From the Board: Safe Congregations

FUUSN needs to be safe.

For many of us, probably most of us, it feels like a sanctuary from the pressures of daily life, where we feel accepted, where we can express ourselves freely, where we feel sure that our children will be protected and nurtured.

But we have long neglected some concrete tasks needed to ensure that our feeling of safety is warranted in fact.

The UUA’s Safe Congregations initiative is a program intended to help individual congregations decide how to protect vulnerable congregants, and the community as a whole, from injury or harm of any type.

FUUSN has already undertaken some of the more concrete work, such as providing clear evacuation routes for all the classrooms in the event of a fire, and specifying rules for our Coming of Age mentors’ conduct.

The UUA’s 180-page Safe Congregations Handbook includes suggested guidelines for adults working with children and youth; response to incidents or allegations of misconduct; plans for workshops on topics such as “Writing a Covenant” and “Working for Safety and to End Oppression.” And it deals squarely with questions of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

Discussing and creating written policy on such matters for a community which we cherish, and may regard as sacred, might seem to tarnish that regard we have for it.

Our DLRE Rowan Van Ness has assembled a collection of other congregations’ responses to the UUA’s initiative. It is instructive, because the responses vary widely. One is an exhaustive manual of procedures which attempts to anticipate every difficult situation, while another is a simple statement of norms of behavior for adults working with children and youth—a covenant. Some written policies include concerns not present in the UUA’s literature, addressing food allergies, CORI forms, and intruders with firearms.

The staff and the Board want FUUSN to evolve a coherent approach to these issues. We are hoping to find congregation members motivated to evaluate the initiative as a whole and recommend further steps. We feel the imperative for two reasons

First, and most important, we want to do our best to be sure that FUUSN does no harm.

Secondly, all of us, starting with your Board of Trustees, have a fiduciary responsibility to protect FUUSN’s resources. It seems unthinkable but if harm befell a vulnerable person or a child—or was even alleged and we had not even tried to make policy to prevent it, the damage to FUUSN would be great.

Many us who work in the corporate or institutional realms undergo annual mandatory training in a variety of topics. Often it feels like a bureaucratic burden, but we learn to tolerate documentation, policies, and procedures in our work lives for the sake of economic security. We should willingly undertake it in our spiritual lives, for the sake of the people and community we love.

If you want to be a part of this on any level, please contact Eric Haas or Brooke Welles. –The Board of Trustees