Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: A Place of Wholeness: A Program for Youth Exploring Their Own Unitarian Universalist Faith Journeys

Activity 1: The Meaning of Covenant

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint, markers and tape

Preparation for Activity

  • Write the three small group discussion questions on newsprint, and post.

Description of Activity

Youth explore covenantal relationships.

Introduce today's theme of covenant by asking a volunteer to define the word. Help participants understand that a covenant is an agreement or a promise. Tell the group that they will explore different types of relationships based on a covenant, then compare and contrast them with the covenant at the foundation of Unitarian Universalist communities. Ask for examples of relationships based on a covenant. Offer examples as needed, such as the relationship between God and the Israelites, marriage, congregations, youth groups, and small group ministry groups. Write all the examples on newsprint.

Explain covenant by reading or adapting the following script:

In the Hebrew Bible, which Christians call the Old Testament, there are many covenants-between God and the Israelite people, and between God and individuals like Abraham and Moses. The Israelites kept their covenant with God by being in right relationship with one another and living in ways they believed God wanted them to live. These covenants may be written on stone tablets, or symbolized by natural occurrences such as rainbows. The Hebrew Bible is a collection of stories about the Israelites and their attempts, failures and successes, to keep covenant.

The concept of covenant that we live in Unitarian Universalism today comes from these roots. In old New England, churches looked at the Bible stories and decided that they could live faithfully with one another and with God, leading them to reject the rule of kings and adopt a form of democracy. But rather than being accountable to a superior God, we are in covenant with one another as equals and faith seekers. A sense of God or the Holy is part of this covenant for some people, but not for all. As James Luther Adams' second smooth stone reminds us, as religious liberals we freely choose to enter into relationship with one another - this is the foundation of covenant.

Ask the group: Given this explanation of covenant, what is the difference between a covenant and a creed? Invite responses. Emphasize that the key difference is that a creed is a statement of belief that all people adopt as members of a community, whereas a covenant is a statement of promise that community members make to each other and which serves as the reason for coming together. A covenant is open to change as a community evolves. Remind the group that James Luther Adam's second stone says "Relationships are consensual and never coerced." How does this relate to a notion of covenantal relationships?

Divide participants into small groups and assign each of them one of the covenantal relationships brainstormed. Give each group a sheet of newsprint and a marker, and tell them they have four minutes to answer the following questions you have posted on newsprint:

  • What is being promised?
  • What results from this covenant?
  • What are the challenges of this covenant?

After four minutes, ask the small groups to share their answers in the large group.