Let me take refuge
In the shelter of your wings…
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings
I sing for joy.
By Marion Little
Many are tired when they think of Safe Church policy, Police Record Checks and all the details of managing volunteers. At best this topic gets exhausted tolerance. Enthusiasm is rare.
The few who don’t like Safe Church policy are tired and struggle to see value in it. These folks often tell me they’re worried about trust being undermined by formality and what seems like suspicion. Trust is an important need. Let’s listen and seek ways to re-build trust.
The many who’ve accepted Safe Church policy are even more tired because they're rolling it out, often without necessary breaks or support over years. These folks often tell me how much care and respect matter. Mutual care and mutual respect are also important needs. Let’s listen and seek ways to foster that too.
Regardless of who you are, Christ promises safe sanctuary: unconditional compassion and unflinching accountability. The world yearns for sanctuary. We are called to offer not just safety, but sanctuary.
Typically, Safe Church work in Canada has focused on “ticking boxes” to satisfy insurance. But, let’s be realistic, that's only about protecting institutions, not people, and it’s a far cry from sanctuary. I think it’s part of why people get tired and frustrated – we want to care for each other, not tick boxes.
So, I invite you to join Bishop Todd, and others across Huron, in a grander vision for community well-being. A vision that reaches way beyond our lowest standard for behaviour: criminal law. It’s a vision based on our highest ideals, as spelled out in The Two Great Commandments and Beatitudes. These core Christian ethics provide a clear road map towards something more powerful than safety: sanctuary.
My Safe Church-O-Meter (I’m told it should rhyme with thermometer) gives a bird’s eye view of how criminal law, institutional policy, and Christian ethics relate to each other.
The heart of Christianity is “two or more gathered together” – it’s fundamentally relational. That means living out Christian ethics and reaching towards sanctuary must begin with intentional empathic listening. To ourselves. To each other. And, to the wider world. This is difficult for many of us – it’s sure been hard for me. But, it turns out that a foundation of listening equips us all to better navigate conflict, increase well-being, and discern more responsive and meaningful ways to be a Safe Church together.
I love the loons’ call and response. It’s powerful, heart-opening reciprocity. In less than a minute, they say more about listening, responding, and moving towards sanctuary together than I ever could: Cornell Ornithology Lab – The Common Loon
And, we don’t have to wait. We each have our own call and response. We can begin where we are, with those around us. We can ask what matters, and practice listening beyond stories of shame and blame into the heart of the matter.
Listening is the first step in discernment.
Marion Little, MA Dispute Resolution, Safe Church Consultant
Marion grew up at St. George’s, Owen Sound (chorister, server, parish council, & youth delegate to diocesan synod). She was Huron’s youth delegate to General Synod in 1992, carrying a three-year term on the national Program Committee. During 22 years in Diocese of Islands & Inlets (BC), she ran charities providing youth housing, affordable child-care, and resources for sex workers.
She was appointed lay Canon Pastor (Safe Church), was an Anglican Church of Canada accredited observer at UNCSW/ UNWomen, and co-founded what became the international Anglican Safe Church Network. As part of that, she co-authored the Safe Church Charter adopted by the Anglican Consultative Council in 2012.
Most of all, Marion loves teaching the transformative power of conflict resolution, assertive honesty, empathic listening, and self-empathy skills. When she’s not working towards a Just Peace in community, she’s up to her elbows in garden dirt and paint.
More info HERE