By Rev. Laura Shennum
Part 2 of 3, in a series on Covenant for the PWR Healthy Congregations Team
"Humans are a promise-making, promise-breaking, promise-repairing, and promise-remaking people." - Martin Buber, Jewish Theologian
Since we realized as a congregation it was inevitable we will break our covenant with each other, we made sure to put in the following phrase: When we fall out of covenant, we recognize, reflect, and re-engage.
We have a process within our covenant to help us find our way back to repairing and remaking. However, what is not stated in that process, is the work to fulfill it is difficult, messy, and emotionally, spiritually draining. It is also as my esteemed colleague, Rev. Tandi Rogers points out, an opportunity for faith formation and spiritual growth.
Therefore, when we make a commitment to a congregational covenant, which has within it an understanding it will be broken, we are also making a commitment to step into a place full of emotion and brokenness to do the work to repair and remake our relationship. This is work that cannot be forced. It is work that requires us to look at our own actions and what we need to own. In some cases, it requires us to be patient and listen to the emotions involved. It calls us to ensure the worth and dignity of each person. It requires us to know we are not like the vengeful God of Leviticus set out to punish the wrongdoers. It requires time, and sometimes it may feel to those of us who are ready to repair, it is taking too much time. And that’s where it can get difficult…because there is a fine line between giving space and allowing time AND losing someone completely or pushing them away with our impatience.
This is where the seriousness of the commitment to the words, when we fall out of covenant, we recognize, reflect, and re-engage, becomes important. Each of us has to come to our own understanding, we will be disappointed and know heartbreak within this community and with each other. And to remember, each of us has made a commitment to find ways to repair and remake our promise to each other. Now, if each of us chose to walk away from that commitment, then we deprive ourselves and our congregational community from the ability to grow in our faith and our spirituality. Therefore, we have to trust each of us will find our way back to do the work, because that is our goal to find ways we can grow together in faith and spirituality.
My hope is we understand that breaking covenant does not mean breaking relationship. Rather, breaking covenant allows us to find new ways to grow as an individual and as a congregation, especially if we commit to the work of recognizing, reflecting, and re-engaging. This is the heart of what it means to be a covenantal faith.
Rev. Laura Shennum, Minister of the Cascade UU Fellowship, is a member of the PWR Healthy Congregations Team.