East Shore’s New Covenant of Right Relations

by Louise Wilkinson

The Right Relations Task Force shared our new Right Relations Covenant at the Congregational meeting on June 3rd. We are grateful to all of you who surfaced the need for Right Relations training and a Right Relations covenant at the summit we had a year ago February. We are grateful to those on the ministerial search team who alerted us to the prevalence of Right Relations in UU churches and the fact that ministerial candidates look for such training and covenants. We are grateful to all of you who attended our trainings last fall, and to those of you who have worked through the deep sharing necessary to create guidelines for your teams. And we are grateful to those of you who shared your input into this East Shore Covenant. We have drawn on your thoughts and words, as well as on our trainings and ideas from other UU Right Relations Covenants. And of course, we embedded our mission: Practice Love, Explore Spirituality, Build Community, and Promote Justice. Thank you to those of you who voted for and have signed the Covenant.

We want to share with you some of the thought behind the elements of the covenant.

Enter this space with a spirit of gratitude for this community and share it openly.

Right Relations is about intentions, skills or methods, and practice. This element involves all three. If we intentionally enter the sacred space of East Shore with gratitude in our hearts, it shifts our focus from ourselves and negativity, to others and to positivity. Research shows that gratitude is actually a skill we can practice to open our hearts and bring compassion.

Hold this community as sacred, balancing our personal spiritual needs with those of others to preserve a brave and safe space.

We most often have trouble with each other when we are attached to having our own needs met in specific ways. Buddhist wisdom suggests that letting go of such attachment is actually a powerful way to meet our deepest spiritual needs for inner freedom, love and community. Attachment itself imprisons us and blocks us from each other. We do need to be brave to open to new ways of discovering spirituality. Safety comes when we help others meet their spiritual needs as well.

Openly share our real selves, being vulnerable and trusting.

When we are attached and fear that we may lose something important to us, we often share only partially, not wanting to be vulnerable or give away some advantage. If we choose to share openly, we are not only sharing our real selves but our intention to trust and be trusted. Our gifts to this community are our full selves, our full presence to each other, and the trust we bring that creates this unique kind of love and community.

Seek the joy and richness of diversity of people, experiences and culture. Embrace the voices and leadership of marginalized people in all areas of the church.

Extending compassion across boundaries to those we perceive to be different is one of the great challenges of our times. Wired to be tribal, it is a measure of our spiritual growth when we practice love in ways that are new and courageous. The benefits are innumerable as we discover the beauty and brilliance of people that we have not really seen before. To have a church that works for all of us, we intentionally make space for marginalized voices – those who regularly find it hard to be heard. Our culture supports the predominance of some voices, and devalues others – making it difficult or even dangerous to speak out. Our community grows in understanding and relevance as diverse voices and leadership bring new perspectives and experience.

Listen to others to discover their deepest needs and intent, with a willingness to be changed.

This is the practice of love – being fully present to another is the greatest gift we can give. We come to this community to share and belong in ways more intimate and meaningful than we find in other communities. Hearing each other’s deepest needs is an ability learned through practice. Hearing each other is also the way we grow. We have diverse areas of wisdom, and the gift of the community is both the love and the learning, which we receive only when we are open to it.

Speak our perspective with honesty and respect, recognizing and caring about the possible impact on others.

None of us has the full truth – we all have perspectives that, when heard and shared, can create a fullness that approaches truth. When we recognize this, we weigh the validity of other’s perspectives as we do our own. And honoring others, we care about the impact of our words and actions on them. We are blessed with “mirror neurons” that can help us discern how someone else is experiencing something. But it takes attention and practice to share honestly while at the same time sensing how it is taken and ensuring the communication is received as intended. The goal is shared understanding.

Commit to personal life-long learning of skills to help resolve and restore relationships through healing and forgiveness.

Relationships are what many of us live for, and yet they are often the most difficult things we undertake. The art of relationship building and maintenance is a life-long study of intentions, skills, and practice. Our mission centers on this very art – practicing love, exploring spirituality, building community, and promoting justice. We are lucky to have a living laboratory here in this community of faith. We can learn and practice in every interaction.

Support the success of our staff, minister, board, and our congregational groups and committees.

It is only through our support that our organization can be successful. Especially in times of change, we may disagree with some decisions. And we can express this disagreement with care and respect while supporting the decision-making processes we’ve agreed to and the expertise we have elected, hired and entrusted with leadership.

Strengthen and promote the values of our beloved community and Unitarian Universalism and carry them into the future and the larger world.

Unitarian Universalism has a unique and powerful message for our world today. Chris Crass says “These are the times our faith was made for.” Many are looking at our faith for guidance – to see what wisdom and action the most progressive faith-based organizations can provide in these times of division, lies and hate. We have a challenge and a role to be an oasis in the desert, and to share with the world our loving and just principles and values to help shape the future.