The Real Reason Why Covenant Matters
One of the Board of Trustees priorities for this year is developing a congregational covenant. A covenant of course is a set of promises we make to one another regarding how we will behave with one another as we engage in the present and future life and work of the congregation. These agreements are designed at a minimum to help us maintain ourselves in right relationship with one another. It is not always easy to be in community with one another. Living in community we are exposed over and over to our personal imperfections and the very human limitations of our fellow congregants. Living in community also highlights our differences as well as similarities, differences that may be profound and hard to accept or appreciate. A congregational covenant can provide us with a set of guidelines for how to restore our relationships when we find ourselves in conflict with others or in pain and disappointment about our own behavior or the behavior of our fellow community members.
But a set of covenantal agreements can also enable us to fully realize the potential of living in a faith community. The covenant can be aspirational. It can call us to act and relate to one another in a way that maximizes the difference we can make in each other’s lives and in the lives of people in the broader community whom FUUSN serves. In my day job I work as a clinical psychologist at the Bedford VA Medical Center. One of my roles is serving as a member of a specialty clinical consultation team that provides therapy services to individuals with particularly challenging mental health issues. Our service to these individuals is often high stakes and emotionally challenging for the members of the team. Yet the team itself has learned to thrive in this stressful work in no small part because we abide by a set of explicit agreements—a covenant if you will—that shape how we relate to ourselves, to one another, and to the clients that we serve. These covenantal agreements elevate the work that we do and inspire us to persevere in that work precisely because they point to what is possible for a group of people who commit to pursue a common endeavor that makes a significant difference in the lives of others.
The Board of Trustees has abided by our current Board covenant for over two years. Part of our covenant involves behavioral agreements that guide our conduct in our Board meetings. We can always point to these guidelines if we perceive that some or all of us are straying from agreed on behaviors. But our Board covenant is much more than that. It reminds us of our responsibilities: “We promise to promote our congregation’s vision of a vibrant faith community in right relationship with one another. We promise to serve as wise stewards of the congregation’s resources, rich history, and future possibilities.” It also points us in the direction of the possible: “we will cultivate a Board culture of love, respect, transparency, discernment, and trust. We will ensure our being in spiritual relationship informs and empowers the work we do together as a Board. We will challenge one another to act according to our principles. We will listen closely to each other. We will speak authentically from our hearts and minds.” And it also reminds us of our imperfection: “We recognize that we will at times fall short in keeping our promises and meeting our expectations.”
Taken seriously, this covenant has become more than just words. It has transformed our experience and our interactions. It has become a constant reminder of what is possible for us as a Board entrusted with the well-being of the congregation. It has also convinced us that a covenant created and sustained by the congregation as a whole has the potential to transform the experience and interactions of every member of the congregation who commits to living by and through that covenant. -Chris Krebs, Board of Trustees