People of the Covenant – Part I
Covenant is a big word these days for Unitarian Universalists. Of course it’s always been a big word for UUs, but particularly so in the last few years when we’ve been struggling for a way to define ourselves theologically. If what binds us together is not a common belief, then it is a relief to find another way to express the depth of what we mean by spiritual community.
I heard a lovely sermon yesterday delivered by my colleague Sarah Lammert, who asked us to think of covenant as being a spiritual obligation to anyone around us, not only “our” people. Indeed, how would that shape our sense of covenant if we understood it not necessarily to be that which is agreed upon by a community or between two people, but a way of being in the world?
All of this begs the question of what we understand covenant to be. I want to start a series of blogposts on the subject.
Let me begin by asking: what is our covenant? Is it only that statement at the beginning of our purposes and principles? “We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association covenant to…” Surely that’s one aspect of it, but also surely not all.
I was recently part of a meeting which brought together various representatives of major constituencies of the UUA. We were asked to re-envision congregational stewardship of the Association. This begins with a technical question of “how can we help congregations be more generous to the Association?” but quickly led to a deeper conversation about the nature of our covenant with one another.
And then the biggest questions came: “What is our covenant?” “How do we know what it is?” “How does anyone agree to it?” “How do we bring it to newcomers?” “Do most people (even “our” people) know it exists?”