Our theme for the month of March is Respect. It seems fitting, then, that later this month we will be having a congregational workshop on covenant and conflict. At their core, covenants are about respect. Typically, when I lead a group through a covenanting process, I ask them to consider two key questions:
- What do you need?
- What do you have to offer?
Together, these two questions get to the heart of what’s at stake when we come together in community. We all have needs, and we hope that our community will respect those needs at least—and help to fill them at best. And we all have gifts. We come to community with so much to offer each other. We hope that our gifts will be respected, at least—and received and embraced, at best.
When our community is flourishing, both of these happen. We come together with mutual respect, where we receive each other’s gifts with grace and appreciation, and where we are supported in our attempts to live into our most whole and true selves
And, inevitably, even in the best communities there is conflict. We come into community with different experiences, different expectations, and different assumptions. Put all of this together, and there is conflict. What we do with this conflict helps to determine the kind of community we can become. Do we discourage conflict, demanding that everyone conform to one particular set of norms and behaviors? Or do we embrace conflict as an opportunity to bring us to deeper understanding of both our differences and our shared values.
Conflict is hard. Often, we experience it as discomfort in our bodies. And most of us have not developed good skills to address conflict productively. We may worry that conflict will result in loss of relationship. But covenant, grounded in love and respect, gives us some guardrails for approaching conflict in ways that can strengthen, not weaken our community.
I hope you will join me later this month
as we explore together ways to use our covenant to engage conflict with mutual love and respect.