November 15, 2016
Plymouth offers a welcoming and vibrant spiritual community for many, and in the last few years we have experienced challenging and painful times together. Things have happened to compromise our mutual trust. Collectively naming and coming to terms are vital to restoring our healthy community. As we grapple with this process, we need a framework for HOW we are with each other to do the hard work regarding WHAT needs to be addressed.
To that end, nearly 70 of us attended a workshop October 1, led by Reverend Jan Van Pelt. We heard one another’s concerns and hopes and used our collective wisdom to develop guidance around the HOW part. Together, we worked to develop ingredients for a covenant to guide us toward healthier relationships and communication practices for everyday interactions and inevitable times of conflict.
Judy Bentley synthesized our ideas into a “Covenant for Healthy Relationships.” The draft was refined by a group of Plymouth members including: Tad Anderson, Madeline Beery, Katherine Guthrie, Doug James, Sue Jones, Dan Landes and Rev. Jan Van Pelt. Now, another group of Plymouth members is tasked with introducing the covenant into congregational life: Tad Anderson, Madeline Beery, Don Mayer, Erin Page, Tracy Simpson and Rev. Jan Van Pelt.
Everyone has not been involved in challenges we hope to address. Some may feel a relational covenant is unnecessary or be skeptical about its effectiveness. Some may feel it’s a mandate. Others may feel relieved and hopeful the congregation is making an explicit effort to help remind us to see each other with God’s loving eyes.
We hope you prayerfully read the covenant and consider how it resonates for you. Seek resonate spots by thinking about how you wish to be treated when someone disagrees with you, or perhaps note compassionate practices that may be especially difficult for you when upset or angry. Take time to reflect; then take the covenant for a test run at Plymouth and in your day-to-day life.
We are going to disagree and sometimes we will do so in ways that are unkind or disrespectful. We are imperfect. And that’s ok. Grace is all around and within us. We can look at each other with God’s loving eyes and see Jesus in one another. We truly can; we just have to keep working at it.
Read the Covenant for Healthy Relationships below. It is also available at the church office. Let’s bring the covenant to life, engage with it and live into it. The covenant offers a foundational step to help us lovingly address lingering hurts so that we can walk forward together on our journey toward the kin-dom of God.
As a country, we face uncertain times ripe for bringing out our worst selves. Fear and anger can be destructive, so we must be care-full and prayer-full. Beacons of hope and love persist in the world; new ones will emerge to greet challenges that lie ahead. Fueled by our love for each other, Seattle, our country and the world, Plymouth can be one of those beacons. --Covenant Implementation Team
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Our Covenant for Healthy Relationships
Plymouth Church Seattle, UCC
Ephesians 4:3, “Make every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”
Preamble: We, the people of Plymouth Church United Church of Christ, seek to promote a community grounded in love, justice and the Holy Spirit. We acknowledge that conflict is a natural part of our life in the church and that God is present with us as we work and grow together. We, as a people of faith, seek ways to speak the truth and to agree and disagree in love.
As individuals and as a congregation, we will strive to…:
Start with gratitude and respect for one another and trust our mutually good intentions.
Communicate directly with one another to resolve conflicts.
Listen respectfully and compassionately for understanding.
Speak from our own experiences.
Resist the impulse to attack and blame.
Commit to working through conflict when it arises. Show up, both physically and spiritually. Engage and encourage others to engage.
Reach beyond our own interests and be open to other points of view.
Relinquish a culture of criticism. Accept imperfection.
Seek and offer forgiveness.
Commit to reconciliation and receiving grace.
Hold each other accountable to this covenant. Affirm and nurture our relationships for the long term.
This covenant is a living document. It can be reviewed and adapted by the congregation at any time. It represents a commitment to thoughtful, active participation in the life of this community; caring and respectful relationships with one another; and cooperative support for ministers, staff, lay leadership and volunteers.