At the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett, we are a covenantal community. That means several things. It means that we have taken the time and intent to talk together, explore together and put down on paper the ways in which we want to be a community together. Just the preparation and process to create a covenant begins to form covenantal life together. A covenant, as I experience it, is not just a list of things we value, though it does include that. A covenant finds a way to remind us how to be, act and respond to one another in all kinds of situations. A covenant finds a way to help us return again and again to who we say we are especially when we have lost our way, personally and collectively, and a covenant helps us see ourselves–both when we have forgotten and when we have remembered who we are, where we come from and where we are going.
A good covenant helps us in real time to build a house of peace.
I was talking recently with another member of our community. She remembered to me a time when she felt that she was in a very bad place. She remembered me during that time gently helping her to reconnect to our community. My first thought, which I expressed to her, was how much she has contributed to our community over time. It became clear, in our conversation, that this is what covenantal community means, and it is what happens in our covenantal community often.
This is what building a house of peace looks like “on the ground” where we often fail to see the big picture. In this moment one of us is in the midst of suffering and others of us reach out with compassion and curiosity, each of us becoming the recipient, each of us becoming the helping hand, over time. It strikes me that even in a progressive, liberal religious community, without a covenant we would very likely become separate islands unto ourselves, people of good intent but with little follow through. We have chosen to be a people of covenant, and in so choosing, we have made it clear that being a house of peace is not just a high-brow idea. It’s actually a way of living and being together–which we demonstrate on a daily basis. Sometimes broken, sometimes suffering, sometimes stubborn and forgetful–we return again and again to the home of our souls–and to each other. That’s a real house of peace.