So we started on Monday with examples of individual congregational mission statements: statements trying, with varying success, to communicate the purpose of gathering in a particular religious community.
Today we explore congregational covenants, the promises that members of a religious community make to one another in determining how they will be together in that community. The lines between these two kinds of statements can be somewhat blurred, but I have tried to select examples that illustrate the difference of intention behind them.
The Unitarian Universalist Association’s Principles and Purposes, part of the by-laws that govern the national organization, are framed as a covenant between congregations, and many individual members use them as a guideline for what a Unitarian Universalist community strives to be, but many congregations have their own statements for how they will be together in addition to the Principles.
The denomination’s Commission on Appraisal wrote a report entitled “Engaging Our Theological Diversity” (very long PDF worth reading), published in 2005, in which they took a snapshot of the state of our congregations and how the movement as a whole copes with the unique position of building communities of faith without the bindings of theological creed. They found that about half of the responding congregations recite a covenant in worship each Sunday (see page 102), and the most commonly used statement is the Williams Covenant, with some variations on the text.
For consideration: How is a covenant different from a mission statement? How does a congregational covenant reflect into the daily lives of individual members?
Love is the doctrine of this church, the quest of truth is its sacrament and service is its prayer. To dwell together in peace, to seek knowledge in freedom, to serve humanity in fellowship, to the end that all souls shall grow into harmony with the divine, thus do we covenant with each other and with God.
~J. Griswold Williams, Singing the Living Tradition #471 with common adaptation
(Read on … )