Friday, October 09, 2009

covenantal excellence

best practices in covenant writing--two of my favorites:

Covenant of Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church (Louisville, KY)

“Together, we have chosen to make a church,
a community to encourage the best in us,
where children and adults may come together in celebration and sharing.

Together, we have chosen to make a church,
a community where we support each other in tolerance and love
as we explore questions of belief, spirit and value,
and discover what unites us in service and concern.

Together, we have chosen to make a church,
a community made strong
by a living tradition which unites our past with our future
in a vision shared with all who seek the paths of truth and
honor freedom with responsibility.

Together, we have chosen to make a church,
so that in community
we may become what we cannot be when we are isolated and alone.

Together, we have chosen to make a church,
so that we can make a difference in the world.”

adopted May 1989

Covenant of UU Society of Geneva (Geneva, IL)
Being desirous of promoting practical goodness in the world, and of aiding each other in our moral and religious improvement, we have associated ourselves together - not as agreeing in opinion, not as having attained universal truth in belief or perfection in character, but as seekers after truth and goodness.


At 11:54 AM, Blogger Paul Oakley said...

Thanks for sharing these examples of UU covenants.

Covenants are, by definition, agreements. Contracts. This is how we agree to be together. So it is very natural that legal-esque language is a temptation congregations sometimes fall into when creating their covenant. However, since Unitarian Universalism is not a legal religion with some equivalent of canon law, sharia, or halakah, and since covenants are with some frequency used as liturgical elements in our congregational worship, it is primarily as liturgy that such documents should be judged, and closely but still secondarily according to the content of the agreement.

When I hear recited in unison a covenant like the second one here, my reaction, if I weren't so terminally prim, would be to run from the room screaming. Yes, its words say precisely what the congregation are committing to in their life together, but the whole legal-esque tone - Being desirous of promoting practical goodness in the world..., we have associated ourselves together... - is a liturgical bomb. Well... at least unless we translate it into a Gregorian chant in Latin or sing it plaintively in Old English or Icelandic, or handle it in the style of the Kol Nidre.

The covenant of TJUC in Louisville KY is much better liturgically. I like the liturgical repetitions - Together, we have chosen to make this church - beginning stanzas focusing on who is included (by age here), the internal (support and exploration) and external (doing good in the world) intentional functions of the group, a responsibility to our history while moving into the future, and the need of the individual for the group. I might word a few things differently, but it is a good liturgical document. I could let its words wash over me Sunday after Sunday, as liturgical words should.


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