Being in Covenant

By Beth Casebolt

A circle of people, from above, with hands extended into the center of a circle.

Covenants have been at the foundation of Unitarian Universalism in the United States since 1648. What many don’t realize is that the covenants not only were important between the members of the individual congregations, but also among the congregations.

Our experience with covenants started in 1648 with the Cambridge Platform. This is a document created by a group of settlers who came to Massachusetts for religious freedom. They decided to create congregations that were different in terms of governance. Instead of a larger body telling each congregation what they were to do, these settlers felt that each congregation or faith community had the right to make decisions for itself. Today we call this Congregational Polity. But, they also realized that the congregations needed to support each other. The Cambridge Platform laid out the expectations that congregations had for each other. They understood that their job was to hold each other accountable and to provide assistance when another congregation was in need, just as individual members of congregations did the same for their fellow congregants.

Today’s Unitarian Universalism is no different. We still depend on each other in times of need for support, be that financial, social, moral or just a listening ear. To know that other congregations and members of those congregations care about you in times of tragedy? That is a priceless feeling. And yet, it is impractical for each of us to pick up and go where the needs are. All of us can't travel to help those affected by the fires in Oregon, or the hurricanes in Florida, provide aide during an ice storm on the East Coast, or go to Indiana to help with tornado relief. To do so would overburden an already strained infrastructure in the affected area, possibly put people into unnecessary danger and create potential barriers to those who needing help receiving it.

Additionally, congregations often have dreams that are larger than they can fund alone, but could have tremendous impact. How do they find the way to realize those dreams? How do they create programs that will connect with their community and provide needed services or a needed message? With help and support from others.

Here are three ways we think individuals and congregations can make a difference with our neighboring UU congregations. The UUA Disaster Relief Fund, Faithify and CER Chalice Lighters.

The UUA Disaster Relief Fund

Four photos illustrating climate change-caused disasters: aftermath of a hurricane showing destroyed houses in top left, trees burning in a forest fire in top right, houses and trees almost submerged by flooding in bottom right, and crops bent and destroyed by drought in bottom left.

Disasters impact our congregations and their communities with increasing rapidity. From natural disasters like wildfires that scorch everything in their path and hurricanes that bring destruction through winds and water, to human caused disasters like the collapsing infrastructure that we’ve seen in Flint, our congregations, our people, and our communities sustain the impact.

The outpouring of individual donations and congregation collections following Hurricane Ian thus far allowed the fund to help five congregations rebuild and repair their communities. We thank those who donated. If you need assistance, would like to donate or want to learn more, you can do so at the UUA webpage.


Faithify 2022 UU Crowdfunding

This is the crowdfunding platform for UU projects. Think of it as GoFundMe for UUs. Or Chalice Lighters on steroids. Faithify is a crowdfunding site where passionate people INSPIRE, UNITE, and FUND Unitarian Universalist ministries. Faithify is where congregations who want to rebuild from a disaster of some sort or want to stretch for a new dream post their projects and hope other UUs will support them. Consider checking out this platform regularly for new projects you feel called to support. This is how we help other congregations recover, stretch and grow. Learn about Faithify at their website.

Chalice Lighters

CER Chalice Lighter Logo

The CER Chalice Lighter Grant Program uses the spark of small, regular contributions from individual UU’s to ignite the growth of our UU faith, both in numbers and in justice, compassion, and spirituality. These contributions are pooled to make grants of up to $20,000 available to support the growth of UU congregations of all sizes, groups of congregations with innovative ideas for outreach, and even for the development of new congregations. Chalice Lighters are asked to pledge to respond to three calls per year. The Fall Call supports the UU Church of Annapolis, MD to improve signage and ventilation and the First UU Society of Marietta, OH to invest in publicity, outreach and targeted programming. Learn more about the CER Chalice Lighter program.

Supporting our neighboring congregations is just one way we live our covenant. We hope you and your congregation can find a way to help support your neighboring congregations be they down the road, in the next state or across the country.

We are Better Together.

About the Author

Beth Casebolt

Beth Casebolt is the Operations Manager and Communications Consultant for the Central East Region. Prior to regionalization she served as the District Administrator for the Ohio-Meadville District, a position she started in November 2007. She is very interested in universal design, websites & more.

For more information contact .