Unitarian Universalist Association religious leaders speak often about covenant as an association of congregations, especially our relationships to one another.
Talk for five minutes and someone will haul out the Cambridge Platform of 1648.
Thanks to an excellent series of Minns Lectures by the Rev. Alice Blair Wesley, the conversations follow a predictable route. We are independent congregations who share responsibility for one another.
That Rev. Alice Blair Wesley was calling Unitarian Universalist Association members to a recovenanting is often skipped right over. She wrote, “we need to do two things: to reclaim and creatively adopt covenants in our free churches, in our own liberal way, for our own time, and to invent what we have never yet had, a Covenanted Association of Congregations.” (Lecture 5, p. 3)
The conversations about
- Regionalization (shifting from District middle judicatories to larger regions of shared resourcing, faith community and staffing),
- living into Policy Governance (Board sets policy, General Assembly confirms it, Staff & Congregations figure out how to fulfill it),
- Fulfilling the Promise (anti-racism, anti-oppression work),
- the Fifth Principle Project (making our democracy really work, especially for historically underserved and underrepresented peoples), and
- Affiliates (originally, a way to connect external organizations, then transformed into non-congregational, internal faith communities), and
- Congregations & Beyond (vital faith communities of many kinds in covenant together, serving the world together)
are essentially efforts to reclaim and creatively adopt our promises to one another and to the Holy (yes, check out the language of the Cambridge Platform of 1648) and figure out how we are called together in service as a faithful people.
The Orlando Platform is one of the ways the Southern Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association names that calling, particularly in relationship to Regionalization.
Our promises are binding, but how we understand and live out those promises over time changes, has to change, in relationship to our own spiritual growth, our changing world, and our changing appreciation for our shared calling.
Faith communities do not have to be congregations as we have known them to be faithful communities. How can an association of congregations live in covenant with emerging and new forms of faith communities that has a broader and deeper understanding of congregation. We have left behind the understanding of the Cambridge Platform that only the saints may form the congregation (the voting body and religious leadership of the worshipping community). The idea of congregation that many people have - that is is local, with a building, with a Protestant culture of worship, with occasional charitable good works, and with a lot of programming for its members - is only one way of being a faith community. There are many, many ways for faithful people to be called together to worship, to learn, to give thanks, and to give back. Now we have another opportunity before us to find a way to promise together in diversity to serve the Holy in this diverse world.