Happy New Year to all those I have not seen yet. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday time with friends or family or both.
We are off to a new year, even if it may feel like some things have not changed one iota. But things are changing, in specific, the covenant that we recite every Sunday. At least that is the plan. In the sermon on January 7 I spoke about the fact that we are planning to re-do the covenant on Saturday February 10th. For those who are interested in knowing the full context of what I spoke about I invite you to send a note to Carolyn Cronin at: firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
Here I will share a little bit of what I said about what is happening: I started thinking of this idea of covenantal intentions as we approached the new theme for the month of “intention” – what does it mean to be a people of intention? I’ve been thinking about the concept of covenants, because more than a thinking religion we are a covenantal religion. That is, we do not have a creed we subscribe to, but we agree to covenant with one another along our seven principles at the macro-level across congregations, and we often covenant at the micro-level: within a church, as a board or staff member, even in wedded bliss known as vows. On the page in the front of the gray hymnal where the seven Principles and six Sources are listed it begins with the words: “We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote…” and down the list we go. By using the word covenant, we raise the bar on what the expectations are of us as Unitarian Universalists.
I am bringing this all forth now because you are being invited to participate in roughly five weeks, on Saturday February 10th, to look at our current covenant and work toward a new version that is more inclusive and representative of the current community. This conversation has been alive since before I arrived on the scene and I am aware that there is some confusion about changing it. And yet, covenants are living things, they are not just words that get put down on paper and shelved, they come alive by the act of fulfilling them and periodically checking in to see how we are doing. I believe that this is in keeping with who are as Unitarian Universalists who do not believe that revelation is sealed. When we pay attention, we will see much that is being given to us, to explore, to uncover that will inform who we each desire to be, for we as human beings are never finished. Thus do we covenant to still remain in relationship.
As of this coming Sunday, you will be asked to sign up for a three-and-a-half-hour session (varying times) with a group of preferably eight, no more than ten people to participate in a process I have used before for missioning and visioning to great success, and the leadership is willing to try for covenanting. It is a bold way of walking this journey that gets to the heart of it. “But wait, Rev. Marta,” one might ask, “shouldn’t we be spending time reading a lot of different church covenants over a two-year period and then wordsmith the result to death?” Well, that is one way of doing it. One way that is hard to keep grounded in, hard to keep momentum going on, and quite possibly exhausting.
This process is simple and clean and comes from your heart, through certain questions that will be posed to you. Underlying those questions is this: What is it that you want to promise the person sitting next to you as you journey together? What agreement will you make for how to be together and how to call each other back in when one of you runs amok? What words are you willing to raise up every week and feel as the grounding core of this gathered community?
The leadership and I truly hope that all of you will participate because a true covenant can’t be made without you. It must come from you. This process helps to bring out the words and the final wording is created by the facilitators who had been in the room with you and therefore will remember, on that Sunday morning (Feb. 11) when they are sequestered away to work on it, exactly what the feeling was in your group. Then they will join us at the potluck we will have after church for the grand unveiling. Oh my, it’s just so exciting to do it this way!
We are starting sign-up this weekend, so we can know how many facilitators we’ll need, and we can plan the rest accordingly. The facilitators will be trained and have their opportunity to contribute the night before. It is an action-packed weekend to be sure, one that is completely dependent on this community.
But know that the efficacy in which this will unfold does not make it any less sacred in its scope. If there was ever sacred work that you needed to participate in for the good of the community, as a valued person in our community, this is it. Let’s turn out for each other, and make awesome promises for our collective future!
Love and blessings and see you in church!