Across generations, affinities and life experiences, our congregations are safe places for connection and nourishment: places to love and be loved. No matter the activity, whether learning, service, worship, fellowship, committee work or religious education, church brings us out of our separateness and into the sanctuary of community, where love, freely given and received, can transform our own lives and the lives of others.
Theologian Paul Tillich once wrote: “What is most characteristically human about us is the tension between the desire to be “free”-self-identifying and self-choosing—and to be “related”- to love and be loved.” It was love, as the “doctrine,” or “lived teaching” that first moved our religious ancestors to covenant to promote the flourishing of love in the lives of its members and the local community. Like many of us do today, our forebears believed that love is manifested through relationships with others in spiritual community. While having ancient connections to the Judeo-Christian tradition, covenant is not a statement of belief or even a statement of purpose, nor is it a creedal or membership test. A covenant is a framework for relationship and mutual religious loyalties, from which, with love at the center, free religious communities form and organize. To be a part of a religious covenant, one freely chooses to mutually affiliate with others as a member under the guiding principles.
Our covenanting doesn’t create a blue print for loving, but asks us to continually seek new strategies, practices and tools for loving more fully. We might listen deeply to how love is calling us, within and beyond our community, and be gentle with one another as we try on new practices of relating. We will stumble along the way. When we stumble, we might call each other in deeper, practicing deep listening and forgiveness, never alienating, shunning, silencing or casting out. Covenant unites our shared religious life and ignites our faith with a love that is bold, inclusive, and ever growing. We grow our congregations by reaching out in love to invite others to share their gifts.
Congregational life is grounded in the practices of covenant. In our worship, fellowship, service, learning and spiritual growth, we build community through our relationships. Shared ministry means that more and more members and friends who feel called to serve are empowered with the spirit, skill and support to serve the vision of the congregation through their own unique ministries. As minister, I help ensure all aspects of our congregational life are safe, vibrant and in service to our shared faith.