Angli­can church shows sup­port for Safe Places ini­tia­tive

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Swift Current - BY MATTHEW LIEBEN­BERG mlieben­berg@prairiepos­

The St. Stephen's Angli­can Church is the first con­gre­ga­tion in Swift Cur­rent to be­come an of­fi­cial sup­porter of the Safe Places – Youth Cer­ti­fied ini­tia­tive in the city.

The church achieved this des­ig­na­tion as an in­sti­tu­tional sup­porter of Safe Places after at least 80 per cent of the con­gre­ga­tion's lead­er­ship com­pleted their Safe Places cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The church cel­e­brated this achieve­ment on Nov. 18, when the wor­ship ser­vice had a spe­cial fo­cus on men­tal and phys­i­cal well-be­ing. Rev. Chris Dowdeswell in­tro­duced Kelly Schafer, the City of Swift Cur­rent's man­ager of the Safe Places ini­tia­tive, dur­ing the ser­vice. She spoke to the con­gre­ga­tion after the ser­vice dur­ing the cof­fee hour.

“We're very ex­cited to be­come an in­sti­tu­tional sup­porter of Safe Places,” Rev. Dowdeswell told the Prairie Post af­ter­wards. “It's some­thing we've been work­ing to­wards for a long time. It's not al­ways easy to get a large group of peo­ple to go through a train­ing pro­gram that in­volves a num­ber of steps and so it's a lit­tle bit com­pli­cated. Also, we have a num­ber of peo­ple that are in lead­er­ship that are from out­side the city and so it's a lit­tle bit more com­pli­cated when you have to go to two dif­fer­ent RCMP de­tach­ments to go through the process of be­com­ing Safe Places cer­ti­fied.”

The City of Swift Cur­rent launched the Safe Places ini­tia­tive in early 2016 to re­duce the risk of abuse and bul­ly­ing for chil­dren and youth in the com­mu­nity.

The ini­tia­tive pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for those who are lead­ing ac­tiv­i­ties or who come into con­tact with chil­dren to be­come youth cer­ti­fied through a four-step process. A per­son is re­quired to com­plete the Re­spect in Sport Ac­tiv­ity Leader on­line train­ing, and to do crim­i­nal record and vul­ner­a­ble sec­tor checks at the RCMP de­tach­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Schafer about 1,600 peo­ple in the com­mu­nity have be­come Safe Places cer­ti­fied since the launch of the ini­tia­tive in Swift Cur­rent.

“I think it's im­por­tant to have as many peo­ple in­volved in the pro­gram as we can,” she said. “It is sig­nif­i­cant to have churches in­volved be­cause they see a dif­fer­ent group of peo­ple within the com­mu­nity ... and the church pro­vides a plat­form to have dis­cus­sion on dif­fi­cult top­ics that we may oth­er­wise not be able to do.”

Safe Places does not al­low any or­ga­ni­za­tion to claim that it is Safe Places cer­ti­fied. Only in­di­vid­u­als can be­come cer­ti­fied and re­ceive their cards after com­plet­ing the four-step process.

Safe Places still wants to pro­vide or­ga­ni­za­tions with an op­por­tu­nity to show their com­mit­ment to the pro­gram, and for that rea­son the Proud to Sup­port Safe Places brand was de­vel­oped. Or­ga­ni­za­tions that re­ceive this des­ig­na­tion can use it to high­light and pub­li­cize their sup­port for Safe Places.

“The more peo­ple that we can show Safe Place is rel­e­vant to, the bet­ter,” she said. “We just want to raise aware­ness about bul­ly­ing, abuse and ha­rass­ment within our com­mu­nity, and show that we're do­ing all that we can to make it a safe place.”

The 80 per cent re­quire­ment for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of staff and lead­er­ship will in­di­cate a suf­fi­cient level of sup­port and un­der­stand­ing of Safe Places within an or­ga­ni­za­tion to al­low it to re­ceive the Proud to Sup­port Safe Places des­ig­na­tion.

Rev. Dowdeswell noted that 33 in­di­vid­u­als, which rep­re­sent about 95 per cent of the lead­er­ship group in St. Stephen's Angli­can Church, have al­ready com­pleted the process to re­ceive their Safe Places cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. This group con­sist of staff, board mem­bers (known as the vestry), Sun­day school teach­ers, as well as lay eu­charis­tic vis­i­tors who carry out visits to sick parish­ioners.

“I'm very proud of that,” he said about this cer­ti­fi­ca­tion level. “It's enough to start shift­ing the cul­ture in a group and that's I think part of the vi­sion of Safe Places in Swift Cur­rent to get as many peo­ple trained and ex­posed to the train­ing that we have more and more peo­ple just aware of what is bul­ly­ing, what is ha­rass­ment, what is abuse.”

Safe Place cer­ti­fi­ca­tion was cre­ated for in­di­vid­u­als who come into con­tact with youth, but he felt it has broader rel­e­vance and any­one can ben­e­fit from the train­ing.

“The skills that you learn are very trans­fer­able, not only for youth but to any vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tion,” he said. “Abuse, ha­rass­ment and bul­ly­ing are uni­ver­sal un­for­tu­nately, but the ben­e­fit of the train­ing is that it's widely ap­pli­ca­ble to all of these min­istries of the church and so we've got­ten all those dif­fer­ent groups cer­ti­fied.”

He viewed it as part of the duty of the con­gre­ga­tion to show sup­port for the Safe Places ini­tia­tive in Swift Cur­rent.

“It's at the heart of our faith, our Chris­tian faith specif­i­cally, that we are called to love God and to love other peo­ple,” he said. “All of the the law and the prophets are summed up in that. So ev­ery­thing that's come be­fore is wrapped up in that and those two things are in­sep­a­ra­ble. To love God in­cludes lov­ing other peo­ple. We can't de­ceive our­selves into think­ing we're lov­ing God if we're not lov­ing peo­ple.”

He added that there is also a scrip­tural man­date in the Book of Jeremiah to seek the wel­fare of the city in which you live.

“God send this prophet to tell his peo­ple to seek the wel­fare of the city in it be­ing blessed you shall be blessed,” he ex­plained. “So I think part of our call­ing as Chris­tians and part of our call­ing as a church is to seek the wel­fare of the city.”

Photo by Matthew Lieben­berg

Safe Places Man­ager Kelly Schafer speaks about the ini­tia­tive at the St. Stephen's Angli­can Church, Nov. 18. Stand­ing next to her is Rev. Chris Dowdeswell.

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