Experiencing Conflict? Start with Covenant

By Kathy McGowan

Covenant words by James Vila Blake on parchment paper

As Unitarian Universalists, we are a covenantal people. Love is a core value for us, so how we are together is more important to us that what we do. The way we agree to be together, is to covenant with one another.

Living in a committed, covenantal community is a great way to avoid destructive conflict. Our covenants will reflect our values such as the worth and dignity of all. If living in a covenantal way is part of the congregation’s cultural norms, they are more likely to navigate conflict in a healthy and creative way.

If you find yourselves in conflict it is sometimes good to go back to basics and create a behavioral covenant for your groups. For example, perhaps you have a congregational covenant but your board has not had one that holds the promises that they make to each other. If things have gotten heated at board meetings you might create a covenant where you all agree to be honest, direct and respectful. You might also include things like agreeing to ask questions with curiosity in order to learn from each others differences. These kinds of behavioral covenants can be very helpful to get through times of struggle.

As human beings, we often do not live up to the promises that we make. It is therefore important for us to revisit our covenants to make sure they are still alive for us. If we find ourselves out of covenant it is important for us to find a way to come back into covenantal living. This is one of the beautiful things about Unitarian Universalism, we can be invited back in.

About the Author

Kathy McGowan

Kathy McGowan has been on the Congregational Life Staff for the Southern Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association since 2013. In that time her areas of focus have been in systems thinking, theology, conflict, intercultural sensitivity, and staff supervision. She is one of the primary...

For more information contact .