Valuing the Little People
Jesus operated in a culture where children were routinely valued less than adults. The Book of Leviticus chapter 27 sets out exactly how much less. But Jesus’s teaching about children radically inverted society’s expectations. He says “whoever welcomes the children welcomes me”. And when the disciples don’t understand says: “Do not stop these children coming to me, because it is to children like these that the kingdom of God belongs. And if you don’t receive the kingdom of God like a little child you’ll never enter it.”
Jesus also valued those who were low in status, the marginalised and the excluded. A great deal of his ministry involved healing the sick or demon possessed. He preached good news for the poor. And throughout the gospels, Jesus is to be found in the company of tax collectors, sinners, Gentiles and outsiders of all kinds.
Insofar as we imitate Jesus then children and vulnerable adults will be an especial concern for the church. They are likely to be close to the centre of our mission.
The Safeguarding Agenda
A big lesson for society in general and the church in particular over recent decades has been that our care for children and vulnerable adults often wasn’t good enough. Ironically, institutions with a mission to care provided shelter for those whose purposes towards vulnerable people were malign. We are now playing catch-up. We have to atone for the mistakes of the past and get our practices right in the present. We have a limited timeframe available to us to change.
For the Diocese in Europe this is a particular challenge. How do we inculcate new habits, attitudes and practices across a diocese spread over 40 countries?
Establishing a Training Team
From 4 to 6 July, 23 people from across the diocese gathered to learn to teach. They had a challenging assignment. Firstly, they needed to get up to a good level of safeguarding education themselves. Then they had to acquire the confidence they needed to teach others.
Ian Carter confessed that ahead of the ‘Train the Trainers’ event he was nervous. He didn’t know if it would work. Evaluations submitted by participants indicated that they were equally nervous!
But the trainers, Ian Carter and Susan Verkerk were encouraging and expert. And the training cohort worked very hard. By the end of the course participants felt overwhelmingly that they had been given the knowledge and the confidence to present the material themselves in their own country or archdeaconry themselves.
What happens next?
We have now got to work together to roll out the training in each part of the diocese. Over the next three years we intend that key members of all chaplaincies have the opportunity to attend this ‘level 2’ training. (‘Level 1’ being the online course that many have already done.)
So, Archdeacons, Area Deans and trainers will be working together to plan a training event somewhere near you. This is a big exercise! It will need a lot of planning, encouraging and coaxing. But together we can make it happen.
I want to say a big thank you to those who have volunteered to be trainers. They include church officers, retired teachers, parents, clergy, clergy spouses. They have given up a lot of their time in travelling to Cologne. They have submitted to a demanding and intensive course of training. They have pledged even more of their time in being willing to train others. And they are now stepping out with a mixture of optimism and trepidation to share what they have learned with others. And before long, one of them will be starring in a training event near you…