A radical covenant

This month’s church theme is “covenant,” and as Paul Rasor writes in A People So Bold, there is something unique about our covenant: it is not closed but open.

Most covenants benefit only those addressed by the covenant. That is, a group of people make promises to each other to the end that they are mutually supported. Even in the Hebrew scriptures, the idea of covenant between Yaweh and the Children of Israel is for the benefit of the “signatory parties”; God help the people of Canaan or the city of Jericho’s walls.

Our covenant is radically different, for while we certainly do benefit and grow spiritually when we live into its promise, the ultimate beneficiaries are those outside our immediate circle. The traditional view of covenant requires that all parties agree to it. Our covenant includes people who’ve never stepped inside a Unitarian Universalist congregation. We make promises to the world never expecting the world to return the favor. That is generosity. Our is a generous covenant.

I believe we are doing a good job living up to our outreach potential. Certainly there is more work to be done and more need to share the burden. Sometimes we get tired as we march for justice, and it’s helpful to be able to step out while others step in (or step back while others step forward). If you’ve hesitated in joining our outreach work but want to help, there is no time like now.

One area in which I know we can do better is our “in-reach,” and this does speak to the aspect of covenant where we promise to care for one another. In some smaller churches, the minister is the primary pastoral care “provider.” In a church our size, either a second minister for pastoral care, or a robust volunteer effort, is required to meet the community demands.

This is part of our covenant, but it’s not explicit. I believe the line “to dwell together in peace” is where this member-to-member care is addressed. How are we to dwell peaceably together when those among us are hurting? “To dwell together” is a hefty charge when you think about it. In this world of “me first” it is a bold statement to lift up the need to dwell together in a web of mutuality.

How can you help with our “in-reach”? Our Membercare ministry is currently in a state of re-organization. The Pastoral Associate Team (formerly a unique ministry focused on pastoral needs that require some special training to handle) has decided to, at least for the time being, fold itself into Membercare, where there is greater demand. For the most part, I’ve been able to meet the more acute pastoral demands — it’s the basic necessities that have been neglected for too long: reaching out to those who can no longer drive to church; sitting and listening to the stories of members who are now in nursing homes; being with those “routine” bumps and bruises of life.

This ministry re-organization is so important that our intern minister, Beth Dana, is foregoing the Worship Team’s monthly meeting and will be offering her assistant to Membercare (which is scheduled at the same time).

Membercare meets on the first Wednesday of each month on Committee Night. If you’re interested in joining our in-reach efforts, please RSVP to me so I can put you on the list for the evening meal. (Did I mention the glorious committee night dinner cooked for us each month by Shannon Hawkins?)

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