Covenant of Right Relations
Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church
As Unitarian Universalists, we are a people not of creed, but of covenant. What we hold in common is not a single theology, but a commitment to the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism. The first principle states that we “covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person”, and the fourth states that we affirm and promote “justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.” These are not just ideals for how we interact with the rest of the world, but for how we interact with each other, here in this congregation.
Theologian Martin Buber is reported to have said that human beings are “promise-making, promise-keeping, promise-breaking, promise-renewing” creatures. A written covenant of right relations helps make clear what promises we are making, how we keep them, and how we renew them when they are broken.
The most important element of all those steps is respectful communication. When people speak passionately about subjects important to them, it is possible for disagreement to become conflict, and for people to be hurt by the way in which disagreement is expressed. When practicing right relations, people can disagree without being disagreeable. This is an important part of what we commit to with this covenant.
Covenant, however, is about more than just how to handle disagreement. It is about how to live out our commitment to our principles, so that we are in all cases striving to treat each other with the utmost respect and dignity, and are practicing compassion with each other.
As members and friends, lay leaders, minister, and staff of the Peterborough Unitarian Universalist Church, we commit to this covenant with each other. It applies to all of our relationships within the congregation. It exists to help us fulfill our mission statement, which includes the commitment “to nurture a loving, inclusive, spiritual community.” We do not always live up to our ideals, but we know we can choose to grow in a manner that promotes a religious community grounded in love and justice. In pledging to follow these guidelines, we will serve our own spiritual development, one another, our religious home, our local community, our larger faith, and our world.
- communicate directly, respectfully and honestly in a spirit of loving kindness, in words, tone, and body language
- be friendly and welcoming to all members and visitors, and get to know them as individuals
- encourage and support the involvement of everyone in the life of our congregation honoring the boundaries and expressed wishes of others
- allow all a chance to speak, and listen so that all are heard and understood
- be curious and appreciative about perspectives that differ from my own, including the words and ways people choose to express their spirituality
- honor the contributions and needs of those who have been historically marginalized in society and our congregation
- be thoughtful and caring about how and when I share others’ stories
- stay in conversation with others even when this feels difficult or stressful, within the limits of safety and respect, recognizing that uncomfortable conversations are sometimes necessary
- communicate with care and respect if my feelings have been hurt, and if I hurt others’ feelings, acknowledge this and respond with care and respect
- follow through on my commitments and take responsibility for my words and actions
- address, as soon as possible, when I experience or witness behavior that seems contrary to this covenant
- accept reminders when I fail to live up to this covenant and both apologize, when warranted, and seek to make amends