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Writing a Covenant Workshop

45-Minute Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Religious Professionals
  • Congregational Leaders

Goals

  • Explore the value of a covenant
  • Learn the difference between a creed and a covenant
  • Learn how to write a covenant

Materials

  • Copies of “Writing a Covenant” for all participants
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice or candle and matches
  • Newsprint and markers
  • Copies of Handout 6, A Covenantal Faith, for all participants

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s).
  • Distribute ”Writing a Covenant” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering, 5 minutes
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to reading 473 by James Vila Blake in Singing the Living Tradition and invite everyone to join you in reading this covenant, which is familiar to many Unitarian Universalists.

Focusing, 5 minutes
Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to discuss and agree upon the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Say something like,
There is much potential for open sharing throughout this program. On many occasions we will invite participants to share what may be intimate material. Therefore, it is important that people speak only when they are comfortable; it is always okay to pass if people choose not to share. By establishing a norm of respect for each other and our expression within the group, we want to ensure safety and right relations for all participants.

Engage participants in discussing the value of respect and confidentiality in a group and the destructive effects of sarcasm and put-downs. Print your group’s guidelines for openness and sharing on newsprint, and post it as a reminder for each session.

Reflecting, 15 minutes
Respond to and discuss Fredric Muir’s analysis of the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA) Statement of Principles and Purposes in “Writing a Covenant” on page 24.

Exploring, 15 minutes
Ask the group to discuss the following questions:

  • What are the implicit and explicit behavior expectations in your congregation?
  • How would a covenant aid and support (or how has it aided and supported) the congregation and leadership in making the implicit explicit?

Closing, 5 minutes
Do a brief checkout. Then ask participants to complete this sentence as concisely as possible: “For me, the value of a covenant is...” Conclude by reading aloud together Handout 6, “A Covenantal Faith.”

Extinguish the chalice or candle.

2-Hour Workshop

Suggested Participants

  • Religious Professionals
  • Congregational Leaders

Goals

  • Explore the value of a covenant.
  • Learn the difference between a creed and a covenant.
  • Learn how to write a covenant.

Materials

  • Copies of “Writing a Covenant” for all participants
  • Copies of Singing the Living Tradition
  • Chalice or candle and matches
  • Newsprint and markers
  • Copies of Handout 6, A Covenantal Faith, for all participants

Preparation

  • Appoint workshop facilitator(s)
  • Distribute “Writing a Covenant” and ask everyone to read it before the session begins.

Session Plan

Gathering and Centering        5 minutes
Light the chalice or candle. Turn to reading 473 by James Vila Blake in Singing the Living Tradition and invite everyone to join you in reading this covenant, which is familiar to many Unitarian Universalists.

Focusing, 5 minutes
Review the goals of the workshop and the workshop process with the group. Invite participants to discuss and agree upon the group’s guidelines for openness and sharing. Say something like,
There is much potential for open sharing throughout this program. On many occasions we will invite participants to share what may be intimate material. Therefore, it is important that people speak only when they are comfortable; it is always okay to pass if people choose not to share. By establishing a norm of respect for each other and our expression within the group, we want to ensure safety and right relations for all participants.

Engage participants in discussing the value of respect and confidentiality in a group and the destructive effects of sarcasm and put-downs. Print your group’s guidelines for openness and sharing on newsprint, and post it as a reminder for each session.

Reflecting and Exploring, 85 minutes
Ask the group to respond to and discuss Fred Muir’s analysis of the UUA’s Statement of Principles and Purposes on page 24 of “Writing a Covenant.”

Explain to participants that they are going to write a covenant for the group. If this is a leadership group (a committee, task force, board, etc.), the covenant should describe how they seek to be together when they are doing the work of the congregation. If this is a random group without a particular purpose, ask that they complete the exercise as if they were a small group determining whether this process would be of value for the whole congregation.

Pass out the index cards and pencils. Ask each participant to do the following for five minutes:

  • On one side of the card, write three things that you promise to the group.
  • On the other side, write three things that you want the group to promise to you.

Ask participants to group themselves in pairs. Then have each person share their promises and expectations for 10 minutes.

Then ask each pair to spend 15 minutes writing a covenant based on their promises and expectations. Encourage them to work for consensus. If they need to, they may look for examples in “Writing a Covenant” that reflect their intentions.

When time is up, have pairs merge into foursomes to share their two covenants. Write a covenant for the foursome by consensus. Allow 30 minutes. (If time permits and there are enough people to merge into groups of eight, continue.)

Have the small groups return to one group and merge the statements together for a group covenant by consensus. Work on this as long as possible. Then give it to a volunteer wordsmith to make the finishing touches and distribute it to the group for final approval.

Integrating, 15 minutes
With everyone back together, ask each participant to name one or two insights they had during the exercise.

Closing, 10 minutes
Do a brief checkout. Then ask participants to complete this sentence as concisely as possible: “For me, the value of a covenant is...” Conclude by reading aloud together Handout 6, A Covenantal Faith.

Extinguish the chalice or candle.

For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.

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