Building a Covenant

By Karishma Gottfried

Photo of Kari Gottfried

Building a Covenant by Kari Gottfried

“This is the church of the open mind. This is the church of the loving heart. This is the church of the helping hands, where friends come together.” As we finished our opening words, we joined our hands together. It was Sunday morning again, one of my favorite moments in a busy week. Here, I have a chance to center myself, relax, and focus on my community.

This is how a typical youth group starts at my UU church. One of our advisors lights the chalice, and we proceed with a check-in: name, grade, and how we’re doing. This Sunday, our topic for the hour was our covenant. In our faith, covenants are a promise to our community. Our entire religion is built upon a covenant of seven key principles that we uphold as a religious community. My favorite one, the first, is, “We affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

As we finish writing our covenant, including things like “respect others” and “be inclusive”, I remind the group that this covenant isn’t perfect. One of my favorite parts about Unitarian Universalism is that it is what we call “Our Living Tradition”. We hold our seven principles as strong moral guides, but nothing in our faith is incontrovertible. We find our practices through many different sources and allow those to help guide us and shape our faith. UUs draw many teachings from a wide array of sources: our Judeo-Christian roots, science, Buddhist meditation, and literature, to name a few. We focus on the elements that make these sources similar, instead of what separates us. Our fourth principle is, “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Learning about the shared values from each religion allows us to find our own personal truth.

As I reflect on our day’s work, I think about the promises we’ve made to each other. I think about the promises I’ve made to my faith. And I know, that no matter what happens, the UU community is behind me and beside me, every step of the way.


Kari Gottfried is a member of the UU Fellowship of Corvallis, OR. She is active in her congregation, her district and her region. Nationally, she is recognized as a Luminary Leader, and is an alumna of Thrive.