Safe Church training for youth leaders in the Diocese of Jerusalem 

Wadie Far is the Revd Canon Pastor to the Arabic-speaking congregation at St George’s Cathedral and Vicar of St Paul’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Jerusalem. Here, he writes about how safeguarding practice is being implemented in the Diocese of Jerusalem.  

It is vital to make sure that the Church, and all the different programmes and activities that take place within it, are safe spaces for all participants. To achieve this, all our activities need to abide by certain Safe Church (safeguarding) standards. Ensuring safety for all should be a priority for everyone who leads ministries in the church. 

In the Diocese of Jerusalem, we have a Child Safeguarding policy, which has been disseminated to our parishes and institutions. However, it had never been discussed with our Diocesan youth and Sunday school teachers and volunteers. We had never had conversations about abuse due to the high sensitivity of the topic. Many in our culture do not want to discuss such a topic, because they do not want to admit that abuse might happen in our midst. We were also concerned that some might even feel offended if they were called to be trained. 

Safeguarding Training 

However, as a youth chaplain in the Diocese, with cooperation with the Diocesan youth committee, we decided that it would be important to hold safeguarding training for our youth group leaders, Sunday school teachers, and the leaders of our Diocesan youth camps. We hold annual regional training camps for those who work with young people in churches, and we offer two workshop sessions on safeguarding during these camps. This way, instead of adding another activity to the schedules of our volunteers who gather from different cities, we would utilise the time we already had set aside with them. 

In our first workshop, we introduced the topic of safeguarding through a bible study and discussion. We came to a shared agreement that we need to make sure that our church youth activities are safe places for all participants. We then introduced the concept of abuse, the different types of abuse that might occur during youth activities, and how we could prevent them.  

We then went through the Diocesan Child Safeguarding policy together. We split into groups and discussed how we can abide by the policy, and how our activities might sometimes fall short of its standards. Each group then shared their discussion points. The workshop ended with recommendations from the participants on how we can best adhere to the policy and follow the teaching and example of Christ that the Church should be a safe place for all.  

Developing a Code of Conduct 

Our second workshop focused on creating a code of conduct for the Diocesan youth camps. Although the Diocesan Child Protection Policy has a code of conduct, it is written to cover the needs of the Diocesan institutions and parishes. We felt it would be appropriate to develop a specific code of conduct for youth camps and activities. We began our workshop by studying several existing codes of conduct, starting with the one in the Diocesan Child Protection policy, and looking at others from different diocesan institutions, and even some from other churches. Then, working in groups, each group wrote a suggested code of conduct. When we got back to our plenary session, each group presented their suggestions. We worked together to compile a code of conduct for our Diocesan activities and youth camps.  

When I started thinking about holding training for our volunteers who minister to youth and Sunday school children, I was not sure of how such training would be received. However, I was encouraged by the response of the other youth chaplains in the Diocese and by the volunteers’ enthusiasm. They understood the importance of this topic and took it to heart. They were highly motivated to help to create a code of conduct and to abide by it. They were united in their commitment to make sure that all who come to the youth activities can feel God’s love and get to build and deepen their relationship with our Lord and Saviour in a safe environment.   

Guidance 

For resources and guidance on implementing Safe Church, visit the websites for the Lambeth Conference here and the Anglican Communion Office here.

Revd Canon Wadie Far spoke during a recent webinar on Safe Church. Watch it on Facebook here.

Visit the page for the Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission here.  

 

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