Monday, August 08, 2005

The UU-FAQ III: Covenants

When I went to a UU service, the congregation recited a “covenant statement.” What’s that all about?

One typical UU covenant statement was written by James Vila Blake:

Love is the spirit of this church,
and service is its law.
This is our great covenant:
To dwell together in peace,
To seek the truth in love,
and to help one another.

Most UU congregations recite some similar “unison affirmation” as a regular part of their Sunday services -- more or less filling the slot taken by a creed in most Christian services. Covenant statements like this go way back in UU history, at least as far as the Puritan settlers in Massachusetts. They express the democratic belief that a church is established by the commitment of its members rather than by the authority of a bishop or king.

If a creed is one way to define a church, a covenant is another. In a creed, people look outward and agree that they see the same things. In a covenant, they look at each other and exchange promises. Marriage vows are one type of covenant; they say nothing about what the couple believes, but describe the commitments that the individuals are making to each other. Unitarian Universalist congregations, then, are united not by a core set of beliefs, but by a set of commitments.

Like a creed, a covenant statement can become a meaningless recitation. But taken seriously, a covenant like the one above lays out a challenging spiritual path. How should you act, for example, if in all of your dealings with your fellow parishioners you consider yourself to be an agent of the Spirit of Love?

“To seek the truth in love” is another promise that is much easier to make than to carry out, particularly in a congregation that has no creed. In reciting the covenant, you are committing yourself to help your fellow members seek the truth, even if they are looking in places that you consider totally wrong-headed. This commitment calls on you to remain engaged with others in their search while restraining yourself from non-constructive criticism. You can’t just humor fellow members by agreeing with whatever nonsense they say, and you can’t just blast them either. If you think that Unitarian Universalism is an easy religion, think again.

4 comments:

Jeff Wilson said...

This is the very covenant that I grew up reciting weekly at my UU church, and I can tell you that it was instrumental in shaping my understanding of what it is to be a UU. Ideas about whether or not there is a God always seemed secondary to me: our calling was to cleave to love, service, peace, and truth above all else. Funny that UUism seems so atomistic at times, since this is such a fundamentally communal vision, recited as a group that volunteers to enter a binding relationship characterized by mutual support and care.

Robin Edgar said...

"You can’t just humor fellow members by agreeing with whatever nonsense they say. . ." Indeed you can't. . . Especially when they falsely and maliciously label your inter-religious event as a "cult" and "jokingly" insinuate links between you and the notorious Solar Temple cult of mass murder/suicide fame. Likewise you cannot humor their malicious labelling of you as "psychotic" or "crazy" or "sick" or "unwell" or "nutcase" etc. etc. ad nauseum.

"and you can’t just blast them either."

Why not if they refuse to responsibly redress your perfectly legitimate grievances and furtherv aggravate the initial injustices and abuses by subjecting you to unjust, inequitable, and uncompassionate punitive measures for refusing to accept their negligent and complicit rejection of your grievances?

"If you think that Unitarian Universalism is an easy religion, think again."

Don't worry I have thought again and have come to the conclusion that UUism is a seriously flawed religion, at least in so far as UUs willfully disregard and flagrantly violate their own publicly professed principles and ideals etc. I have come to the conclusion that many if not most UUs believe that hypocrisy is the best policy. . .

The following links go to publicly available news reports about a Canadian Unitarian church and it's intolerant and abusive fundamentalist atheist "humanist" minister. This now retired/resigned UU minister was not guilty of sexual misconduct but committed other serious clergy misconduct which represented a flagrant breach of the UUMA Code of Professional Practices and made a complete mockery of most UU principles. His anti-religious intolerance and related clergy misconduct was and still is tacitly condoned and even effectively endorsed by the Unitarian Church of Montreal, the Canadian Unitarian Council, the UUA under Presidents John Buehrens and William Sinkford and the Ministerial Fellowship Committee under Rev. Diane Miller and others. The Unitarian Church of Montreal is still paying the price for its negligent and effectively complicit non-response to my legitimate grievances.

http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/1998/060498/news5.html

http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/1998/061898/letters.html

http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/1999/011499/letters.html

http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/1999/122399/letters.html

http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/2000/120700/news5.html

http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/2000/121400/letters.html

http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/2003/121103/front.html

Just run a Google search on the Unitarian Church of Montreal and Rev. Ray Drennan for more info.

A Google Groups search wouldn’t hurt either. Try “unitarian church”. . . Other search engines such as http://www.alltheweb.com may find some web pages that Google doesn’t index very well. . .

My very public "blasting" (to coin your phrase) of the Unitarian Church of Montreal and the greater UU religious community's condoning and effective endorsement of Rev. Ray Drennan's demeaning and abusive behavior, and of the subsequent injustices and abuses that resulted from the negligent and punitive (towards me that is. . .) responses of the Unitarian Church of Montreal will continue until UUs responsibly redress all of my legitimate grievances arising from UU injustices and abuses directed at me.

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