When I served in congregational ministry, and when I was a student myself, September was always a time full of anticipation, excitement, and hectic schedules! In churches, we are welcoming families back from cottages and holidays, and celebrate the start of a fresh year.
It is a time to hear about and celebrate the camp and other adventure stories of children and youth. It is a time to hear about and celebrate the first few days and weeks in their new grade, and possibly, new school. It is a time to create a rhythm of learning, exploring, and developing one’s faith and Christian discipleship in community!
As part of the fresh fall rhythm, it is a great time to focus on creating safe community together for everyone, where all are free to be themselves without fear of emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. In particular, children are among the most vulnerable to experiences of abuse, and so we encourage communities to take seriously their responsibility to do their part to provide safe communities. We are excited to share our new video with you promoting the Circle of Grace program. This curriculum teaches children and youth about healthy, positive, and respectful relationships with God and others. Find out more about Circle of Grace and using it in your congregation here. The Circle of Grace program is also available in Spanish.
September is a great month to build awareness around the significance of safe church! Abuse Awareness Sunday is coming up on September 23. Our new bulletin insert is available here. If it works better to mark this day on another week, please go ahead!
We are eagerly anticipating our Safe Church Conference, #Equipped in our #MeToo World, September 21-22. Pray for our leaders presenting and attending that they might return home ready to share learnings with their congregations, classes, and/or regions! For those in the Grand Rapids area, you are welcome to join us at these events.
It is helpful to know other denominations continue to faithfully work at creating safe communities for all. Specifically, in Canada, the Mennonite Central Committee promotes the Circle of Grace program as well as other educational resources you can access here. They are adding their #MeToo stories, lamenting how experiences of abuse are found amidst their ministries. Together with Canadian theatre company, Theatre of the Beat, they are presenting performances of #ChurchToo across Canada this fall. Nine playwrights from across North America have each written a scene to explore the realities of sexual misconduct, power, and abuse within our church communities. Although the stories arise from the Mennonite context, your safe church teams might appreciate the recognition that nobody is alone in the Body of Christ and together we strive for God’s kingdom where all will have safety. Find locations and dates here.
May God be with you as you mark the start of another fall in your congregations with children, families, and the wide Body of Christ!