— Everyone is invited to participate in the small group sharing circles each second Sunday of the month. From January to May, these Sundays will be hosted by the TRUU Board of Trustees as they (along with some volunteers) facilitate the development of a congregational covenant of right relations. A covenant of right relations is a document that articulates our relationship commitments to each other. Such a covenant expresses the behavioral identity of the congregation, and as such, reflects the character and values of the membership.
In order to accomplish the creation of this covenant, one of TRUU’s governing documents, the board will host 5 Sunday conversations, one on each of the next second-Sundays through May. Here’s where you come in. Each Sunday, a different topic will be addressed. In your sharing circle you will have the opportunity to share your thoughts on the day’s topic, and to hear what others think and feel about it. At the end of each Sunday’s round of sharing, there will be an opportunity for you to submit a thought or reflection to the Board. These will be collected, and at the end of the five months, those shared thoughts will guide the Board in the work of drafting the covenant of right relations. The board invites your participation so that TRUU’s covenant of right relations will reflect the true identity of the congregation.
Unitarian Universalism is a covenantal faith. We have no creed or doctrine to bind us, but our liberal faith calls us into radical inclusion across many forms of diversity. Our embrace of diversity is grounded in our choice to commit ourselves to each other in what has been called a “covenant of mutual loyalty.” Our common belief is that covenant binds us in meaningful community. We may hold many different views and life experiences in one congregation, but we can covenant to hold one another in caring and respectful ways. Our covenant of right relations claims and articulates our caring for each other.
There can be many different covenants in a congregation. There is the congregational covenant we say together during Sunday worship. Committees create covenants to guide their work together. Congregants covenant with each other, and with the world; and congregations covenant with other congregations to provide mutual aid and support. Much like in the poem printed below, “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost, our covenants delineate our values and commitments to each other, showing our neighbors where we are and where we won’t go. Your voice is not only welcome, but also needed in the creation of TRUU’s covenant of right relations.
If you have questions about covenant or this process, any board member would be able to talk with you in more detail. I am also available as a resource. Some FAQs and some readings and links are below.
In gratitude for this good work together,
Amy Rowland, Consulting Minister
Do I have to attend every Sunday in order to participate?
No! Please come any Sunday you are able.
Do I need to prepare in advance for these Sundays?
You may choose to look on the website and weekly newsletter for information and readings that will allow you to start reflecting on the topic ahead of time. This is encouraged, but it is not mandatory. Come as you are, whether or not you’ve read!
Will there be a children’s program?
Yes! Please bring your children. A separate religious education program will run concurrent to the sharing groups.
Why do we need a covenant of right relations?
A covenant of right relations allows us to acknowledge that while we aspire to love everyone, we don’t necessarily love or approve of all behaviors or ways of treating others. This covenant expresses the congregation’s loyalty and commitment to ‘walk together in the ways of love,’ as our congregational forbears taught us over 300 years ago.
What will the curriculum for these Sundays look like?
The first Sunday, January 13th, the topic will be covenant. The sharing time will invite exploration of what it means to be in covenant with each other, to be in a relationship of expressed mutual loyalty. In subsequent Sundays, the topic will be posted on the website and sent out in the newsletter. These topics will be chosen by the congregation in the sharing circles in February.
Readings that reflect on covenant:
“The Five Major Ingredients of Covenant”
James Luther Adams, UU Theologian and Social Ethicist (1901-1994)
1. Human beings, individually and collectively, become human by making commitment, by making promise. The human being as such, as Martin Buber says, is the promise-making, promise-keeping, promise-breaking, promise-renewing creature. The human being is the promise maker, the commitment maker.
2. The covenant is a covenant of being. It is a covenant with the creative, sustaining, commanding judging transforming powers which may be interpreted theistically or non-theistically, humanistically. In a religious covenant the orientation is to something we cannot control but something upon which we depend – even for our freedom. Jonathan Edwards called it, “the covenant of being.”
3. The covenant is for the individual as well as the collective. The individual is brought out of separateness into covenant. We are responsible for individual behavior but also for the character of society.
4. The covenant responsibility is especially directed toward the deprived, whether these be people suffering from neglect and injustice or those who are caught in the system that suppresses them – that suppresses their own self-determination. It is the gap between covenant and system, between ideal and behavior, that creates deprivation and makes it difficult for a top flight executive, for example, to speak out in public regarding his or her dissident convictions.
5. The covenant includes a rule of law, but it is not fundamentally a legal covenant. It depends upon faithfulness, and faithfulness is nerved by loyalty, by love. Violation of the covenant is a violation of trust. What holds the world together, according to this dual covenant then, is trustworthiness, eros, love. Ultimately the ground of faithfulness is the divine or human love that will not let us go. Here we see the theological basis for accountability, by persons and by the church. This may be the fundamental intellectual agenda for today: a doctrine of the covenant whether it be given that name or not.
“Mending Wall” by Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper boulders in the sun; And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone, But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made, But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: “Stay where you are until our backs are turned!” We wear our fingers rough with handling them. Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.” Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.”
I could say “Elves” to him, But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
“Choose” by Carl Sandburg
THE single clenched fist lifted and ready,
Or the open asking hand held out and waiting.
For we meet by one or the other.
A sample covenant of right relations:
The UUCA Congregational Covenant
We covenant with each other, promising our goodwill and honest effort, pledging our care and support to one another and to our church community, challenging one another to live in accord with our Unitarian Universalist principles.
With this common purpose as our source, we covenant:
to welcome all who come to us with acceptance and respect for the differences among us;
to practice patience and speak the truth directly and with compassion;
to reflect carefully about the potential results of our words and actions before we speak or act;
to keep our discussions to topics and issues rather than personalities;
to acknowledge that we may not always agree with the group decisions, but we will support and participate in decision-making processes that are collaborative and democratic;
to seek to resolve disagreements to our mutual satisfaction and ask for help when needed;
to speak directly to those with whom we have disagreements;
to facilitate direct communication between parties in conflict, when appropriate;
to act with loving kindness, seeking to promote justice, equity, and compassion;
to speak out with loving kindness when we witness disrespectful interactions;
to understand that building our beloved community requires learning and practice.
Video link to UUA short clip on covenant – A People So Bold: Covenant