So the road map had been published. Whether you see it as providing clear direction or a mass of confusion, it is clear, as some papers suggest today, that the map will need to be read with a large dollop of common sense. Hopefully not the common sense that led to a hospital in Wales reportedly being overwhelmed with alcohol related head injuries over the bank holiday weekend, according to the BBC.
The trouble with road maps these days is that we’ve got out of the habit of plotting our routes on paper and making a choice about directions. We expect to be told what to do and where to go by our satnavs. This has been our lockdown experience – being told clearly what we can and cannot do. Inevitably the lifting of the lockdown was probably always going to lead to the sort of questions the media is firing today at Matt Hancock.
So what of our church safeguarding agenda as we cautiously pop our heads above the parapet? Applying common sense in safeguarding can be challenging. Balanced pragmatism and proportionality can also either be someone’s unnecessary bureaucracy and political correctness or conversely another’s too risky a response.
The Connexional Safeguarding Team is starting this week to reflect on what our brave new world will look like, what we need to build on from the lockdown experience, and what needs to change to carry on our business efficiently and safely. This will not be a quick process as we will need to consider a wide range of factors. Not least will be having to make sure we match our emergent thinking with what doing and being church will look like at a local level. For example, how activities are planned and delivered and how far the avalanche of online communication networks will continue, will affect the guidance we provide. What new risks will be identified that we shall need to address? At the same time, core principles such as safe recruitment and training will remain firmly in place, but the processes involved may well be arranged differently.
So this is really a clear message to local church leaders to remind you to think about how safeguarding policies will be applied as you consider how national and Connexional guidance will shape future church plans. Our safeguarding policies should really be our satnav. Let’s make sure that our local roadmaps don’t allow for too many diversions or deviations. We have come so far in the church in recent years. Let’s not run the risk of letting our focus slip.