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  • Writer's pictureJoe Cherry

Covenant and how we come together

Unitarian Universalists are a covenantal people. Covenants are agreements that are entered into voluntarily, without coercion. In an ecclesiastical context like a religious body, a covenant is defined as “a solemn agreement between the members of a church to act together in harmony with the precepts of the gospel.”

The gospel in our case has historic roots in the textural analysis of the Christian Bible. From this study, our theological ancestors developed two main understandings: One being the the rejection of the teachings of the Holy Trinity, since there is not text proof in the Bible of this teaching. The second main understanding that separated our ancestors from the more orthodox Christians was their rejection of the teachings of Hell and eternal punishment. They saw these teachings as being in conflict with the very nature of the Divine, and they also used text from the Bible, lifting passages to demonstrate the root of their understanding.

Whether they were Universalists or Unitarians, both traditions were rooted in covenant. As Unitarian Universalists these covenants are core to our understanding of how a community comes together, particularly as a congregation.

We are a religion that, because of our habits and traditions of self- examination, are classified as a Liberal Religious Faith. It has nothing to do with our politics. There are UUs of all political leanings in our larger covenant, and that kind of diversity makes us a more robust people.

It is our habit to examine our beliefs, to test them out against new information revealed to us either by our own study, or by the advancing of human knowledge. And, if we are living intentionally, when new information comes to us, we must examine our assumptions and relationships to this new understanding.

This includes our covenants.

As our understanding of the world has grown and changed from our earliest faith ancestors to today, we have had to come together in our congregations to recommit ourselves to our covenant.

We are not the people we were just 9 months ago. The world we knew 9 months ago is gone. We are learning new information about this microscopic threat to the entirety of humanity, and we are learning that new information sometimes hourly.

In response to the coronavirus, we have had to learn all manner of new ways to engage with each other over technology that before March, very few of us used with any regularity. There has been a global shift in humanity and the ways in which relate and come together.

Amidst all these changes, it is good to reexamine and renew our covenants with each other. It is good and holy work. It is also the right time to do this, at the beginning of what may well turn out to be an entire church year without

worshipping in person. And certainly, even if we do get to a safe place of worshipping in person, it will not be the way things used to be.

I encourage you to spend some time thinking about your relationship with our congregation. Think about the ways that you can renew and recommit to our covenant, our solemn promise to act together in harmony.

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Rev. Joe Cherry

Rev. Joe is a biracial, gay, Unitarian Universalist minister, and history nerd. He lives in North Easton, Massachusetts, with his husband, Rev. Denis Paul, and their dog, Toulouse.

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