Giving thanks with a grateful heart
Safeguarding and smiles are two things that you wouldn’t think would go together very often. The person who holds the role of a church safeguarding officer or a children’s champion within a parish is not someone that you expect to be smiling very often, but take a look, that is what you are seeing!
This photograph (and the ones below) were taken at the recent Thanksgiving Event for church safeguarding officers and children’s champions, which I had the privilege of arranging and hosting alongside my Diocesan Safeguarding Team colleagues.
Safeguarding in the Diocese is only possible due to the individuals within our 500 parishes who volunteer their time and skills in order to ensure that those most at risk continue to be kept safe. Our part, as the Diocesan Safeguarding Team, is small relative to those who are going to their place of worship and being the point person for safeguarding. It is because of this that the Thanksgiving Event came about!
Setting the scene
Our setting, at St Lawrence Jewry, could not have been more right for the occasion because of its beautiful architecture along with its welcoming staff. We were serenaded by a London-based pianist, Kerst Sikkema, and the guests arrived and quickly began networking, which was always our hope. Being a church safeguarding officer or a children’s champion in your parish can often feel like you are the only person in the world. Yet there are those surrounding you, both physically and through forms of communication, who can encourage and support you. This event was our opportunity to enable people to meet and connect.
The serious stuff
As the Diocesan Safeguarding Team, we wanted to be able to empower our volunteers during our time together and this was achieved through a presentation about grooming. It was a bit of a risk putting such a serious topic within a thanksgiving event such as this; however, we wanted our volunteers to be as equipped and as informed as they can be with regards to matters of safeguarding. It was such good to receive feedback such as
“I thought that the evening was very informative and also reaffirming”, and,
“A difficult topic [was discussed] but one which we all need to know more about.”
The seemingly ‘risky’ element of the night had proven to be most helpful and definitely worth including.
How we manage this
The end of our evening was highlighted by the Thanksgiving Service led by Archdeacon Rosemary, who commented about how she was going to be able to transition from serious topics into the church service, but she did so with ease. We wanted our hard-working safeguarding officers and children’s champions to leave with the fact that, we all need Jesus’ help and love in order to safeguard our churches.
We were asked to light a candle for one person for whom we wanted to pray for, within in our safeguarding role. The front of the church glowed with candles representing the prayers of us all, shining with hope within the large building. The focus was not ourselves, but God and what He can do.
We were then all sent, with the blessing that put it all into perspective:
Go in faith and hope to live out your calling.
May God be known in the safe places we build,
Christ Jesus create footsteps ahead for our walking,
And the Spirit comfort and lighten the hearts of those to whom we minister.
(Adapted from Dorothy McRae-McMahon ‘Liturgies for High Days’)
So they went, all of our volunteers who, on a daily basis, are standing for those who cannot stand for themselves and provide safe places within the church for those who do not feel safe. If you were invited and unable to attend, please accept our greatest “thank you” with the same sentiment as was sent during this event.
If you attend a church in the Diocese, please pray for those in these roles within your church or pray for guidance to identify people to fill these roles in your church. To us all, my challenge is that we make a conscious effort to bring a smile to the faces of those involved in safeguarding so that photos such as the ones we have are reflected in our parishes across the Diocese!
For more information about safeguarding in the Diocese, see the safeguarding support section. If you wish to become involved in safeguarding in your parish, please contact your clergyperson or church safeguarding officer.
Photos taken by Rodycloud Photography