Preparing Your Faith Community for the Unexpected
We all like to think of our congregation as a safe space that offers sanctuary from the world beyond but churches everywhere have become increasingly vulnerable to unexpected intrusions into our safety bubble. The threat of everything from a tornado, flood or fire to a stranger who enters our space with malicious intent is remote but real and all faith communities are encouraged to engage in an open and transparent process to create internal policies, action plans and training for staff and volunteers before the unthinkable happens.
What is a Safe Congregation?
A safe congregation is a congregation that is committed to nurturing and sustaining a physical and relational space that minimizes the risk of physical, emotional and sexual harm from someone within the community or an intrusion from outside the congregation. Faith communities are often places where we practice deep hospitality and form deep and intimate bonds with our fellow travelers. In doing so, we become vulnerable to inappropriate or unwelcome behavior by individuals within our midst, even those in whom we place our greatest trust. A safe congregation commits itself to providing safe spaces across the lifespan, ensuring that clear policies about what is acceptable and what is not are enacted and followed, and, in the aftermath of an incident, engage in healing, reconciliation and restorative practices where possible.
For an introduction to Safe Congregations, view by viewing this video: Safe from Harm
Are you looking for a set of resources and samples that will help you earn the designation of “Safer Congregation?” The Religious Institute has created such a program which the UUA supports. Details on what is required can be found at their website. Check with your Primary Contact for proactive ways to begin the process.
All congregations should aim for a comprehensive safe congregations program but at a minimum you need to address these areas: