April 24, 2005

Local churches vow to keep children safe

PORTSMOUTH (NH)
Portsmouth Herald

By Kathleen D. Bailey
kbailey@seacoastonline.com

Vibrant artwork decorated the walls of the offices of South Church in Portsmouth. Music from a pipe organ drifted down from the sanctuary, while outside, on the sidewalk, Portsmouth residents basked in the first spring day. But as Sandra Greenfield, South Church director of religious education, settled in at a conference table, her words about childhood sexual abuse belied the idyllic setting.

Itís not your fatherís Sunday school or your motherís CCD.

Volunteer teachers in todayís religious education programs face challenges their own educators never imagined. Their students are growing up in a world of crime and grime, and in the wake of sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic and other churches.

But local congregations have taken steps to ensure children entrusted to them will not have that trust broken.

Safe, not sorry

Greenfield administers the Safe Congregation program for her Unitarian Universalist church. The church created and implemented its program in May 2000, she said. It includes formal training, background checks, references, and a policy for restoring offenders to fellowship.

Posted by kshaw at April 24, 2005 08:59 AM