Every year. Every year I review our congregation’s safety guidelines, policies, and practices, ranging from arrival and departure procedures to how we staff classrooms to detailed ways we accompany youngsters to the bathroom. Every year we conduct criminal background checks on all volunteer and staff teachers and mentors. We share information and edu-cate teacher teams and mentors about how we promise to behave and act in all that we do in this faith community.
Then, every year, we model and teach our children and youth to covenant with one another, to live our values, to embody our UU principles, and to be brave in living faithfully. Young people helped to develop their covenant. The program-wide promises are connected to our UU values and include clear behaviors and actions. I make sure that we reflect – both in Chapel worship and in age-appropriate class sessions – on issues such as bullying and other disturb-ing, relevant subjects that our children and youth face in their lives.
In their UUA work on trust in the RE community, Laurel Amabile and Tera Little share that by setting up clear limitations and expectations, responsibility, and accountability,
we recognize the need to create and maintain clear safety requirements in which we leave no room for doubt in our expectations of healthy relationships and boundaries between adults and children and between adults and adults. We can’t leave to chance our interactions with the children in our church, assuming that everything will be all right because we are all good Unitarian Universalists.
We don’t expect infractions of our guidelines or predict disruption or breaking of laws or rules. We imagine that we are creating trusting relationships between children, youth, parents, and all of you. That is what happens in our Spiritual Pathways Religious Education program.
What about the full range of adults, from members to friends with varying roles, who are connected in our faith community? I am pleased that right now, the Prudential Committee, as our congregational leadership, has refined and affirmed a set of safety guidelines for people of all ages. There will be opportunities for everyone to review this and other congregational policies through online and other communication channels. I am glad that this important aspect of congregational life has become a priority for adults as well as for our children and youth.
This reading, by Micky ScottBey Jones (inspired by an unknown poet), has informed my vision of safety and bravery. And, there will be learning and mistakes along the way.
Together we will create brave space
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space”
We exist in the real world
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow. We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know. We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be
It will be our brave space together,
We will work on it side by side
Take care as we embody brave and safe community,
Director of Religious Education