Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: The New UU: A Program for Welcoming Newcomers to Unitarian Universalist Congregations

Alternate Activity 1: Covenant as Promise

Part of The New UU

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Handout 1, Covenant as Promise
  • Newsprint, markers, and tape
  • Pens or pencils
  • Optional: Your congregation's covenant
  • Optional: Copies of Singing the Living Tradition for all participants

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 1, Covenant as Promise, for all participants.
  • Optional: Write your congregation's covenant on newsprint, and post.

Description of Activity

Distribute the handout and pens/pencils. Invite a volunteer to read the text. Then invite participants to reflect on the relationships in their lives and respond to the questions on the handout.

After five minutes, invite participants to find a partner with whom to share some of what they have written. After two minutes, suggest that the second person in each pair begin sharing if they have not yet done so. After five minutes, invite pairs to turn their attention to the large group. Use these or similar words:

You have had a chance to think about some of the promises in your personal relationships. The promises we make to one another in a congregation, while somewhat different from personal covenants, share many of the same qualities. For example, you may have said you promise fidelity to your spouse. That might not be a promise one would make to a congregation, but it reflects a degree of loyalty and trust which might be appropriate. Often, our promises are not explicit, but are understood. What do you think might be some of the promises we make-explicit or implicit-as members of a congregation?

Write the responses on newsprint as they are offered. If participants have difficulty brainstorming, ask them, "What behaviors would you expect of people in the congregation? What behaviors would help make it safe for you to participate fully?" If responses are slow, make some suggestions, such as:

  • Thinking the best of one another, rather than worst
  • Not participating in gossip
  • Being truthful.

When the list feels complete, share your congregation's covenant or draw attention to one in the hymnbook that your congregation is accustomed to saying (often Reading 471, 472, or 473). Lead a discussion using these questions as a guide:

  • What insights, observations, and questions do you have about the covenantal nature of congregational membership?
  • What attracts you about the idea of covenant?
  • What challenges you about the idea of covenant?