Safe Congregation Policy

In an effort to make life in our congregation more safe and welcoming, two staff and five congregation members spent more than a year and a half researching and carefully creating a Safe Congregation Policy for UUCGL. The overarching purpose of the policy “is to ensure that all who participate in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing experience a safe, trustworthy, and supportive community, free from spiritual, emotional, sexual, and physical threats.” I think the Safe Congregation Task Force would agree that all who enter our doors should expect this sanctuary. As Task Force member, Michael Daeschlein says we “were willing to put in a few hours drafting a policy to ensure that.” Let me say, we put in more than a few hours!

The policy is comprehensive and touches on many areas of church life. It will impact some of our usual ways of doing things, so this year we’ll update and implement various procedures. These new ways of keeping our children, youth, and adults safe will be lots of work, and the Safe Congregation Team spearheading this process will appreciate your kind support and patience in this effort.

The policy has two main sections. The first one is Prevention Practices. In this section, we cover building safety, including installing an Automatic External Defibrillator and maintaining the building and grounds to assure reasonable levels of safety. It also covers fire and tornado safety and our best efforts to make our building and grounds as accessible as possible.

In an effort to deter potential predators, a major part of this section covers screening employees and volunteers. Employees and volunteers will complete a comprehensive screening form and agree to a criminal background check. This process may seem daunting to a volunteer, but it’s not about you! It is intended to scare off anyone looking to harm our children. It’s just one piece of the larger safety plan, and we trust that volunteers will also see it as a way of reducing the risk of an intruder and further protecting our children and youth.

For volunteers and parents, we’ve included guidelines on working with children and youth. The Safe Congregation Team will create methods of efficiently and effectively getting this information out so that everyone is familiar and can make their best effort “to ensure the safest and most nurturing environment for our children and youth.”

The other big section of the policy concerns Reporting and Responding to situations of suspected domestic or sexual violence, child abuse, or other inappropriate behavior. “Our congregation is committed to the overriding priority of protecting members from harm,” and “reasonable and timely actions will be taken to ensure their safety...” The Standing Response Team will train and stay current on how to carefully and respectfully respond should we ever be faced with an incident.

So that we can increase our chances of creating and maintaining a safe and healthy community, our Board of Trustees approved this policy in May. It will be a busy year as we work towards implementation. I encourage everyone to take a look at the policy on our church website. In fact, anyone volunteering in Religious Education classes for children, youth, or adults can get a jump on the process and start reading anytime. Thank you for helping us to create a safer UUCGL!

In faith,
Teresa Putnam, 
Director of Lifespan Faith Development