19 June, Safeguarding Sunday, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost

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The Faith Nurture Forum would like to thank Rev Fiona Reynolds, Minister of Monifieth Parish Church and Vice-Convener of the Church of Scotland's Safeguarding Committee and members of the Safeguarding Committee for their thoughts on Safeguarding Sunday, the second Sunday after Pentecost.

Weekly Worship, based on the Revised Common Lectionary, is for everyone – in any capacity – who is involved in creating and leading worship.

It provides liturgical material that can be used for worship in all settings. Our writers are asked to share their approaches to creating and delivering this material to equip leaders with a greater confidence and ability to reflect on their own worship practice and experience and encourage them to consider how this material might be adapted for their own context.

We would encourage continual reflection on the changing patterns of worship and spiritual practice that are emerging from disruption and how this might help identify pathways towards development and worship renewal.

We may not all be gathered in the same building, but at this time, when we need each other so much, we are invited to worship together, from where we are – knowing that God can hear us all and can blend even distant voices into one song of worship.


Everyone is precious to God. Everyone is loved by God. From this basic tenet of our faith, we in the Church of Scotland seek to ensure a safe church for all. The work of the Safeguarding Service is at the heart of this desire, supported by countless volunteers across all Presbyteries and congregations. Safeguarding Sunday is a time to highlight and celebrate this work, thank our volunteers, and encourage everyone involved in life of the church to do their bit to ensure a safe church for all. Congregations are invited to mark Safeguarding Sunday on 19 June 2022, or on another Sunday that suits their liturgical cycle. This resource, and associated links, are offered as one way to plan an entire service around the theme of Safeguarding or to dedicate part of a service to it.

The Safeguarding Committee's work on the RCL readings demonstrate that the principles of safeguarding – love, protection, care – are found throughout scripture, and so can and should be woven into all aspects of our church life together. How each worship leader wishes to approach the theme of Safeguarding Sunday in their own context is up to them, but we hope this offering is helpful in the preparation.

This service is also an opportunity to broaden everyone's understanding of how Safeguarding works in the Church of Scotland: "Safeguarding" is often a word that makes people feel nervous, confused, or worried. This need not be the case! Exploring the subject as a community of faith helps everyone feel included and reassured that the policies, processes and training in place are there to keep everyone safe. To that end, we offer some information and ideas for how that might be included in worship before turning to the scripture readings themselves.

Introducing the topic

You may like to do a quiz with your congregation or have a "Did You Know?" slot, to get them thinking about the subject. Here are some facts you may wish to use:

  • The Church of Scotland Safeguarding Service also provides support to the Boys' Brigade in Scotland, the Girls' Brigade in Scotland and the United Reformed Church (URC) in Scotland
  • Training is provided to everyone who needs it by Presbytery-appointed, volunteer trainers
  • There are over 80 volunteer trainers in the Church of Scotland
  • Each congregation has (at least one) Safeguarding Coordinator, who is supported by a Safeguarding Panel
  • There are over 1,400 congregational Safeguarding Coordinators in the Church of Scotland
  • A congregation's Safeguarding Panel is made up of at least 3 people, including the Safeguarding Coordinator
  • Whilst every congregation has a Safeguarding Coordinator and a Panel, it is the trustees (the Kirk Session) who are legally responsible for all aspects of safeguarding in a congregation
  • Safeguarding is a standing agenda item on all Kirk Session and Presbytery meetings
  • A previous criminal conviction does not automatically bar you from working for, or volunteering in, the Church of Scotland
  • All the information and forms that a congregation might need can be found on the Safeguarding Service section of the website
  • Safeguarding is not just about child protection. It is about ensuring all members of the church (and community) are safe from all forms of harm: physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, financial, and spiritual
  • Spiritual abuse can be committed by those in positions of power within any religion or denomination
  • Spiritual abuse can also be committed by others, e.g. family and friends, through using religious texts, beliefs and practices to exert control and influence
  • 1 in 3 women will experience domestic abuse or sexual violence in their lifetime
  • Where gender information was recorded, around four-in-five (82%) incidents of domestic abuse in 2019-20 involved a female victim and a male accused. This was the same as in 2018-19
  • On 9 March 2018 the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act criminalised "controlling and coercive behaviour"
  • In 2020, across the UK, 86% of 8-11 year olds and 97% of 12-15 year olds owned a smartphone or tablet
  • The fastest growing category of child abuse in the UK is "self-generated child sexual abuse" (where a child is encouraged to live stream themselves carrying out sexual acts)

You may wish to explore what it means to be "safe". If you have come across CrossReach's Calamari Shanarri before, you may wish to share this to help the congregation think through this concept. Is there is difference between being safe and feeling safe? How does it fit in with the other things we need to grow and flourish in life?

National context

What do we mean by Safeguarding in the Church of Scotland? In a narrow sense, it is about protecting children and adults at risk in, or known to, Church congregations. But good safeguarding is so much more than that. Together, we can enable every church and every member to play their part in:

  • Creating and maintaining a safe environment for all so that the dignity of each person is respected
  • Being informed about different forms of harm and abuse and how to respond appropriately
  • Making it clear that any harm or abuse is unacceptable

The Safeguarding Committee, its sub-committees, and the Safeguarding Service work hard to ensure that the narrow sense of Safeguarding is met across the whole of the Church of Scotland, including CrossReach. We have a short video which outlines this.

Local context

Does everyone in your congregation know who your Safeguarding Coordinator(s) is? It might be useful to highlight where your posters are displayed but, even better, introduce the person to the congregation! If your Coordinator is comfortable doing so, perhaps have a Q&A or conversation with them about their role and why they think Safeguarding is important for the church. This is also the congregation's opportunity to acknowledge all the work they do (so much unseen) on their behalf, and to thank them appropriately. Remember to thank your Safeguarding Panel as well.

Where in your congregation is safeguarding most important? Where do you engage with the most vulnerable in your community? Some examples might include: toddler groups, youth club, BB/GB, dementia support, groups for those with Additional Support Needs (ASN), etc. Highlight their work and ministry.

One of the biggest concerns people face is what to do if they see harm occurring, suspect harm may be occurring, or if someone tells them about harm. This is a good time to remind everyone of the key message that:

  • If you have any concerns, speak to the Safeguarding Coordinator
  • If you are worried that someone is at immediate risk: call the police, then get in touch with Safeguarding Coordinator

Safeguarding Sunday Pledge

This may feel appropriate in your context, either for the whole congregation or for the Kirk Session

  • We will work together to ensure a safe church for all
  • We will pray for our Safeguarding Coordinator(s) and all those working with children and vulnerable adults
  • We will respect the processes and boundaries that are in place to protect everyone
  • We will support people in our church who have been hurt or abused

1 Kings 19:1-15a

The Lectionary suggests missing out verses 5-7, but it makes much more sense to keep them in. This part of prophet Elijah's story is all of a piece: from the threats made by Jezebel, to Elijah's despairing thoughts, through to his encounter with God on mount Horeb. This whole section marks the turning point from Elijah's prophetic ministry to the appointment of his successor, Elisha.

Elijah has just proven that it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who is the one true God, who has humiliated and killed the false prophets of Baal. Now Israel's three-year-long drought has been broken and the rains have come. But, when King Ahab tells his wife, Jezebel, she promises to have Elijah killed within 24 hours. Elijah is understandably afraid, and so he flees into Judah with his servant, before heading into the wilderness by himself. It is there that he begs God to let him die. In many ways, it is an extraordinary moment. Elijah has just accomplished something astonishing and yet, he feels as though he cannot take it anymore. The help he receives from an angel gives him enough strength and motivation to journey on to mount Horeb (note that ‘forty days and forty nights' is not literal but means ‘a really long time', a bit like our phrase, ‘a month of Sundays'). It is there that God asks Elijah the same question twice, and Elijah gives an identical answer each time. Not a mountain-splitting wind, nor an earthquake, nor a fire, nor sheer silence can change Elijah's mind. So God sends Elijah on his way.

There is a powerful reminder in this story about the sheer humanity of even God's greatest prophets. Elijah needs food, water, rest and someone to care for him, even as (or perhaps because) he vanquishes those against God. We are people of creation. All of us. We each need certain things to survive and even more to thrive. Running away from Jezebel kept Elijah ‘safe' in the very immediate sense of the word. But then he wanted what she was promising anyway! It was love, care and the meeting of basic needs that helped Elijah take the next step. Moreover, even God understands that sometimes "just praying harder" and "having more faith" is not enough. Elijah met with the full force of God on mount Horeb, yet life was still as tough as it always was. Let this be a warning to all of us, not to deploy glib statements about how things will be better; instead, may we meet the very real and human needs of each person in distress, hurting, facing abuse or neglect. Let us offer refuge, a listening ear, understanding, nourishment – for body and mind, as well as soul.

Psalms 42 and 43

It is not usual to have two psalms suggested as part of the readings, but this selection reflects the belief amongst many that this was originally one psalm. There is a continuity of theme and a repetition of a refrain at 42:5, 42:11, and 43:5. Now, whilst this is all very interesting, and could be a source of discussion and debate around how the Bible was brought together and presented, you would need a good reason to make this the central theme of your worship. But you could be creative with this psalm, using the repeated refrain as a call and response, during prayer or even the sermon.

Verses 42:9-10 are interesting to reflect upon as part of Safeguarding Sunday. Who are the people who might oppress us or others? Whose side should the Church be on, if on any side? What are the wounds carried by those who have faced harm or abuse? Are there ways we can bind them up tenderly without causing more pain? What is the role of spiritual abuse in different settings? How might abusers use someone's faith to mock them and magnify their pain?

These passages, whether they be one psalm or two, are a powerful reminder that faith in God is not a fix-all. It is not just people ‘out there' in the wider world who faced harm or abuse, it is also people within our church and congregations. Having in place policies and procedures, and knowing what to do to prevent harm/abuse – and indeed how to respond well when it is revealed – is part of our faithful response to God … the God who is always at the side of the oppressed.

Galatians 3:23-29

Verse 28 from our reading from Galatians is the high point of Paul's letter. He wants to shout his message from the rooftops; the message that we are all "children of God through faith." There are no longer distinctions between differing groups, male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, as we are all "one in Jesus Christ." All gaps in commonality can be filled by the power of Christ to reconcile. There are no differences which cannot be overcome by the reconciling love of Christ.

The problem is that most of us like to compartmentalise people and stick to what we know. It is so much easier to be associated with people who think like us, dress like us, speak like us and worship like us. It is when we compartmentalise people that others can feel side-lined, left out, vulnerable and even perhaps victimised. It is proven that the more someone is seen as vulnerable, the more likely they are to be abused in some way. Paul is exhorting us to leave this mindset and venture out. The differences can be smoothed over by the overwhelming power of Christ to reconcile all things.

A foundation of our faith is that everyone is precious to God, and everyone is loved by God. The work of the Safeguarding Service is to ensure that the Church is a safe place to be for all where we all work together to ensure that all are safe.

Luke 8:26-39

After crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat and calming the storm en route, Jesus and the disciples arrive in the Gentile land of the Gerasenes. There they meet a vulnerable man – demon possessed, naked, cast out from the town, living alone among the tombs. He doesn't ask for help or healing, rather, Jesus unprompted commands the evil spirit to leave the man. The evil spirit objects, recognising Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, and asks Jesus to leave it alone. And it admits it is not one spirit but many, a legion.

Whatever we think of demons, they were intensely real to this man and the people of Gerasa. This man was suffering from violent mental illness, he was too dangerous to be among people, he could break free of all the restraints they placed on him. People were terrified of him, but Jesus faced him calmly. Who are the people we are scared of? Who do we choose not to associate with because of our fear?

When Jesus cast out the demons into the pigs, the man sees visible evidence that he is freed. He regains his right mind, he dresses in clothes, and he sits calmly at Jesus' feet – adopting the posture of a disciple. When Jesus freed the man from the spirits that possessed him, he also freed the people from the threat the man had posed to them. But they still weren't happy.

Why do we find it difficult to believe in the possibility of change and redemption? One of our less pleasant human attitudes is the willingness to continue to condemn people because of what has happened previously. To keep them locked up in our perceptions of the past. Think of the difficulty convicted prisoners have on release from prison to convince people that they have changed.

This story is not just a healing miracle; Jesus comes with cosmic power. He has just calmed the powers of nature, calming the wind and the raging waves; here He casts out the demons, the powers of evil. Jesus comes to challenge and cast out every power that prevents people living fully and freely. This challenges us to think of the powers that destroy a human life today. Think of those enslaved by addictions. Think of those who are haunted by the past, tortured by their memories – survivors of abuse, sexual, physical, and emotional – the abuse continues in the mind long after the physical act has ceased.

The people of the neighbourhood do not celebrate when the man is restored to full health; their fear continues to hold them captive. Jesus sends him back to live among his former neighbours to witness to them of what God has done for him. The man, knowing who has healed him, goes about proclaiming what Jesus has done for him, witnessing to Jesus, the Son of God. Do we?

Sermon ideas

It can be really hard to draw threads together across a number of Bible passages. Add in a theme as well, and it becomes even trickier! Perhaps the thing to remember this week is not to try to do too much in one sermon! Pick one thing – or two maximum – and really follow that through.

One thread could be God's care and presence through all except the Epistle is what draws you in: how might God's care be helpful to us and how might it serve as an example to us?

Another might be one of contrasts between the help that comes from God alone and that which is mediated through others: in what ways are they similar or different?

Finally, there is the constantly occurring truth that God sees, knows and loves everyone, whoever they are, even (and especially) if they are despised and rejected by others. That love, reflected well in the Church, is perhaps the most powerful thing any of us can ever encounter.

If you would like to do something different from the traditional sermon, here are a couple of ideas. Perhaps give those involved in Safeguarding in your congregation (e.g. Coordinator(s), Panel members, those who work with children or undertake pastoral care, etc.) the passages a few weeks before the service. Invite them to spend some time reflecting on the passages, in the same way as you might in sermon preparation, thinking about what stood out for them or, indeed, bits they did not like. Then facilitate a discussion between them, either you and one person or as a group discussion. You need not necessarily reflect on the relationships between the passages and safeguarding, but there is something important about seeing those tasked with safeguarding also doing theological reflection. It is a reminder to us all that we undertake safeguarding in the context of our faith.

Perhaps you could help the congregation to think through their own needs and how they have, or have not, been met. You might use any one (or more) of the passages as a springboard, for all speak to need in some way. This could be done either via a lively discussion or a quiet reflection, but pastoral sensitivity is required both in facilitation and in addressing anything that might arise afterwards.


Call to worship

On this Safeguarding Sunday,
we gather in the presence of God,
who loves each one of us.

We come, those who seem perfect,
those who are at peace.
We come, those who seem tarnished,
those who are discomforted.

We come together
to worship God,
all of us,
all loved,
all called,
all forgiven,
for all our hope is in God.

Adoration and Confession

One way to write prayers that are faithful to the scripture passages is to go through one or more readings and write down the key words therein. Depending on your preference, this could either be as a list or higgledy-piddledy. Then, use these words, in any order, to help write your prayer(s). This is the approach taken when writing this prayer.

God of earthquake, wind, and fire,
God of healing touch and uniting love,
God of our ancestors, neighbours, and grandchildren,
God of deafening silence and quiet harmonies –
We are drawn by Your Spirit
calling out to our own souls,
for You are the source of all life,
the home to which we will return.
In You we find strength and comfort,
safety and courage.
May all that is in us, praise You, O God!

We are crafted in Your divine image: we rejoice;
we fall short of Your perfect love: we lament;
we contribute to the pain of others: we confess;
we fear what we do not understand: we repent.

In our return to You, welcoming God,
we seek Your healing, transforming touch,
knowing You will not withhold it,
not now, not ever: praise be to You, O God!

Prayer of thanksgiving and intercession

Sometimes these prayers are placed together, and sometimes as two separate prayers. When bringing them together, we can give thanks and then intercede; or we can use what we are thankful for to help us pray for others. This prayer is an example of the latter approach. You may also want to include references to particular situations in the news each week and/or a time of silence to enable individuals to offer their own prayers.

Eternal defender and protector of the weak,
we give thanks for Your universal love,
which sees beyond our human labels and divisions,
rejoicing even more in Your preference for the outcast and oppressed.

We give thanks for everyone in the church
who works tirelessly, and often in confidence, to keep others safe;
we pray for all children and vulnerable adults who engage with our mission:
may they know Your love and protection.

We give thanks for the shelter and protection of our homes;
we pray for all people who are homeless, for whatever reason,
including refugees and victims of trafficking:
may they know Your love and protection.

We give thanks for the range and quality of food around us;
we pray for each person who is hungry,
whether they be across the world or on our doorsteps:
may Your love be shown in practical ways.

We give thanks for easy access to clean water;
we pray for all who are parched with thirst,
especially where the decision is dirty water or none:
may Your love be shown in practical ways.

We give thanks for the relative peace and security we enjoy:
we pray for all places of war and violence,
whether the aggressor be in the home or another nation:
may Your peace be known in our time.

We give thanks for all the bits of our life that bring us joy and contentment;
we pray for the broken-hearted, bereaved, and lonely,
and for all who have lost faith or purpose in life:
may Your peace be known in their hearts.

Healing, liberating, transforming God,
in amongst our shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
may we hear Your still whisper in the midst of pain and suffering,
and may we respond with courageous tenderness
to the needs around us,
as we follow the example of Christ Jesus, our teacher and Lord, AMEN.

Prayer of supplication – could be used after making the safeguarding pledge above

Grant us, Lord God, a vision of Your world as Your love would have it:
a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love.

Give us the inspiration and courage to build it, through Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.
Author unknown, although often attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero

Dismissal and blessing

There is a natural and powerful word of dismissal at the end of the Luke reading: why not use it liturgically?

"Return home,
and declare how much God has done for you."
And the blessing of our ever-loving God,
Creator, Christ and Spirit,
rest upon you and all whom you love,
this day and forevermore, AMEN.

Alternative material

Material from last year's Weekly Worship for Safeguarding Sunday (10 October 2021) could be used as an alternative set of readings to explore the theme of Safeguarding. Each passage could be used by itself, or the three could be woven together to explore the breadth of what Safeguarding means through the lens of Scripture.

Genesis 1:26-31: We are all made in the image of God.

Psalm 121: God as the "safe-guarder".

Matthew 25:31-46: Serving the naked, hungry, imprisoned, etc, is serving Christ.

  • CH4 81 – "I to the hills will lift mine eyes" – a well-loved setting of Psalm 121
  • CH4 198 – "Let us build a house where love can dwell "– a sung affirmation of ensuring church is a safe space where all are welcomed.
  • CH4 253 – "Inspired by love and anger" – a powerful song, which calls for justice for each and every person: can we see safeguarding as seeds and fruit of justice?
  • CH4 265 – "Pray for a world where every child" – this could almost be an anthem for safeguarding, praying for an end to abuse of every kind
  • CH4 721 – "We lay our broken world" – this intercessory hymn offers all the pain and hurt in the world to God

Musical suggestions

Our online music resource is on the Church of Scotland website; you can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship. You will also find playlists for this week and liturgical seasons and themes on the Weekly Worship and Inspire Me tabs.

You can find further musical suggestions for this week in a range of styles on the Songs for Sunday blog from Trinity College Glasgow.

  • CH4 32 – "As pants the hart for cooling streams" – a traditional sung version of Psalm 42, which will feel familiar to many congregations in style and tune, even if not know directly
  • CH4 259 – "Beauty for brokenness" – this hymn draws together imagery from across the readings, which expands on what people need to thrive in life, from bread to appropriate employment. It is also reminds us that God is always on the side of the oppressed and vulnerable; when we are otherwise, God is also the source of strength and compassion to be as Christ to others
  • CH4 550 – "As the deer pants for the water" – this hymn starts in Psalm 42 and explores the metaphor of that longing for God, so evident and heartfelt in both Psalm 42 and 43
  • CH4 609 – "Come, living God, when least expected" – directly refers to the 1 Kings reading. Verse 4 highlights the presence of Christ in all our neighbours, young and old, and that is (one) basis for the work of Safeguarding
  • CH4 685 – "For everyone born, a place at the table" – echoes the inclusive nature of God's love, but has some clear messages around safeguarding at the heart of communal faith. Young and old must be equally protected in church. There is also a place for all who have been abused, and an appropriate place for abuser. It can feel a really tough message, but it is at the heart of what the Safeguarding Service is enabling the church to do
  • CH4 716 – "Come and find the quiet centre" – there is something in these lyrics about the stillness and quiet into which Moses ventures to reconnect with God in 1 Kings. There is also an acknowledgement in this hymn that we can all find ourselves in a place of struggle where we seek safety and solace
  • CH4 718 – "We cannot measure how you heal" – healing from any kind of trauma (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) is rarely simple, and the form that healing takes can vary greatly. The powerful words are coupled with a beautiful Scottish folk melody, which would sit very well in the middle of a service, either before or after the sermon
  • CH4 724 – "Christ's is the world" – the Scottish theme continues with this piece, which reflects on the healing needed in our broken world. This time, we are reminded that each and every person alive is made in the divine image and Christ is met whenever we meet another.
  • SGP 111 – "We are one in the Spirit" – this fun, upbeat hymn reflects the unity of the Galatians reading whilst also drawing on Jesus's words in John 13. The language now feels gendered and dated in places, so you may wish to change ‘man' to ‘one'; however, the message of working together, upholding dignity, and demonstrating love should not be lost
  • MP 829 – "For the joys and for the sorrows" – a Graham Kendrick song which reminds us of the deep hope we have in Jesus, no matter what we face in life

Reflecting on our worship practice

Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the way we worship has changed and we need to reflect on the changing or newly established patterns that emerged and continue to emerge as a result of the disruption.

We can facilitate worship for all by exploring imaginative approaches to inclusion, participation and our use of technologies in ways that suit our contexts. This is not an exhaustive list, but some things we could consider are:

  • Framing various parts of the worship service in accessible language to help worshippers understand the character and purpose of each part. This is essential for creating worship for all (intergenerational worship) that reflects your community of faith.
  • Holding spaces for reflection and encouraging prayer to be articulated in verbal and non-verbal ways, individually and in online breakout rooms
  • In online formats the effective use of the chat function and microphone settings encourages active participation in prayer, e.g. saying the Lord's Prayer together unmuted, in a moment of ‘holy chaos'
  • While singing in our congregations is still restricted, we can worship corporately by using antiphonal psalm readings, creeds and participative prayers
  • Using music and the arts as part of the worship encourages the use of imagination in place of sung or spoken words
  • Use of silence, sensory and kinaesthetic practices allow for experience and expression beyond regular audio and visual mediums.

The following questions might help you develop a habit of reflecting on how we create and deliver content and its effectiveness and impact, and then applying what we learn to develop our practice.

  • How inclusive was the worship?
    Could the worship delivery and content be described as worship for all/ intergenerational? Was it sensitive to different "Spiritual Styles"?
  • How was the balance between passive and active participation?
  • How were people empowered to connect with or encounter God?
    What helped this? What hindered this?
  • How cohesive was the worship?
    Did it function well as a whole?
    How effective was each of the individual elements in fulfilling its purpose?
  • How balanced was the worship?
    What themes/topics/doctrines/areas of Christian life were included?
  • How did the worship connect with your context/contemporary issues?
    Was it relevant in the everyday lives of those attending and in the wider parish/ community?
    How well did the worship connect with local and national issues?
    How well did the worship connect with world events/issues?
  • What have I learned that can help me next time I plan and deliver worship?

Up-to-date information for churches around COVID-19 can be found in our COVID-19 (Coronavirus) advice for churches section.

You can listen to samples of every song in the Church Hymnary 4th edition (CH4) and download a selection of recordings for use in worship in our online hymnary.

You can find an introduction to spiritual styles in our worship resources section

You are free to download, project, print and circulate multiple copies of any of this material for use in worship services, bible studies, parish magazines, etc., but reproduction for commercial purposes is not permitted.

Please note that the views expressed in these materials are those of the individual writer and not necessarily the official view of the Church of Scotland, which can be laid down only by the General Assembly.