What does it mean to be a covenantal relationship? Over the years I have realized that many of our UU siblings have reduced covenantal ministry and membership to a transactional relationship. In this model, many members look at membership as a form of benefits and duties or responsibilities. This can include voting rights, access to pastoral care and/or community funds, free rights of passage, and other transactions such as building use for weddings and funerals among other services. It usually includes a list of responsibilities such as making a pledge and paying “dues”, participation in leadership teams, and other forms of volunteering to the organization. In this model, many times people come and go as their needs are met or not. Also, often members only participate in ways that feed them, their “pet projects” or make them “feel good” instead of seeking ways to participate in the full life of the community.
What this type of ministry is lacking is a deep spiritual connection that is required of covenantal ministry.
In a covenantal ministry, the connection to the community is about making a spiritual commitment and not a transaction. When covenantal membership is deeply engaged as a model, the community moves together to deepen connection with authenticity and vulnerability. When we agree to be in covenantal ministry, we agree not to benefits and responsibility but instead to creation. We agree to work toward creating a community that is filled with among other things, love, compassion, and struggle. We agree to support the community with a vision of fullness. A vision that engages what I like to call “The Four S’s” of community engagement ~ Spirituality, Scholastics, Service, and Socializing.
As we focus on Becoming this month, I hope that we can all take a look at how we are engaging our community here at PrairieUU in becoming a more deeply covenantal community that engages the whole person as a spiritual, learning, serving, and social human being.
AJ Blackwood, MDiv.