Connection Affirmation on Covenant – May 7, 2023

By Bill Warner                  Click here for Video of Bill’s presentation.

Next month, we are being asked to vote for a new UUCCH Congregational Covenant. I want to start by thanking the Congregational Relationships Team and everyone who participated in the Listening Circles and the World Café-style writing sessions that helped form the proposed covenant.

Many years ago, there was a difficult time in this church. The community responded to that difficult time by, in part, creating a covenant of right relations. This was done in 2009. If you’re here at church, you can read that covenant. It’s hanging on the wall in Fellowship Hall as you line up for coffee and tea. When you read it, you can see the attention to communication and resolution of conflicts. You can see the attention to wound and to wound care. It was the covenant the community needed.

But I wasn’t an active member at the time so I can’t speak to the formation of that covenant, and I’m told this is intended as a personal reflection.

After a hiatus, I became an active UUCCH member again in January 2020. I joined a group exploring building a community of trust – and we started by forming a covenant. I attended meetings of what we now call “Secular Humanists.” They incorporate their covenant into their meetings. It didn’t take long for me to know covenants were obviously a thing here.

I also joined CREE – the Committee for Racial and Economic Equity. Switching to Zoom due to COVID would have been ample reason for CREE to look at its covenant. But CREE’s need for a covenant became clear amid the increased energy for racial justice. Some of our communication, especially electronic, was becoming difficult. While it was not the only thing we did, we took this as a great opportunity for CREE to create its own covenant. I’m glad we did.  It was especially important because CREE strives to be accountable to ourselves, each other, and the larger community. The process helped us pull together at a time when so much energy could have caused separation and dissipation. We now use the CREE covenant to guide most of our meeting check-ins or reflections. (And in fact, CREE leadership even developed a covenant between us.)

Is the CREE covenant perfect? Hardly. It might be too wordy. Maybe things need to be added. We know it can and will be changed.

Two points I’m trying to make here are 1) covenanting and acting in covenant helps people come together and stay together in pivotal times, and 2) even covenants that serve us well are living documents – they are intended to be revised.

Thinking about UUCCH as a whole, we’ve heard 50% of our membership was not here when the 2009 covenant was written. There are similarities – and to be sure – the spirit, if not the exact words from 2009 are reflected in the proposed covenant. With 50% of members coming after the 2009 covenant, it seems like a logical demarcation point for the current congregation to at least review its covenant, if not propose a new one.

When I read and hear the proposed covenant, I feel the attention to healing and repair just like the 2009 covenant. But even more, I feel the nurturing of current relationships. I also see a strong foundation of values and reminders while we progress into our future.

I should mention – if you weren’t here for her reflection or have not read it already, please check out Libby Pontillo’s Blog Post on Covenant. It’s a great read.

The covenant we are being asked to consider honors and elevates our mutuality. When I read it, I see a congregation that will continue to expand its relationships. A community promoting communication.  A church that will foster the skills needed to rise to any challenges. I see support for thoughtful growth. For change. In time, this covenant will be replaced with one that speaks to the needs of our future community – as it should.

Our recent Listening Circles and World Café sessions produced a rich bounty from our current community. We have a new covenant based on our current values and concerns. To me, it’s a covenant that celebrates our collective character. A covenant reflecting who are in 2023. Supporting the values of today’s members.  And re-setting a foundation as we reach our future aspirations.

Thank you again to the Congregational Relationships Team and all who helped craft this covenant.