More than you wanted to know about covenants

New Bedford, Mass.

In preparation for the sermon I’m giving here on Sunday, just before this congregation votes whether to call me or not, I’ve been researching covenant. I think of covenants as the promises as religious group makes to one another, and to the wider world. Thus covenants have practical theological implications. So I’ve been searching the Web for examples of covenants used by Unitarian Universalist congregations in North America. Here are some that I particularly liked:

Covenant of the Unitarian Universalist church in Saco/Biddeford, Maine:

In the freedom of truth and in the spirit of Love, we unite for the worship of God and the service of all.

Commentary: A hold-over from a classic late 19th C. Unitarian covenant. Simple, straightforward, and easy to remember, it includes a few key words: “freedom,” “love,” and “service.” Nice that this covenant recognizes that worship services are at the center of congregational life, though these days some Unitarian Universalists might prefer to find another word besides “God.”

Covenant of Second Unitarian in Chicago, Illinois:

We covenant to build a community that challenges us to grow and empowers us to hold faithful to the truth within ourselves. — We will be generous with our gifts and honest in our communication, holding faithful to a love that embraces both diversity and conflict. — Called by our living tradition, we will nurture spirituality within a vision of the eternal, living out our inner convictions through struggles for justice and acts of compassion.

Commentary: The language is a little trendy and middle class (“empowers,” “communication”), but overall reasonably memorable and suitable for reading out loud. For an article on the process used to develop this covenant, see

Covenant of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, Ill.

Being desirous of promoting practical goodness in the world, and of aiding each other in our moral and religious improvement, we have associated ourselves together — not as agreeing in opinion, not as having attained universal truth in belief or perfection in character — but as seekers after truth and goodness.

Commentary: In spite of the 19th C. language (this was written in 1842), this is simple, direct, and to the point. The phrase “not as agreeing in opinion, not as having attained universal truth in belief or perfection in character” serves as an excellent reminder that we are all fallible as individuals. Would be better if it mentioned love, but aside for that an excellent covenant.

The Web site of the Unitarian Universalist Association has a small collection of historic and contemporary covenants at