Each year on the first weekend of October we choose to either (re)commit or not (re)commit to a covenant we make with one another before God in regards to "Covenant Membership" or "Community Membership." Covenant Membership is often considered after a period of study and preparation with the help of other Covenant Members. Most candidates have spent time as a Community Member first. There is no gender/gender identity/gender expression/sexual orientation requirements for any level of membership or leadership roles within Church of the Covenant. We always strive to have a diverse representation among both our leadership and general membership.
When we commit to "Covenant Membership" (elders/leaders), we commit to the following spiritual disciplines throughout our 1-year term:
When we commit to "Community Membership" (general members), we commit to the following spiritual disciplines throughout our 1-year term:
Historically “covenant” (or בְּרִית “berit” from the Hebrew) was always relational. It was not just a contract, it was human-bonding-with-human under the Divine. In the ancient stories of the Hebrews, we see occasions of “berit” (covenant) between two parties accompanied and sealed by a shared meal together as seen in Genesis 26 and 31. Though not always the case, it was very common and seemed to symbolize a celebration of human equalization, that is, being bonded together as siblings, as family; co-sharing in a meal together becomes emblematic of our love for one another, our comfort with one another. Covenant meant we were equals, sealed in an almost familial bond. These forms of “covenant” were used by the ancients often in contexts of “making peace.” Remember what Jesus said, “blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God.”
Abimelech and Isaac settled their land disputes by making a “berit” together. In the same way Joshua later made peace with the Gibeonites, to avoid war and violence. To live in peace. Solomon and Hiram made “berit” together, to live in constant peace with one another. While these seem to be more political covenants to bring about peace among people groups, the importance is not lost. Other uses of “berit” were in a love relationship between two people, like in a marriage. Or like the relationship between Jonathan and David, where a commitment made to love one another is central. In both cases, the “berit,” though wholly human, is made in the presence of the Divine. How we at Church of the Covenant use the word “covenant” is a mix of all of these.
We make a commitment to abide by certain principles throughout the year that feed us spiritually, inwardly, which will provide us with internal peace—and also encourage us toward love for others outwardly (or external peace). The member makes this covenant in a spirit of love and peace for the sake of love and peace, as expressed inside and outside oneself. For those who choose not to make the covenant that year, it does not mean that they choose to ignore the covenant or even live outside it, but as the name of this community infers, we all strive to live by the principles of the covenant, whether we made a public commitment or not. We each work out aspects of the covenant and strive to leverage its goodness in our lives regardless of whether we committed our names to paper. We often call these principles our disciplines.
The disciplines cover five aspects of our life:
These principles are anchored in a love for one another. It has historically been called, in fact, a “covenant one with another.” We see this in the initial followers of Jesus too. The writer of Hebrews encouraged a similar level of commitment and urgency, and this was the spirit with which our church founders made their first "covenant one with another" in 1954.
The words of Hebrews 10 are ever present in how we are to be with one another: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching.” So, we do not take covenant lightly; however, we do not lord it over each other either. We simply strive to live out our disciplines as we are able, not legalistically.