Safe Sanctuaries trainings begin across districts

In an effort to enable local churches to better understand and live out their Safe Sanctuaries policies, a series of training sessions is planned across the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church in coming weeks.

Each district will host “Safe Sanctuaries Best Practices,” an opportunity for local churches to have their policies evaluated to ensure they align with our commitment to make United Methodist congregations safe places to live out God’s call.

Recommended attendees for district trainings are pastors (who will receive Clergy Services credit), trustees, Staff-Parish Relations Committee members, children and youth coordinators, church council chairpersons and lay leaders.

Training sessions are scheduled beginning in April in nine districts and will soon be scheduled in more. Each district will share a flyer with details and a registration link. For the latest district training schedule, go to

Once district training is completed, specially trained Safe Sanctuaries experts will be available to come to a church to help train all persons who work with children, youth and vulnerable adults, as well as church council, staff-parish, trustees and other members.

“The more people trained, the better we can live out that commitment consistently,” said the Rev. Cathy Joens, a congregational specialist and Safe Sanctuaries coordinator for the conference. “Our goal is to have all of our churches’ policies evaluated and their staff and volunteers trained by April 2024.

“We pray that each church will find this helpful and supportive to their ministry. Together, we can all learn the most effective ways to ensure that our sanctuaries, classrooms, mission encounters, camps and retreats—all spaces where we gather to worship and serve God—are places of trust.”

Since 2007, churches in the South Carolina Conference have sought to provide and implement Safe Sanctuaries practices. The conference has continued to grow in its dedication to making United Methodist congregations safe places to live out God’s call.

As part of the Boy Scouts of America’s court-approved bankruptcy plan, The United Methodist Church has committed to a review of Safe Sanctuaries policies in all United Methodist congregations and annual conferences. The South Carolina Conference already has assessed and revised the conference Safe Sanctuaries policy to ensure that the conference is doing everything possible to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults entrusted to the care of its ministries.

“As our next step, we have been diligently recruiting Safe Sanctuaries leaders to serve as point persons for each district,” Joens said. “We have trained many persons to go into the churches and train specifically to each church’s policy.”

District Safe Sanctuaries Leaders are:

• Anderson District: Rev. Deana Gentry, [email protected]

• Charleston District: Rolland Fitch, [email protected]

• Columbia District: Rev. Laurie Brandes, [email protected]

• Florence District: Rev. Katherine Crimm, [email protected]

• Greenville District: Rev. Weston Pendergrass, [email protected]

• Greenwood District: Martha Alewine, [email protected]

• Hartsville District: Connie Graham, [email protected]

• Marion District: Cora H. David, [email protected]

• Orangeburg District: Rev. Lisa Hawkins, [email protected]

• Rock Hill District: Juliette Philpot, [email protected]

• Spartanburg District: Rev. Maggie Cantey, [email protected]

• Walterboro District: Rev. Lisa Way, [email protected]

“We are so grateful for the overwhelming commitment of each of our district leaders and local church trainers,” Joens said. “It has been such a gift of teamwork—all about intentional ministry and looking out for one another. In other words: Loving and caring for one another.”

Scheduled district trainings are as follows:

April 15

Orangeburg District, 2-5 p.m., St. Andrew’s UMC, Orangeburg

April 23

Charleston District, 2-5 p.m., Zoom conference call

Greenwood District, 3 p.m., Zoom conference call; registration link for Greenwood is

April 30

Greenville District, 2-5 p.m., St. Matthew UMC, Greenville

May 6

Rock Hill District, 9 a.m.-noon, location to be determined

May 7

Columbia District, 2-5 p.m., Lexington UMC, Lexington

May 13

Walterboro District, 9 a.m.-noon location to be determined

May 20

Charleston District, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. via Zoom conference call

May 21

Spartanburg District, 2-5 p.m., Silver Hill UMC, Spartanburg

Aug. 20

Anderson District, 2-5 p.m., First UMC, Easley

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