Covenantal Consent

Graphic with the words Inclusion, Care, Covenant and Consent revolving aroung the UUA chalice

Updated August 19, 2021

In covenantal communities, we are called to relationships of mutuality. Sometimes this requires taking time to listen deeply to one another’s concerns and fears before making any decisions that might might marginalize some in the community, or even to put members of the community at risk, either physically or mentally.

Before making decisions that impact the community as a whole, leaders should model a practice of inclusion, covenant, consent, and care for each other. This is especially true as we are making decisions about how to gather again in person.

Inclusion

Plan all open events so that those who are not vaccinated or not protected by vaccination can participate. Any “open” event that is limited to those who are vaccinated is exclusionary.

Care

Don't make sudden changes to meet in person or to stop requiring masks outdoors. Allow people time to consider how they will feel without masks in their small group or at an outdoor congregational event, then work out a way to listen to each other before deciding on any changes. This is a compassionate way for us to respect and respond to the trauma of the last year and its varied impacts.

Consent

Adopt an individual practice of consent among friends within the congregation, even when you are meeting outside of congregational events. Ask one another what is comfortable and safe. Respect what the others might need at this point in time even if you don’t have the same needs.

We know that—before hugging someone—we should ask first, then wait for a yes or no. Similarly, we should ask and wait for an answer before meeting without masks. Asking for consent builds trust, inclusion, and muscle-memory.

Covenant

Respect the wide range of ways people may be reacting to the 2021 July CDC guidance around masks, including members of your church community. While some people may resent the CDC encouraging all people to wear masks inside again, others are relieved. The preliminary science on the Delta variant is particularly concerning to some, such as people with compromised immune systems and parents of not-yet-vaccinated children who may want to be even more cautious than before Delta. Our covenants call us to work through these differences.

Our UU congregations are life-affirming and life-saving communities because—at our best—we care for one another in these ways.

Comic showing how consent around masking might happen

Consent: Mask Edition

Person #1: I'm fully vaccinated and comfortable taking off my mask - how do you feel?

Person #2: Honestly, I'm not comfortable yet. I'm vaccinated and probably safe. But,

Person #2: I don't want to risk long COVID or infecting others more at risk.

Person #1: OK, masks on then! It's great to see you in person!

About the Author

UUA Congregational Life Staff Group

The regional Congregational Life staff are congregations' local connection to the UUA. All of the program Congregational Life staff have expertise in most aspects of congregational life and each also has a few program areas of expertise. See the...

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