Like many of the lay and ordained leaders in our Diocese, I am currently undertaking my refresher safeguarding training. For me, this is three, three-hour sessions, all on Zoom, with preparation and reflection before and after to help me in my understanding and practice. As for all of us, it is a big ask in a busy diary, but it is essential, and I am glad that I am doing it as part of my commitment to ensuring the highest practice and culture of safeguarding.
One of the tasks we have been given has been to identify a verse of scripture that has informed our values and beliefs in safeguarding. For me this lies squarely in Genesis and John. In Genesis, we read that God created humankind in his image ‘in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them’ (Genesis 1: 27). As Genesis continues, we learn of how quickly that image of God in us was marred by human sin and weakness. We live in a broken and divided world. Then in John, we read that the Word became flesh and lived among us.’ (John 1: 14) so that the image of God in us might be restored through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In these things, at the heart of our faith, we learn that all people are made by God, that we are made in God’s image and therefore precious in God’s sight and yet more that as God in Christ comes among us in this same form, in human flesh our very lives and those of all we meet are sanctified, made holy.
This is why our failures as a Church to safeguard children and vulnerable adults are such a grievous sin. The exploitation or abuse of anyone made in God’s image is an affront to the very nature of God’s own being. Failure to do what is necessary and right to keep people safe goes against the nature of our calling as the Church to be the place where the love of God is made known as we work for the building of the Kingdom with its virtues of justice, mercy and peace.
Having a proper process rooted in a culture that gives safeguarding the priority it requires, not only therefore protects us all, but is a fundamental expression of who we are as a Church under God, a Church in which all may know the life in all its fullness that we find in Jesus Christ.