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Healthy and Safe Congregations Workshop

45-Minute Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Congregational Leaders
  • Ministers
  • Religious Educators

Goals

  • Explore current understandings of issues of abuse and interpersonal violence
  • Learn the range of safety issues facing Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations and healthy models for responding to these issues
  • Develop strategies to address issues of health, safety, and right relations in UU congregations

Materials

  • Copies of “Healthy and Safe Congregations” for all participants
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice or candle and matches

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s).
  • Distribute “Healthy and Safe Congregations” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering, 5 minutes
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to “A Network of Mutuality” by Martin Luther King Jr., reading 584 in Singing the Living Tradition, and invite everyone to read responsively with you.

Focusing, 5 minutes
Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to discuss and agree upon the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Say something like,

There is much potential for open sharing throughout this program. On many occasions we will invite participants to share what may be intimate material. Therefore, it is important that people speak only when they are comfortable; it is always okay to pass if people choose not to share. By establishing a norm of respect for each other and our expression within the group, we want to ensure safety and right relations for all participants.

Engage participants in discussing the value of respect and confidentiality in a group and the destructive effects of sarcasm and put-downs. Print your group’s guidelines for openness and sharing on newsprint, and post it as a reminder for each session.

Reflecting, 15 minutes
Read this passage by Qiyamah Rahman:

Our Principles, which reflect on the interconnectedness of life—the significance of social justice, democracy, equality, and our search for truth—reflect those values that so many of us yearn for and seek to live out in community. Efforts to identify and address factors that compromise the safety of our Beloved Community have given rise to new and challenging initiatives, such as safe congregations and right relations.

Invite participants to respond to this question: How do the UU Principles challenge us to make our congregations safer for all people?

Exploring, 15 minutes
Rahman notes two topics that have motivated the UU discussion of safe congregations, child safety and clergy sexual abuse. Ask participants to discuss the following questions:

  • Has the congregation treated these issues like they are important and worth engaging?
  • How have they been addressed?

Closing, 5 minutes
Invite participants to name one way the faith community is a safe sanctuary worthy of trust. Then sing together “Gathered Here,” hymn 389 in Singing the Living Tradition.
Extinguish the chalice or candle.

2-Hour Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Congregational leaders
  • Ministers
  • Religious educators

Goals

  • Explore current understandings of issues of abuse and interpersonal violence
  • Learn the range of safety issues facing UU congregations and healthy models for responding to these issues
  • Develop strategies to address issues of health, safety, and right relations in UU congregations

Materials

  • Copies of “Healthy and Safe Congregations” for all participants
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice or candle and matches
  • Newsprint and markers
  • Copies of the Table of Contents of The Safe Congregation Handbook for all participants

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s).
  • Distribute “Healthy and Safe Congregations” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering, 5 minutes
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to “A Network of Mutuality” by Martin Luther King Jr., reading 584 in Singing the Living Tradition, and invite everyone to read responsively with you.

Focusing, 15 minutes
Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to discuss and agree upon the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Say something like,
There is much potential for open sharing throughout this program. On many occasions we will invite participants to share what may be intimate material. Therefore, it is important that people speak only when they are comfortable; it is always okay to pass if people choose not to share. By establishing a norm of respect for each other and our expression within the group, we want to ensure safety and right relations for all participants.

Engage participants in discussing the value of respect and confidentiality in a group and the destructive effects of sarcasm and put-downs. Print your group’s guidelines for openness and sharing on newsprint, and post it as a reminder for each session.

Reflecting and Exploring, 65–75 minutes
Pass out copies of the Table of Contents of this book to all participants and ask them to consider the five sections of the book. Their task is to compose a list of the congregation’s programs, events, processes, and policies and the personnel and volunteers who address these areas of congregational work. They should include areas of accomplishment and success as well as areas of challenge and concern.

Depending on the number of participants, they can work as individuals or be divided into groups. For example, a group of twenty can be divided into five groups of four with each group assigned one of the five sections of the book. Ten people can split two groups of five, with both groups summarizing their lists regarding all five sections of the work. Other participants might be asked to reflect on the information and materials shared. Ask each group to record its responses on newsprint and report back to the whole group after 30 minutes. If participants work as individuals, engage the whole group in a discussion about their responses.

Integrating, 15 minutes
Invite commentary and discussion on any of the five sections where challenges and concerns were named. Ask each participant to name two or three aspects of safety and risk management that the congregation needs to address and that they would be willing to work on over the next six months to one year.

Closing, 10 minutes
Affirm the presence and participation of every person. Invite participants to name one way “our faith communities are sanctuaries of safety worthy of our trust.” Then sing together “Gathered Here,” hymn 389 in Singing the Living Tradition.

Extinguish the chalice or candle.

For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.

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