By Libby Pontillo
Together, we have created a renewed church covenant. Over the past sixteen months, you’ve heard a lot about the importance of covenant, and some may be wondering why it took so long to come up with these words. They’re not earth-shattering or revolutionary; the seeds of all these concepts were planted by our 2009 covenant.
What is special about this covenant, and the reason those of us on the Congregational Relationships Team are so proud of it, is that it is the result of dozens of members contributing their thoughts and dreams to something that all of us can now own. We are deeply grateful to everyone who took the time to contribute to this process of discernment, aspiration, and commitment. Thank you all!
We hope that you will try using this draft covenant to guide your actions in committees and groups over the next two months, and that the congregation will vote to adopt it at the June 11 Annual Meeting.
Then comes the process we have already begun, of bringing these commitments into our relationships. This will be an exciting and challenging process.
Making relational changes can be hard. We will stumble and need to start over; we will need to forgive both others and ourselves. Behavioral change requires repeated reminders and practice, and sometimes, acquiring extra skills. A simple reminder may suffice to encourage us to listen more and react less, or to allow every participant to speak without interruption. However, we may also want additional coaching in skills we’ll need to reach some of the aspirational goals we’ve set for ourselves.
For example, inspired by the “Healthy Boundaries” workshop led by Sunshine Wolfe and Sana Saeed in February 2022, the Relationships Team agreed to read one of the books they suggested to us: Set Boundaries, Find Peace, by Nedra Glover Tawwab. We have found this book both readable and enlightening – so much so, that we have decided to facilitate reading groups to discuss this book in the coming months. We’re working out a schedule and will publicize it soon. If you’re interested, you may want to purchase a copy and start reading or listening to it. The church will provide copies for anyone that needs assistance with the purchase; please let Rev. Margret know.
Tawwab gives clear explanations of what boundaries are (like a covenant, they’re agreements, rather than “rules”); why they’re important; what it means when a boundary is violated; how a history of trauma impacts our boundaries; and what actual words we can use to set, communicate, and honor our own boundaries.
Inspired by our reading, the Fellowship Groups are addressing the topic of “boundaries” this month, and we hope that these concepts will ripple out into the larger community. This is one of the many ways in which the Relationships Team hopes to foster greater relationship skills in our congregation. We encourage you to take part in these explorations.
However you choose to use this covenant to guide your relationships, let the words inspire you to action. As one who loves beautiful words – and I know there are many more of us in this congregation – I appreciate that the real value of words lies in the feelings and actions they inspire. May the words of this covenant inspire us to create a kinder, more resilient, and more loving community.