Safe Congregation Policy

First Parish in Bedford
75 The Great Road
Bedford, MA 01730


Developing the Safe Congregation Policy
Safe Congregation Response Team
Staff Protocols
Criminal Background Checks
Child and Youth Safety
Alcohol Policy Statement 
Site Safety Statement 
List of Related Documents
First Parish in Bedford Safe Congregation Code of Ethics
Youth Event Code of Conduct
First Parish in Bedford Alcohol Policy
Emergency Evacuation Plan Guideline 


The members and friends of First Parish in Bedford are a caring, intergenerational community. Our Unitarian Universalist principles include the inherent worth and dignity of every person and a commitment to justice and compassion. We strive to create an environment that is welcoming and safe, promotes spiritual growth and supports us as we move toward human wholeness. Congregational safety is the responsibility of the entire church community.  We all have rights and responsibilities, including self-respect and the respect and support of others, even those we don’t necessarily agree with.

We believe that harassment and abuse are not the fault of the victim. Anyone who has been harassed or abused needs support, empowerment, and a structure that provides an effective, safe and prompt response to his or her complaint.   We understand that harassment and abuse may not be intentional, but may happen because of miscommunication or lack of awareness.

We recognize that a church community is vulnerable to the ills that affect society, including injurious behavior. No policy or set of policies will guarantee safety. By adopting a Safe Congregation Policy we set a behavioral standard for staff, members, friends and visitors to our building and activities.

Developing the Safe Congregation Policy

By charge of the Board, the Safe Congregation Policy was developed with the help of staff, the Leadership Team and volunteers from the First Parish community (the Safe Congregation Task Force). It is the responsibility of the ministers, the Leadership Team, the Director of Religious Education, members of the Safe Congregation Response Team, and the Board to promote congregational awareness about this policy and the issues that the policy addresses;  to insure that the policy is widely disseminated and discussed;  and to inform church members, attendees and those new to First Parish of safety educational resources.

Safe Congregation Response Team

The Safe Congregation Response Team is tasked with dealing with problems, issues, and complaints of noncompliance with the Safe Congregation Policy.  Following adoption of the Safe Congregation Policy, the Board (working with the Nominating Committee) will form the Safe Congregation Response Team by selecting  three to five  adults from the First Parish community, plus a minister and/or the DRE.  Each member of the team will serve a term of three to five years.  It is the responsibility of the Board working with the Nominating Committee to insure that the Safe Congregation Response Team is an ongoing group with  three to five  adult members.   If there is a complaint or concern involving a member of the Safe Congregation Response Team (staff or non-staff), that person will step down from the Safe Congregation Response Team until the complaint or concern is resolved.   Resolution of the complaint or concern may include  permanently barring  that the person from serving on the Safe Congregation Response Team.The Safe Congregation Response Team will hold in confidence all problems, issues, complaints, and outcomes, unless it is deemed necessary and important that the larger First Parish community should be informed.  The Safe Congregation Response Team will work with the First Parish staff as needed, and make sure the staff is kept informed of outcomes. While the church cannot guarantee absolute confidentiality, the church will make every reasonable effort to maintain confidentiality by disclosing the identity of the individuals involved only on a “need-to-know” basis and as necessary to investigate and resolve the complaint.

The Safe Congregation Response Team is charged with documenting accurate and timely records while approaching a problem and resolution. Additionally, it is recommended that ALL parties involved in a dispute keep their own documentation.The Safe Congregation Response Team is charged with communicating with the First Parish community regarding ongoing dissemination of the Safe Congregation Policy so as to inform newcomers and remind the First Parish community of the policy. This can be done through an annual article in the Parishioner and electronic announcement list. General communication about the Safe Congregation Policy should include the Code of Ethics.   Members of the Safe Congregation Response Team will read the Code of Ethics (see Related Documents) and will have a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI)  check done at the start of their terms.  CORI for this group will be processed by the church administrator and kept in a locked file. The Safe Congregation Response Team meets on an as needed basis and, in this role, is not part of the Parish Council.

The names and contact information for members of the Safe Congregation Response Team will be published annually in September in the Parishioner and on the online announcement (anno) list. If appropriate, the Safe Congregation Response Team may offer referrals for professional services. The Safe Congregation Response Team can and should solicit council from the minister(s) unless the complaint or questionable behavior directly involves the minister(s).

Press and Publicity: Should the suspected abuse or other incident become public, the Minister will be the sole voice for First Parish in Bedford regarding the press and other publicity.    If the Minister is the accused, the public voice is that of the President of the Board or the president’s designate.   The Minister, Board President, or designate will seek the help of the Communications Office of the denominational headquarters for advice and training on speaking with the press.

It is the responsibility of the entire church community to recognize that  members of the Safe Congregation Response Team may be tasked with addressing challenging problems that are often loaded with intense emotionality. The Safe Congregation Response Team will need your support, understanding, and care.


Staff Protocols

The Senior Minister is responsible for insuring that all paid staff members are familiar with the Safe Congregation Policy and review it annually. Ministers and the DRE are mandated reporters and must report suspected child abuse to the police or Department of Children and Families – failure to do so is a crime.

Staff is also expected to follow professional codes of conduct, whether or not the staff member belongs to their UU professional organization. The Unitarian Universalist professional associations of ministers, religious educators and music professionals articulate comprehensive ethical standards and codes of conduct. These standards address the expectation that members will always uphold their moral and legal responsibilities and never exploit their positions of authority for personal gain. Further, members are expected to avoid objectionable behaviors which include  sexualized behavior with any child, adolescent, or vulnerable adult seeking advice or comfort; sexualized behavior with any adult who is in another committed relationship; and sexualized behavior with interns or youth advisors. More detailed information about these standards may be found in the following professional documents:

UUMA (Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association) Guidelines for the Conduct of Ministry: . These standards cover called, hired and intern ministers.
LREDA (Liberal Religious Educators Association) Code of Professional Practices: The Director of Religious Education and the hired RE Assistant are held to these standards.
UUMN (Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network) Code of Professional Practices: The Directors of Music and the Choir, Youth Choir, and KidSing are covered by these standards.

Criminal Background Checks

Criminal background checks may include Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI), National Criminal Background, National Sex Offender Public Registry and Massachusetts Sexual Offender Board.Criminal background checks are made for staff, Safe Congregation Response Team members, and volunteers working with children, youth, and teenagers. The checks are performed to ensure that people do not have a history of inappropriate behavior for the position they are to hold. National and Massachusetts criminal background checks will be performed for all paid staff prior to their date of hire. These checks are also performed for non-staff members of the Safe Congregation Response Team before they are appointed to the team. Paid staff will have the checks repeated every three years.

Criminal background checks are performed for all OWL and COA leaders, Youth Group Advisors, and any adults working with students outside of regular morning sessions. The checks will be performed every three years for active volunteers. Criminal background checks are also performed for other volunteers working with children, youth and teenagers on a random or selective confidential basis.The senior minister or his/her designate performs the checks for staff and members of the Safe Congregation Response Team, with the exception that the Parish Board Chair performs the checks for the Senior Minister. The Director of Religious Education or his/her designate performs the checks for other RE staff and volunteers.

All who are to have criminal background checks made (including staff, church members, and others), must be notified in advance and give written permission for the checks to be performed. Failure to give permission will mean the retraction of a job offer or termination in the case of paid staff. For church members it means not being allowed to serve on the SCR Team. The DRE and the SCR Team together will determine if someone is ineligible for a volunteer position working with children and youth. The results from the all National Criminal Background and CORI checks must be kept in a secure location. They will not be made available to members of the congregation.

Child and Youth Safety

First Parish in Bedford is committed to creating a safe and healthy environment in which young people can learn about and experience the love and values inherent in our seven UU Principles.


Standards of Conduct
It is the policy of FPB that all volunteers and paid leaders must follow the guidelines below when working with minors.

A.  Paid or volunteer adults shall not touch or interact with children or youth in any way that is sexually stimulating, emotionally demeaning or exploitative. Common expressions of affection and affirmation (hugs and pats  on the back) or physical care (diaper changes or first aid) are appropriate.

B.  Paid and volunteer adults and youth working with children and youth are also tasked with guarding the physical and emotional safety of those in their care and to be aware of sig ns indicating neglect of the child’s well-being.

RE Classes and Programs

A. Sunday morning classes or educational programming
1.  General guidelines
1.1. Parents are responsible for their children before and after the Sunday morning program.
1.2. Parents are responsible for picking up their children (in grades 3 and under) promptly at the end of the RE program.
1.3. The DRE or designate will do a walkthrough of RE spaces to check in on the Sunday morning activities.
1.4. All classrooms must have internal windows.

2.  Sunday Morning Teams

At least two teachers or RE activity leaders must be present in each classroom during the RE program on Sundays. At least one of the adults should have been an active participant at FPB for at least one year or six months if they have had previous  teaching experience in a UU setting. Parents may serve as classroom aides and/or visit classes at any time.  All teachers and activity leaders will:

2.1.  Be subject to the approval of the RE Committee.
2.2.  Record attendance at the start of each class.
2.3.  Be familiar with the FPB’s Emergency Evacuation Plan.
2.4.  Implement the RE Program’s First Principle Policy if a child is having difficulty in the classroom.
2.5.  Be familiar with the RE’s First Aid Policy

B. Field Trips

1.  At a minimum, 2 adults are required per car for children  in grade 5 and under. No child will ride alone with an unrelated adult.
2.  Youth and parents will sign a Youth Code of Conduct.
3.  A signed permission slip is required. It is the responsibility of the DRE to supply medical and contact information, which is maintained in the RE office, to the chaperones.
4.   Chaperones must have first aid kits available.

C. Sleepovers

1.  There will be a ratio of one adult per every five youth with a minimum of two adults present  in the same room as youth during sleeping hours.
2.  Chaperones will be screened as required by this policy.
3.  Adult supervisors will maintain a list of attendees.
4.  All external doors will be locked as soon as possible after all participants have arrived.
5.  Youth are required to stay in the building during sleeping hours.
6.  Youth and parents will sign a Youth Code of Conduct.

Other Church-Sponsored Activities Involving Children and Youth

1.  Supervision  –  All First Parish in Bedford-sponsored children and youth activities require a minimum of two adults.  At other church-sponsored activities involving both adults and children, parent/guardians are ultimately responsible for the oversight of their children.
2.  Transportation – Unless transportation is organized by the event leader, parents are responsible for arranging transportation for their children.   First Parish in Bedford-sponsored transportation for children and youth requires a minimum of two adults per vehicle.   Caravanning of vehicles is encouraged; however it the responsibility of all drivers to know their destination  and how to get there.
3.  Forms  –  Event organizers may require youth and parents to sign a Youth Code of Conduct, a medical release form, and/or other permission slips.
4.  Alcohol  –  All participants in church sponsored events involving children and youth are responsible for following the alcohol policy.

Alcohol Policy Statement

First Parish of Bedford will have an Alcohol Policy in place that will be readily available to members, friends, visitors, and renters.

Site Safety  Statement

An Emergency Evacuation Plan will be in place at First Parish in Bedford. The Leadership Team will schedule a minimum of two emergency evacuation drills during a calendar year: one to take place on a Sunday morning between October and May. An evacuation floor plan will be visible  in all meeting rooms, classrooms, kitchens, and hallways.

List of Related Documents

Safe Congregation Code of Ethics
All staff, event leaders, religion educators and music professionals should be familiar with all aspects of the  Safe Congregation Code of Ethics. The Safe Congregation Code of Ethics is used to communicate behavioral expectations and may be shared widely.

Youth Code of Conduct
The Youth Code of Conduct template may be modified for non RE-sponsored events that include children and youth.  It is included here to provide guidelines regarding behavioral expectations.

Alcohol Policy
All leaders of  First Parish in Bedford  events where alcohol is served must be familiar with the alcohol policy. Leaders of events who use FPB facilities (renters) must be familiar with the policy.


Emergency Evacuation Plan Outline
An Emergency Evacuation Plan  is required  for the safety of people using our church.  Easy-to-follow evacuation  instructions and/or exit floor plans  will be  posted in key locations to guide  people from the building should it be necessary.

First Parish in Bedford Safe Congregation Code of Ethics

Every Sunday during the service we join together to say our Unison Affirmation:

“Love is the spirit of this church
And service is its law.
This is our great covenant:
To dwell together in peace,
To seek the truth in love,
And to help one another.”

We come together for worship, community, learning, and fun. We are a group of individuals with diverse opinions, backgrounds, and manners. Yet, as part of the First Parish in Bedford community, we are called to behave well towards one another, to care for and protect one another as much as we are able.

To both adult and youth: leaders, volunteers, teachers, paid and unpaid staff, event coordinators, and event participants (as needed).
I have read and understand the First Parish in Bedford Safe Congregation Policy.
I am committed to following the requirements and recommendations of the Safe Congregation Policy.
I have read and will comply with the First Parish in Bedford Alcohol Policy.
I will be an observer of and advocate for children and youth at First Parish in Bedford, and commit to their safety at all times at First Parish in Bedford activities, even those that occur away from the First Parish in Bedford building and grounds.
If I am the leader of an event, committee, class, or other one-time or ongoing occurrence, that has specific procedures associated with it, I will communicate such procedures to volunteers, other helpers, and participants, as needed.
If I am the leader of an event, committee, class, or other one-time or ongoing occurrence, I may choose to have all participants read this Code of Ethics.
I am familiar with the First Parish in Bedford Emergency Evacuation Plan.
I will treat others with respect and courtesy, even during times of disagreement.

Youth Event Code of Conduct

I am attending (*NAME OF EVENT)
I understand this event is coordinated by (*NAMES OF ADULT RESPONSIBLE)
I understand my behavior will affect the youth communities of First Parish in Bedford (and any other congregations, organizations, etc.).
While attending this event:
I will act in ways that encourage the well-being, safety, and best interests of everyone attending this event.
I will follow all federal, state, and local laws.
I will stay on the premises during the entire event (*unless stated below by parent).
I will work out a system of communication with the coordinators and chaperones during the event.
I understand that I am encouraged to express myself in healthy ways and to respect others’ boundaries.
I understand that behavior that breaks down the community, including sexual activity and sexual harassment, is inappropriate and therefore not permitted in this setting.
I will not consume any alcohol or illegal drugs.
I understand that coordinators, youth advisors and chaperones have also agreed to refrain from any use of alcohol or illegal drugs during this event.

I have read and understand the Youth Code of Conduct. I agree to abide by these guidelines for the duration of the event. I understand that if I break this agreement, my parents/guardians will be contacted and that I may be prohibited from attending any future events sponsored by First Parish in Bedford.

_______________________________________________________ ________________
YOUTH SIGNATURE              Date


I have read and discussed this Youth Code of Conduct with my child who has agreed to abide by these guidelines for the duration of the event. I understand that if my child breaks this agreement, I will be contacted and may be prohibited from attending any future events sponsored by First Parish in Bedford.

_______________________________________________________ ________________

*My child will need to: circle one or both

ARRIVE LATE LEAVE EARLY      due to _________________________________

The following transportation arrangements have been made:



First Parish in Bedford Alcohol Policy

1.  All federal, state and Bedford town laws and ordinances must be observed.
2.  Alcohol may not be distributed to minors and people will be asked for a state identification that includes a photograph if  there is any question regarding whether a person is of legal drinking age (21 is the age when one can legally drink alcohol).
3.  No alcohol may be available at any event directed primarily to and for minors.
4.  First Parish encourages non-alcoholic intergenerational events.
5.  Adult supervision of the alcohol table is required.
6.  At any event where alcohol is served, easy-to-locate and ample non-alcoholic beverages will be offered on a table separate from where the alcohol is served.
7.  Food will always be served when alcohol is available.
8.  Alcoholic beverages and food containing alcohol must be clearly labeled and identified.
9.  Alcohol may NOT be sold, on First Parish premises  per the Town of Bedford Policy,  unless a hired licensed bartender is used.
10.  Alcohol will not be served to intoxicated persons and drunkenness will not be tolerated.
11. The serving of alcoholic beverages at events will not be publicized as an attraction.
12.  Off-site First Parish sponsored events will follow this alcohol policy.
13.  Sponsors  and chaperones of events are responsible for ensuring that these policies are strictly enforced.
14.  Renters of First Parish facilities will receive a copy of this policy. The church administrator is responsible for distributing this policy to renters.
15.  Renters of First Parish facilities must inform First Parish of their intent to serve alcohol.

16.  Alcoholic beverages may only be consumed in the room that is being rented. They may not be taken outsdie.

17.  At the end of the event, all alcohol must be taken off the premises or emptied. Locked cabinets only may be used for short-term post event storage of alcohol.
18.  Clergy, staff, and members of the Board are responsible for ensuring these Guidelines are made known and observed.

Emergency Evacuation Plan Guideline:

1.  Provides optimal routes from all spaces in the building with following exceptions:
a.  The steeple
b.  The crawl space under the Sanctuary
2.  Assigns responsibility to leadership and ushers for facilitating the flow of individuals to exits.
3.  Includes  designs for signage and directional indicators to be installed in most spaces with consideration of the need to avoid clutter and garish wall notices.
4.  Specifies  a schedule of fire drills  together with a proposed structure for assuring that problems encountered during such drills can be systematically examined and plan improvements developed.
5.  Provides procedures for assuring the safety of children and their orderly reunion with parents.
6.  Creates  a procedure for informing short-  and long-term renters of the requirements of the evacuation plan as it affects the areas covered by their rental agreements.
7.  Makes  suggestions for ways in which the requirements of the evacuation plan might be inculcated in to the Parish culture with special emphasis on

a.  the avoidance of actions which close off or constrict evacuation routes,
b.  the exceeding of occupancy limits established by the Bedford Department of Inspections and Code Enforcement.

The routes specified assume the occupancy of a typical Sunday during the Church Year. They are designed to minimize collisions of flows of persons seeking to evacuate the Church under such circumstances. They are always the shortest route from a given space the exterior of the building.