What they dreamed be ours to do...
~from the hymn "Rank by Rank Again We Stand"
Ministers Prepared with the Community of Congregations
In-care systems have a theological foundation originally stipulated in the 1648 Cambridge Platform written by our Puritan ancestors. Congregations made a covenant to:
- honor the autonomy of each church
- support each other across congregations.
The spiritual formation of ministers, individuals, and congregations was supported within the community of congregations. Theological students often “read with a colleague” as a fundamental part of their preparation for pastoral ministry. Contemporary in-care systems can be seen as a new version of this covenant. Like our ancestors, we can promise to study together across all the boundaries that could divide us.
Entering into Covenants
Twentieth century theologian James Luther Adams and contemporary theologian Rebecca Parker remind us that living a covenantal theology involves more than making promises within and between congregations.
Inherited Covenants with One Another
We inherit covenants before we create them. When we become a member of a congregation, we agree to practice the covenant that exists and continue to create it with the others there. The same is true when we move from one congregation to another or when we move from laity to ordained leadership.
Inherited Covenant with the Source of Life
Our ancestors spoke about a Covenant of Grace. They said we have been given the gift of life by a source larger than ourselves. While our theology differs from theirs in many ways, we believe, as they did, that we have been given the gift of life. There is room to imagine the source of life in multiple ways: Earth itself, the Spirit of Life, God, the communion of all souls, universal love. In her essay "What They Dreamed Be Ours to Do," Rebecca Parker points out that there is a power that supports us, and it is more than the strength of our will and decision making. We are called to respond to this power, give thanks for it and collaborate with it. Living in covenant with this power can sustain us in our daily lives and certainly in preparation for ministry.
Practicing "Living into Covenant"
Each person involved in an in-care system is asked to practice living in covenant. They are asked to enter into and uphold covenants within congregations, across congregations, with people moving from laity to ordained ministry, with life itself, or with the Source of Life.