Safe Church Policy

Preamble

The Baptismal Covenant calls us to “respect the dignity of every human being.”  This policy seeks to honor this call by providing a safe, joyful and holy environment for all the members of our congregation, especially the vulnerable among us including children and youth.

Screening Staff and Volunteers

Background checks will be performed on all clergy and employees and all volunteers who regularly work with children or youth.  This process will include the following:

  • a written application
  • a public records check
  • an interview
  • reference checks.

Volunteers may be permitted to work with children or youth if they have been known to the clergy or congregation for at least six months.

Behavioral standards for ministry with children or youth

Adults shall never, under any circumstances:

  • provide children or youth with non-sacramental alcohol, illegal drugs or pornography,
  • consume non-sacramental alcohol or illegal drugs or misuse legal drugs at any children’s or  youth event,
  • be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs or the misuse of legal drugs at any children’s or youth event,
  • engage in illegal behavior or permit other adults or children or youth to engage in illegal behavior,
  • engage in any sexual, romantic, illicit or secretive relationship or conduct with any child or youth,
  • discuss their own sexual activities or fantasies with children or youth.

Firearms and concealed weapons are prohibited at any church activity. Special exceptions may be made for off-duty police officers or others who are required to carry firearms.

Monitoring programs and interactions with children and youth

Plans for all events and ministries for children and youth should include at least two, unrelated adults present at all times. If unanticipated circumstances result in an adult being alone with children or youths, that adult shall immediately report those circumstances to the Rector or Senior Warden. It may be appropriate for a Sunday School class to have only one teacher so long as at least one other adult can maintain visual contact with the teacher.

Any new programs, trips or events that involve children or youth should be given prior approval by the Rector and the Vestry. No event for children or youth shall take place in a private residence without prior approval by the vestry.

It is recommended that the Vestry or other duly delegated parishioners regularly conduct a “safe church audit” to review practices and policies within the congregation. Parents/guardians are expected to supervise their children if they are playing on the church grounds, especially in the woods behind the church.

Education and training

Clergy, lay employees and volunteers who work with children or youth are expected to attend training on how to prevent child abuse and promote healthy boundaries in church settings.

Internet Safety and Media

The Internet and publishing media are gifts facilitating rapid and effective communication, education and the spread of the Good News.  Parish media include: our website and parish email, the newsletter, weekly announcements and parish bulletin boards.  On occasion in order to highlight the events and life of our parish, pictures of members of our community may be posted on printed and electronic media. Every effort shall be made to figure minors in groups of two or more. NEVER under any circumstances shall a name or contact information of any minor be posted on the internet or in printed media.

We recognize that photographs of parish events are frequently posted on the boards in the parish hall.  This is a way of celebrating the life of our parish.  However, parishioners have the right to ask that a picture that features them be removed from a parish bulletin board.  The removed picture shall be returned to the parish office.

Responding to conerns:

When abuse or neglect is disclosed or suspected in good faith, volunteers and staff shall make this known directly, in person, to the rector.  In the context of the Church School,, the Director of Children’s Ministries shall also be informed in person.

Anyone who has reason to suspect that child abuse has taken place, whether at church or away from church, shall report it to the appropriate civil authority. The rector upon hearing report of a violation shall be responsible for providing appropriate pastoral care to all those affected and appropriate remedial and/or disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment or volunteer ministry with the church. The Bishop, hearing reports of violations by clergy, or by adults at diocesan events, shall be responsible for providing appropriate pastoral care to all those affected and appropriate remedial and/or disciplinary action, up to and including canonical disciplinary action.

Anyone who knows of a violation of these policies in a parish environment shall immediately report the violation to the Rector or priest and senior warden. Anyone who knows of a violation of these policies in a diocesan environment or by a clergy person shall immediately report the violation to the Bishop’s office.

Contact information

The Safe Church Officer for the Diocese is the Reverend Canon Sarah Shofstall and can be reached at (413) 737-4786 x 11. sshofstall@diocesewma.org.

The phone number to report suspected child abuse in Massachusetts is: (800) 792-5200 or you can call the Department of Social Services in your area.

This policy shall be reviewed each year, and is subject to amendment by the Vestry at any time.

Adopted by the Vestry of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Sutton on October 21, 2004.  Revised June 2008

Services

Saturday 5:00pm
Holy Eucharist (Come as You Are)

Sunday 10:00am
Holy Eucharist (Community Eucharist)

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