Developing a Covenant of Right Relations is an important step in clarifying expectations and creating a safe environment for congregations. "Covenant" is Latin for "come together" and means a "solemn agreement" or "promise from the heart" regarding a course of action between parties. Although the process of creating a covenant is unique for each group it may be helpful to review the sample below.
From UU Faithworks
Shared by Rev. Deborah Mero, Interim Minister (2000-2002), All Souls Church Unitarian Universalist (UU) Brattleboro, VT
We build our church on a foundation of love and covenant with one another,
To freely explore our values and honor our diversity as a source of communal strength,
To accept responsibility for our individual acts and promote justice and peace,
To celebrate the joys of discovery, embracing the fullest measure of our humanity,
To communicate with kindness and support,
To serve with compassion and commitment,
To openly share our laughter and tears and,
To show reverence for the divine in all that it is.
Maintaining Right Relations: Expectations and Remedies
The well-being, strength, and reputation of our church depend on a sense of fellowship among the members, friends, and staff, which thrives in an atmosphere of trust, respect, and cooperation. Within such an atmosphere, differences of opinion and their resolution through compromise or consensus can enhance a sense of community. However, differences or misunderstandings that go unresolved and descend into prolonged conflict can threaten the social fabric of our church. We recognize that conflict may arise from time to time and that, when it does, its management and resolution are paramount. We recognize that such conflict may occur between members, members and staff, members and minister, or staff and minister. This document is intended to identify the steps to be followed in our church should unresolved conflicts arise.
We preface these suggestions with the commonsense wisdom that we all should adhere to the UU Principles and Purposes and our own church covenant, exhibiting behaviors that enhance the dignity and inherent worth of all participants: expressing sincere appreciation; allowing for human fallibility; dealing directly with each other; speaking softly; being creative in problem solving; maintaining a sense of humor; actively listening and clarifying what we hear; letting others have their say; respecting boundaries that may differ from our own; respecting confidentiality; refraining from harmful gossip about others; and speaking honestly. Each person, regardless of his or her role in the church—including clergy, board members, non-member staff, etc.—is expected to live to this covenant within the context of their relationship with the church community.
We all, as responsible members of this community, have an obligation to bring to light concerns about things which threaten the health of our church. This should be done by using existing procedures, proper committees, etc. As members of this community, we have an obligation to find out what those procedures are, in a conflict or in any other dealing with the church, just as we have responsibilities to support the church, honor our pledges, show up, fulfill our commitments for committees, and strive to be on time. In short, we owe each other respectful participation in the life of our church.
This document is a policy statement that fits within a set of documents, some of which are still in the development stage. These include:
- Bylaws (which may require revisions)
- Sexual Harassment Policy
- Employment Policies
- Membership Handbook that may include committee and membership responsibilities
- A referral list to find the names of committee chairs and members
- Procedural items such as where to go to learn how to make copies, put something on the church calendar, and any number of other items that may come up.
- Conflict Resolution: Guidelines and Suggestions for Success