Beloveds, with a rise in white supremacist violence and destructive behavior it is understandable that more congregational leadership are considering how to protect their community right now. This is a frightening time for many. I have received more questions from lay leaders about the safety and security of their congregation (people) and buildings (place/things).
As we observe news stories about groups targeting faith communities, it’s hard not to react immediately to implementing safety measures. But, it’s important to take a moment to breathe and reflect together first. Not all of the work of protecting our communities needs to be all done at once. It’s important to take time to check in with leadership at your congregation at all levels to have community buy-in of safety measures that are informed by members of your community, especially those who hold marginalized identities or are of vulnerable populations like families with children.
It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s impossible to keep a congregation 100% safe even after implementing all the precautions and safety measures you can. The UUA’s resources on starting to think about how to create safer congregations states:
“The hardest part of beginning or refocusing on safe congregations work can be getting over the idea that everything must be done at once. There is not one “right” place to start, and every congregation will make its own decision about where to focus their attention given their particular concerns, history, and legal requirements (which vary from state to state). The sample policies, checklists, and suggestions contained here will help you take steps towards creating a safer congregation that lives our faith and values.
The second hardest part is thinking your congregation is "done." Keeping up to date on your safer congregation policies and procedures means that your policies and procedures need to be reviewed and scheduled for updating on a regular basis.”
Here are UUA resources to start exploring how you can get started:
- Getting Started: How do we create a safer congregation?
- Alternatives to calling the police
- Active Shooter and Lockdown Situations
- Safety for religious education and children
- Safety and Security Trainings for Ushers and Greeters
- Building Security
- Building Security and Safety in Congregations
Need access to a grant to make safety updates?
Church mutual has information on FEMA for faith based communities searching for grant options. The next cycle of grant applications will be due in summer 2023. Learn more here:
Though we may be in a time that feels scary and tense for many, I invite you to focus on the ways our communities have come together historically to support each other. You have resources, but most importantly you have your congregational community and the extended community of UU communities regionally and nationally. For those of you who are board presidents, I invite you to ask questions on the CER President’s Listserve of what other communities have done when getting started in this work. I also invite you to connect with local faith based groups who may have also done this work. You are not alone in this work. Also, remember to reach out to your primary contact with questions, we’re here to support you. May you and your communities be safe and surrounded by love in this new year.