Monday, April 26, 2010

Newsletter Article for May

I often describe Unitarian Universalism as covenantal rather than creedal. When I say we are a covenantal rather that creedal religious tradition, I mean that rather than a set of theological beliefs that we all share in common, we are bonded by a common commitment to treat each other with respect as we strengthen our community. At its most basic, a covenant is an agreement about how a group of people will treat one another. But there are a few important details that make covenants especially important to Unitarian Universalism.
First, covenants are the historical basis of how we organize our congregations. Imagine North America in the mid 1600s with colonial governments and small religious groups popping up all over the place. There were some orderly Anglican churches, but also an array of small Puritan and Congregational churches. Each had their own slightly different theology and way of governing themselves. In 1648 the government of Massachusetts called for some sense of order amongst these churches. As a response, the Cambridge Platform was written.
That document, the Cambridge Platform became the blue print that we still largely follow today. It included the right of each parish to call its own minister, to control its own property and funds, and to determine criteria for church membership. Those new American religious communities used covenants as a simple document for members to agree on how they would treat each other. They were written and signed by all the members of each congregation and they reflected the simple promises that members made to one another and to God.
That brings me to the second important detail of covenants in our tradition. A covenant is more than a simple agreement between individuals because it calls on our highest ideals. For historical Unitarians that meant God, for many of us today, that means appealing to our sense of justice, love and goodness. Covenants are not just about the people making them, they are intended to be an embodiment of our highest principles.

At the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Laguna Beach, we are bound together by a sense of covenant. We are here to build a supportive community, and we expect each person to be respectful of others. Covenant is the core of who we are, and it’s a great platform from which to grow into the Beloved Community that I know is our future.

Rev. Kent Doss

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