Oct. 1, 2018.

By Senior Minister Rev. David A. Miller.

Human communities have their challenges. UUCF is no exception. Even with the best of intentions, we can and have found ourselves in situations where we become unwilling to engage in respectful, sustained and ultimately productive dialogue that would bring us into what we call right relations – into the beloved community we so cherish in this congregation.

These situations range from small, one-on-one misunderstandings to larger, more-public confrontations. Occasionally they have included threats of leaving the congregation when members feel their individual needs are being disrespected or not being met.

Most of these situations end up with ministerial involvement, where it is our role to listen, care, counsel and help resolve differences.

Knowing that this is part of the dynamics of our human interactions, UUCF is working on a process or mechanism to help guide us from wariness, hurt feelings or brokenness, back into community, fellowship and healing. The goal is to create a covenant, something we can live by, something that will help us be who we want to be with each other.

This past summer, we convened the Covenant of Right Relations Team*. We invited members and pledging friends – people from all stages and walks of life in this congregation. Over the past year, the team has been researching best practices from other congregations and is creating a process to help us get to a covenant that we, as a congregation, can live by.

In talking with several congregations and faith communities, we asked how they went about their covenanting process. We found out what worked and what didn’t. Where is the covenant a living, thriving and instantly recognizable ethos? And why? Where is it a document collecting dust on a shelf, and why? What would they do again? What would they do better? And how would that work for us here at UUCF?

In this research we discovered that the secret to a successful covenanting process was listening – with open hearts and open minds. More important, the answer is to listen to everyone – to those of all ages, races, ethnicities, abilities, genders, sexual orientations and spiritual expressions. To those who come every Sunday and those who don’t. To those who come and sit in front and those who sit quietly in the back and never say a word. To those who love and wholeheartedly embrace the full UUCF experience as well as those who struggle with it.

So we came up with a process through which we would try to do that:

  • Listening sessions: The Covenant of Right Relations Team will hold three listening sessions. The first one will be held at the Adult Retreat on Oct. 13. A second will be held on Oct. 28, and a third on Nov. 28. See our What’s happening page or the calendar for more information. Come to one, come to all, but please come. Each listening session will be moderated and recorded by members of the team so that we can gather your responses, input and feedback on what we want in a covenant to guide us for years to come.
  • Covenant Team table in the Commons: Can’t make it to a listening session? We have you covered. In the Sanctuary Commons, for the duration of this process, we’ll have a Covenant of Right Relations Team table where you can ask questions and share feedback.
  • Submit feedback online: Submit questions, comments, concerns or feedback to the Covenant of Right Relations Team through this Google Form.
  • Congregational vote on the draft covenant: The team will gather information from the congregation with a goal of producing a draft to present to the congregation for a vote at the UUCF Annual Meeting on Jun. 2, 2019. After that vote, we will invite congregants to step up and help us all live the covenant when we need to be reminded of it.

For now, I invite you to think about these questions:

  • Who are we as a congregation?
  • Who do we want to be?
  • How do we want to be with one another?
  • What do we want our hopes for one another and our promises to one another to be?
  • Who should be in this conversation besides you?
  • Who should always be in this conversation at UUCF, but is somehow always strangely missing?

We look forward to engaging as many of you as possible in this covenanting process.

*The Covenant of Right Relations Team is Sohini Baliga, Alexa Bilidas, Kaye Cook, Dave Howell, Sharon Johnson, Rev. David A. Miller, Ashley Rothermel and Pippin Whitaker.