Safeguarding symposium to launch strategic plan

Art depicting protection and care for children credit Sumita Roy Dutta wikimedia CC4.0The United Reformed Church’s (URC) Safeguarding team will launch the denomination’s five-year safeguarding strategic plan with an online conference on 9 October.

The symposium, which brings together those who oversee and lead safeguarding in local URCs and synods, takes place from 12.30pm to 2pm via Zoom.

The purpose of the online event is to discuss how the safeguarding strategic plan (2020-2025) will strength the life of the Church. The event will establish the best collaborative ways to promote safeguarding, prevent abuse and protect everyone within the URC.

The annual denominational safeguarding report 2019 shows that the Church has made mayor improvements in the area of safeguarding. Over the next five years, the safeguarding strategic plan requires all parts of the URC – it’s people, councils, committees and groups – to work together on six key objectives to ensure the Church provides a sustained community of care where everyone, particularly the most vulnerable, can find a place of love, pastoral care and support.

Safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility in the URC. Mission Council reinforced this on 10 July when it passed resolution 29.

“When our responsibilities increase so does our commitment to our community,” Ioannis Athanasiou, the URC’s Safeguarding Adviser said. “No single worker of the Church can have a full picture of a child’s needs or a vulnerable adult’s circumstances, and if children, young people, families and adults at risk are to receive the right protection at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has to understand their role and the role of others.

“The Covid-19 crisis has brought unprecedented challenges for churches and society. However, we have been humbled by the faith and community spirit in our communities across the country, as well as the spirit of creativity and collaboration in the Church. From neighbourly acts of kindness to online collective worship, the Church has shone light to the power of its people to overcome challenges and remain resilient at difficult and traumatic moments for everyone.

“Drawing upon URC’s Christian tradition, we always discern things better together than anyone ever could on their own. This online symposium aims to recognise and value the collaborative and active thinking that makes church life in our denomination unique and essential in the safeguarding arena.”

To take part in the event, please email Matthew Baxter, Assistant Safeguarding Administrator, to register your interest and receive the Zoom details.

The programme of the symposium is shown below:


Welcome and Introductions

Penny McGee, URC Safeguarding Training and Development Coordinator

Greeting on behalf of the Safeguarding Advisory Group

Elizabeth Gray-King, Education and Learning Officer


Safeguarding: Protecting the local church from itself

Shelley Moss, Safeguarding Coordinator, Flavel Church, Dartmouth


Implementing the Safeguarding Strategic Plan: Challenges, barriers and opportunities

Ioannis Athanasiou, URC Safeguarding Adviser


Break Out Room Discussions: Safeguarding Strategic Plan Objectives

Attendees will split in six discussion groups. Facilitated by a Synod Safeguarding Officer, each group will share thoughts on what currently works and what should be improved in delivering each objective.

1.    Instil a safeguarding ethos of care and service within all local congregations, synods and bodies of the URC (Donna Gordon, West Midlands)

2.    Ensure initial and appropriate pastoral care and support to those who are impacted by safeguarding incidents and concerns (Belinda Nielsen, Thames North/Southern)

3.    Set up secure and appropriate systems and processes of data and information handling and reporting safeguarding (Matt Knowles, Yorkshire/Northern)

4.    Ensure the safeguarding policies and procedures are updated, reviewed and implemented in practice throughout the URC (Jan Murphy, South Western)

5.    Provide appropriate and accessible safeguarding training for all those who are accountable for and working with children, young people and adults (Sharon Barr, Wessex)

 6.    Encourage and build constructive partnerships with statutory, non-statutory bodies, other denominations and faith-based communities (Julie Rafferty, Mersey/North Western)




Collective trauma and new vulnerabilities in the churches

Carla Grosch-Miller, URC theologian and minister, St Andrew’s Monkseaton


One Body, one Church

John Bradbury, URC General Secretary


Questions and reflections



Image: Sumita Roy Dutta/Wikimedia CC4.0
Published: 2 September 2020

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