As I continue to think out loud about covenant in liberal religious congregations, I can think of three cases where having a covenant makes a lot of sense:
(a) Congregations that can trace their institutional roots back to churches that historically had covenants as their central organizing principle. For Unitarian Universalist congregations, this probably means tracing institutional roots back to the mid-19th century or earlier, to churches of the New England Standing Order. The concept of covenant would have to have been kept alive in some form since then; e.g., the New Bedford, Mass., Unitarian church grew out of a Puritan church that had a covenant up through the 19th century, and later maintained that covenant in the way in which newcomers were allowed to join the church as full members (i.e., newcomers have always had to sign a statement stating they would uphold certain moral standards).
(b) Congregations that otherwise derive from churches of the old New England Standing Order, e.g., the Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, Illinois (see first post in this series for details).
(c) Congregations that were not originally Puritan, but were nevertheless initially organized around covenant as a central organizing principle. I believe some of our newest congregations were intentionally formed around covenants.
In each of these three cases, in order for covenant to remain viable as a central organizing principle, the covenant must:— be kept theologically fresh by the minister(s) or other theologically sophisticated persons; be constantly presented to new members; and be a part of the day-to-day life of the congregation. That is, in order to be viable, a covenant must be a living document.
Third in a series on covenant. Part one.