many truths about church life and testify our message to the world. It can describe in one shot how we care about the safety and security of our children, how we value and respect them and are also proud of their contribution. We want people to see and know that we take our responsibilities for safeguarding seriously.
With riots on Paris boulevards, the further conviction for murder of an already convicted paedophile, the murder of a gap year student in New Zealand and our own nation’s unease about its relationship with its nearest neighbours, December currently feels rather bleak. But with the proper safeguards in place let’s record our joyful church events to remind ourselves about the promise of the future.