Do you have a covenant?

lauraPastors who have joined the Iowa conference since last September gathered to build community, and to learn and share resources for equipping and building up congregations in our midst. One of the topics that came up was about community covenants.  That’s churchified language for describing what promises individuals make about how they will act and behave towards one another and towards the community as a whole.


One person took a survey of the room asking, “How many of your churches have a community or behavior covenant?” I had the solo hand in the air.  But, y’all, each of our churches needs to write one together.


It may seem like one of those goofy things to have, since most of us hold the value of being kind, generous people who always listen to one another and welcome others. So, why write out a statement of how a church agrees to be and behave in community with one another?  Well, because the church is full of people, and people are amazing yet messy and complicated and simply put, sometimes we are not our best selves.  But how we act with one another matters.  Our behavior is an extension of God’s love in the world.  As such, its important that we can hold ourselves and one another accountable, not to police one another, but to be able to point to the promises made when being in community is hard or wavers off course so that we relate to one another and to the community in life giving ways.


So, I hope you’ll think about initiating a process for writing a community covenant (what we call it) or a behavior covenant (other popular language) so that you will have something that records the promises you make to one another about how you will act and be in community. Writing it long buy cheap celebrex no prescription before there’s a conflict, is the healthiest.  We never do our best work when we are reactionary or dealing with conflict.


I’ve included our community covenant as an example below, not because it’s perfect, but because we found inspiration from other congregations and because a blank page as you begin this process might be intimidating.


Blessings as you undertake this important and holy work,

Laura Arnold, Pastor of Decorah Congregational UCC



We covenant with one another to create a safe environment and to uphold the dignity of each person in our congregation.

We will consider the impact of our words and actions on others as we seek to make our church a safe place for all.

Our communication with others will be timely, direct, honest, open, and sensitive although we may disagree with another’s assumptions, opinions, and decisions.

We understand that conflict is a healthy part of life, including life in the church. We will accept and affirm differences. While we may have strong opinions, we acknowledge that others do also. We will embrace the diversity in our spiritual family, imagine other perspectives, and be enriched by these differences. We will be respectful of one another as we direct our attention to the issues and challenges at hand.

We understand that our church stays strong as each person is heard, and we seek the participation of all our congregants.

We will engage in self-reflection and prayer, seeking ways that our presence will build up our church and its people, as well as our community and our world. We will seek God’s guidance and grace to listen attentively as we live into our future.

As a part of this faith community, we will work responsibly for the benefit of the whole and endeavor that all we do and say will be grounded in love.





One Response to Do you have a covenant?

  1. Victoria Weinstein says:

    This is very exciting to me as a covenant geek.
    I have been studying the covenant tradition from the 17th century to ours and developed a covenanting process for congregations that I have used and taught extensively since 2004.

    I went on to write my doctoral dissertation at Andover-Newton Theological School on congregational covenants and love to share that document with anyone who wants to read it.

    I would like to gently suggest that a congregational covenant is not interchangeable with a behavioral covenant. One is ultimately theological and the other is about community expectations.

    Thanks for taking up this topic. I very much enjoyed consulting on social media at an Iowa Conference gathering several years ago.

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