Ruminations: Covenant part 3

Covenant—Part 3

You all have done tremendous work this year on crafting a congregational covenant. Whatever we adopt at our annual meeting in a few weeks won’t be a perfect covenant. Instead, it will be a set of promises that invite us to explore deeper spiritual relationship with one another in the year ahead. Then we can consider how we want to adjust or clarify our covenant after we experience living into it for a time.

With that in mind, you observed that we would be best served by a more concise covenant. We also had surfaced a couple of repetitive themes. So, a small group of people has been whittling down and refining over the past month, and here’s where we are thus far.

To begin with, we don’t need to restate our mutual covenant as Unitarian Universalists. Whether we frame these covenantal promises as values or as principles, we make some promises to one another, just by virtue of being a part of UU community. Our congregational covenant doesn’t need to restate those promises.

  • We actively work to nurture wholeness and well-being in the world, each in our own unique way, and we graciously invite one another toward deeper engagement in that work.

When we read this statement, it seems very similar to some of our principles or values, whether we look to our current principles or the proposed revision to how we frame UU identity.

We also noticed that a couple of our statements are really just about the benefits of a covenant.

  • We recognize that how we treat one another and co-create community in sacred time is a microcosm of what we create in our lives and the world around us.
  • We create here what we envision for the world; all that we do is practice for embodying our life-affirming values.

We can hold both of these statements as true. But are they behaviors that we can commit to? Or pieces of awareness that suggest why how we treat one another matters?

There was another statement that we found difficult to call a behavior:

  • We honor our history, understanding that where we are today is a result of what has gone before, and that we will carry the past into the future we co-create.

This can be an aspiration of our community, but we were hard pressed to identify how we would hold one another compassionately accountable to this promise.

While these four statements are important, they are either restatements of promises we’ve already expressed, or they aren’t behaviors to which we can reasonably commit ourselves. So, that leaves us with a manageable number of promises, with the addition of one thing that was missing from our earlier conversations: a way to repair things when we experience some kind of rupture in our covenantal relationships.

Our covenant might look something like this:

Building on our love for one another and our shared Unitarian Universalist principles (values?), we covenant to:

listen to one another with curiosity and wonder, fearlessly creating space for disagreement;

speak for ourselves, trusting that we do not need to defend ourselves or persuade each other;

care about one another and offer empathy, kindness, and support;

intentionally seek to know one another deeply over time, understanding that our bonds strengthen as we consistently gather together;

reconcile through forgiving and making amends when we hurt one another.

Or maybe we would frame our covenant as:

o   We Practice mindful reflection and sacred gathering, carrying into the world a living demonstration of our shared life affirming values.

o   We Connect with each other intentionally, deepening our bonds over time by listening deeply and relating with empathy and care.

o   We Cultivate openness with each other by celebrating our differences and learning together with curiosity, wonder, and trust. 

o   We Create safe and brave space for respectful disagreement and dissent by recognizing and honoring boundaries.

o   We Reconcile through forgiving and making amends when we hurt one another.

For those of you who cannot be with us in person for our final Second Sunday Conversation before this year’s Annual Meeting, I invite you to share your thoughts or questions via email at or by calling (216) 245-8373.