10th October 2021, Safeguarding Sunday, Canon Marion Russell Proverbs 31:8 -9, M

Sunday 10th October 2021 

19th Sunday after Trinity: Safeguarding Sunday 


Proverbs 31:8 -9

Speak out for those who cannot speak,
    for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.


 Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Canon Marion Russell

Creating Safe Places – today’s theme

For all of us, feeling safe can be a mark of well-being; we relax, we fell protected. As a child I loved the sense of being safe under the table, hidden in a den made from the chenille table-cloth which fell to the ground and excluded all sight of anyone in the room. Sometimes I was there with my brothers, sometimes alone. Did you have a den as a child? In playgroups with young children, a muslin or net tent can be a wonderful place to withdraw, especially when the children know they can go there to be still and quiet – often praying in their own way. And  of course the opposite, feeling unsafe, stirs up a complex mix of troubling emotions which can leave us feeling ill-at-ease for a long time, and may also paralyse the action needed to bring us to safety.  

This is what we’re looking at today as we mark a new national initiative: the second Sunday in October is designated as Safeguarding Sunday. Safeguarding isn’t a word used in the Bible. However it’s a word from a concept that goes back to the heart of God’s goodness. The Lord invites us to find a safe place in the shadow of his wings, to know him as our shield and fortress, a hiding place. A place of safety is something to be guarded, to be kept secure and its purpose needs to be protected. 

We have a safe place here at St Mary’s. The greatest safety is our love, care and protection for each other, and all the ways in which we express that. However, we also need to guard against that safety being broken or disturbed, and so that means taking positive action to guard what is good and keep those precious relationships of trust. 

We do this in two main ways. The first is that we now legally must have certain roles and structures in how we do things in churches, and we’ll be talking a bit more about that in a few minutes. The second is for all of us to listen to that inner voice, the gut reaction, that tells us something is wrong. It might be something we see or hear, or that simple but powerful instinct – a gut feeling. I recently discovered that we have brain cells in our gut, so a ‘gut feeling’ isn’t imaginary! It’s a complex drawing together of all sorts of intelligent reactions. If any of us has a ‘gut reaction’ about a situation, we need to act by sharing it – in the right way with the right people; not leaving it unsaid and also not sharing it as gossip with other people.   

Guarding safe places means action! 

Some of the most direct and challenging references to the safeguarding of children in the Bible are in the interaction between Jesus and his disciples concerning the Kingdom of God. In our reading this morning, Matthew 18:3-5, Jesus warns of the dangers of “causing one of these little ones who believe in me to sin”.   By using the term “Little ones”, Jesus may not just mean children, but all who are vulnerable, and it is significant that here Jesus uses strong language when talking about the consequences on those that seek to do them harm.  Jesus clearly cannot abide such behaviour.

Jesus taught that what we do when nobody is looking is as important to God as what we do when people are looking. We are called to care and be merciful in all our dealings, but especially with those that may need extra care or protection. It’s part of God’s call to us to be co-workers with God – what a privilege! – to demonstrate God’s heart and care for people who are vulnerable and oppressed. Protecting vulnerable people is central to the gospel.   And we need to be mindful that it might not always be popular with those who want to protect their ungodly power when we speak out for the needs of those who are being kept down.

Our reading in Proverbs 31:8 that encourages us to 'speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable'. (CEB version).  

That means we speak out when we need to, and we listen to those, of whatever age, who speak to us about things that aren’t safe now and also things that haven’t been safe for us. Even when it’s in the past, there are things that have happened that we may want or need to speak of, either to bring healing, or to prevent the same or similar things continuing with others. 

If anything I’m saying today touches on things where you have been unsafe in times past, or anything that troubles you now, please do come and speak to me or to Andrea or someone who you trust who can voice it to me or in other safe places where you can get real help. 



A Short Introduction to what we have in place at St Mary’s to keep people Safe 


Marion :- We believe that Church should be a place where every child and adult can feel and be safe

Andrea :- But this doesn’t happen by accident

Marion :- That’s why we have a Safeguarding Officer who helps us do the things we need to do to keep children and adults safe.

Andrea :- This includes recruiting our Volunteers safely. We make sure that proper adequate checks are undertaken and that the required safeguarding training is completed and regularly reviewed.

It means - Reviewing and keeping our Safeguarding Policy up to date

It means - Responding to any concerns from others around the safety of children & adults 

Marion :- Legally, the responsibility rests with the Safeguarding Officer, the Vicar, other Clergy, Churchwardens & all members of the PCC – the church council - to make sure this happens. We are all accountable to each other to make sure children and adults are safe. 

Andrea :- but we can’t do this on our own we need your help too. It needs all of us to be alert to keep everyone safe. 

Marion :- Please support Andrea, our Safeguarding officer, it’s her lead job to help ensure everyone is safe. And it’s often a challenging task. If you see or hear anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, please report your concerns even if they seem small.