Covenant renewal

Posted Sep 11, 2014 | Pastoral Excellence Network


By Christina Braudaway-Bauman

Christina Braudaway-BaumanEvery September, my clergy community of practice begins a new church year together by renewing our covenant. We tend to the vitality of our group as we review our life together. We ask ourselves to consider what it is about our meetings that we want to reaffirm or revise. What promises do we want to make to each other as we move forward?

Most of us have been together for eight years, and there are many practices we established a long time ago; but this fall, we are adding two new members, so it feels especially important for us to step back and reflect on how we want to be together. Having experienced many clergy gatherings that feel either haphazard and disorganized or overly structured in ways that don’t encourage our engagement, we are eager to be intentional about how we will make room for each of us to be able to show up fully.

Before we meet next week, I will send these questions to the members of the group to ponder and prepare to answer:

• What do I need this group to be and do in order to be able make an enthusiastic commitment to show up for every meeting?
• What do I need this group to be and do in order for it to make a positive difference in my life and ministry?
• What do I hope to bring from my life and ministry to the group?
• What do I hope to take from the group to my life and ministry?

In recent months, the former group expressed a desire to be engaged in learning together in some new ways. We created a list of books we want to read and are thinking about spending a portion of each three-hour meeting discussing one each month. We also made some preliminary plans to go away quarterly on an overnight retreat to work together on matters that require more extended conversation, like seasonal worship planning.

As we gather this month to welcome new members, we’ll revisit these aspirations, set goals for ourselves, and think about how to arrange our meeting practices.

As part of our covenant renewal, we will also re-read and reflect with one another on the Touchstones that have come to be a hallmark of the Center for Courage and Renewal. Over the years, these markers have also served to shape our life together, creating the safe sanctuary where we find the support and encouragement we need to grow and take some risks in ministry. The invitation to “keep the trust placed in you,” for example, calls us to hold with great care and confidentiality the challenges and growing edges each one of us brings to the group. We learn from each other as we share, but we are also prompted to “attend to our own inner teacher,” to pay attention to our own reactions and responses so that we can see what there is to learn from within. We are urged to guard the temptation we all feel to offer advice, particularly when it hasn’t been requested, with a simple reminder, “No fixing.”

Whenever we as members of a clergy group affirm our practices of hospitality and prayer, make promises to care deeply for one another, and set goals which encourage each of us to take responsibility for our own participation and learning, we draw around ourselves a circle of support and trust that enables us to make a whole-hearted commitment to one another, to our work together, and to the ministry we are blessed to share.

Christina Braudaway-Bauman is the Director of the Pastoral Excellence Network and Pastor at Large of Wellesley Congregational Church (The Village Church), Wellesley, MA. She will also be a presenter at Peer Power on October 28 and 29 in Marriottsville, MD.

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