You Can Be a Sexually Safer Best Practice Congregation!

sexuallysafterThe news is full of stories about sexual abuse in spaces we have always regarded as “safe.” You may have noticed that diverse community organizations such as churches, schools, and scouting are paying greater attention to the safety and well-being of everyone in their community. Are you feeling confused or overwhelmed by changing requirements for background checks, fingerprinting, youth safety, or the ever changing social media landscape? And while you know how important safety is, have you struggled with where to begin? Have you ever said, “wouldn’t it be great if someone laid out an easy to follow, comprehensive program that every congregation could work on at their own pace, completely online to ensure that they are reducing risk and providing a safe space for all ages?”

Well, have I’ve got great news for you!

The UUA, in partnership with the Religious Institute (religiousinstitute.org), is encouraging congregations to complete the requirements to receive a Sexually Safer Congregation Seal designation. Sexually safer congregations have policies and practices to help assure that the congregation will be free from sexual abuse, sexually harassment, and professional sexual misconduct.

The seal is awarded to congregations who complete a self-assessment followed by a commitment to have in place 14 out of 18 different “policies, procedures, practices and guidelines” that, together, help ensure that you are doing all you can to create a safe and welcoming community. (Note that lay-led congregations or those with few than 101 members have require fewer criteria to complete the program).

Upon completion, your congregation will receive official recognition from the Religious Institute and the UUA and you can proudly display a “seal” that tells members, friends and prospective members that you take safety, particularly sexual safety, seriously and that ongoing board and leadership commitment is a priority.

Where do you begin? All the information, instructions and resources are located here: http://www.uua.org/safe/creating-sexually-healthy-congregations. The Religious Institute has put together a nifty video for your viewing pleasure and I recommend that you start there. Your next step is to complete the assessment and see what you are already doing well and what areas need more attention. The Central East staff is available to help you sort through and prioritize the best practices that you need to work towards. I’m the regional specialist on Safer Congregation and, in partnership with your Primary Contact, we are happy to answer questions about the program or help you discern a couple of next steps. Isn’t the safety of your congregation worth it?

Patricia Infante
Congregational Life Staff
[email protected]

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Did You Know? General Assembly is in our Region this year!

General Assembly, the annual business meeting and gathering of the UUA will be held this year in Columbus, Ohio on June 22-26. This is a great opportunity for our members to experience General Assembly and benefit from the resources provided there close to home.

UUA GA 2016 LogoThe theme for GA 2016 will be Heart Land: Where Faiths Connect. The faith world is increasingly multifaith. People are crossing borders of religion and spiritual practice to create wholeness in their lives individually and collectively. The labels—Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, theist and non-theist—no longer define who or what we love, or how spirit moves in our lives. General Assembly 2016 in Columbus Ohio will assemble leaders and communities of many faiths to worship together, learn from one another, and create a new vision of faith that no longer divides us, but connects us to an interdependent future that works for all. Ware Lecturer will be Krista Tippett, host of NPR’s On Being.

What should you know about General Assembly?

  • Everything you need to know including a preliminary schedule and workshop listing is on the UUA website at www.uua.org/ga
  • This year we are asking attendees to prepare in advance to be part of this learning community. As stated on the GA web page – Unitarian Universalists come together not only to do the business of our association, but also to learn from one another and from presenters, to worship and witness together, and to focus together on questions and commitments facing our faith today. We form a learning community. As you prepare for General Assembly in Columbus, we ask that you prepare your mind, heart, and spirit for what you will experience. Get ready to learn, to grow spiritually, and to increase your capacity to be a leader in your own faith community and in your local context! Here are three ways to prepare.
  • Eligible congregations have been given a set number of delegate slots based on your membership number. Delegate information has already been sent to all congregations.
  • A stories and testimonials page has been set up on the UUA website for folks to share their previous GA experiences. If you have not attended, this is a way to learn more about what to expect. If you have attended, please share your story with us!
  • There is a GA Forum on the UUA website where you can ask questions, figure out room and ride sharing, learn about Columbus and more. A section for first-timer questions is there as well. This is a replacement for the old GA Email list.
  • Please make sure you put the CER Ingathering on your schedule for Wednesday evening. We will be celebrating our historic votes by our districts this spring.

 

Registration is now open and the Early Bird rate ends on April 30th. You can register to attend for one day, the weekend or the entire General Assembly. Sunday morning worship, the Service of the Living Tradition on Thursday evening, the public witness event and Sunday’s exhibit hall hours are open to the public. All other events require registration.

Questions? Check out the GA Forum or let one of the staff know. We’ll do our best to help you find the answers you need.

Beth Casebolt
CER Communications Consultant

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