Resources for Abuse Awareness Sunday 2021: Ways of Being a Safe Church

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Abuse Awareness Sunday is the fourth week of every September as listed in the Church Year Resources website. We look forward to the variety of ways congregations will worship on Abuse Awareness Sunday.

The theme for Abuse Awareness Sunday for 2021 is Safe Church Ministry: Not Just a Policy, a Way of Being the Church. We welcome you to order bulletin inserts/ flyers for your church here. Further, a member of Safe Church Ministry staff wrote a blog highlighting this year's topic titled: Considering Trees, Mycorrhiza and Safe Church Ministry: A Holistic Culture of Thriving Connections, check it out at this link!

This is the front of our bulletin insert for 2021:

The artwork pictured is a textile piece titled: “Being Imagined” by Lorraine Roy, an artist from Ontario, Canada, who draws inspiration from the vital connections found throughout nature.

Policies are helpful and necessary tools, however they are just one tool to prevent abuse and respond justly to abuse in our congregations. The greatest resources to our congregations are all of us, connected through the Holy Spirit, united to end abuse and care deeply about the well-being and wholeness of persons who are most vulnerable.

What does it look like when a congregation commits to fostering a holistic culture of "safe" church?

Below are some ideas for moving from primarily viewing “safe church” as a policy in your congregation toward a way of being church. The first five points are those listed in the Bulletin Insert for Abuse Awareness Sunday. The ideas numbered six - eight are additional ways to consider to further becoming a safe church.

1. From one or two people holding up the cause of abuse prevention to all of us upholding “safe church” as a core part of the good news of Jesus. Learn about creating vibrant and creative Safe Church Teams (link here to resources on Safe Church Teams).

2. From a required training in policy to regularly preaching and praying against abuse in worship services (link here to worship resources), creating spaces in our church life for survivors to share their stories (link here to our S.O.S. Sharing Our Stories Series), teaching children about their “circle of grace” (Link to information on Circle of Grace), and nurturing a greater attentiveness and commitment within our communities to abuse prevention and response.

3. From being primarily concerned about legal requirements to attending to the dynamics of power and control within the church community, and learning how abuse has been enabled by institutional patterns that often seek to protect the reputation of a leader and the church, rather than the person harmed when allegations are raised (Learn more about new developments in trainings on Abuse of Power at this link).

4. From rushing toward the pursuit of forgiveness and reconciliation to listening, caring, believing, recognizing the harm, as well as participating in processes that lead to the person who caused the harm to acknowledge and take responsibility where harm has occurred (Learn more about the Responding to Abuse Toolkit for Churches).

5. From conflicts dividing us through ongoing arguments or disengagement to seeking to be a restorative congregation where the truth of what happened may be spoken, those who have caused harm take responsibility, and restoration is a goal for our life together as a church and as a society (Read more about Restorative Practices here).

6. From seeing pornography and sexual additions from a perspective of “lust management” to being curious as individuals, leaders, and a congregation, about how our unwanted sexual brokenness may actually reveal our way to healing. Find out more by checking out our webinar with Jay Stringer, a CRC pastor, and author of Unwanted: How Sexual Brokenness Reveals our Way to Healing.

7. From ignoring the harm caused to individuals in the past, or not understanding the impact of harm on others to learning about the ACEs test (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Why the ACEs Study Matters: Implications for Serving Those that Have Experienced Trauma and Adversity (view our webinar with Tara Boer Safe Church Coordinator of Classes Heartland and Iakota and Professor of Social Work at Dordt University).

8. From ignoring and excluding the needs of those with a criminal background, or sexual misconduct background, to carefully welcoming and including everyone with compassion, while ensuring the safety of the community and especially those who are vulnerable (check our our resources and webinars on this topic here).

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Thank you for this. We've been looking around for how we can address this issue in our congregation, and it looks like you have a well-considered program with a novel approach. I'm looking forward to learning more.

Love this expression of a more comprehensive vision for Safe Church Ministry!