What is a covenant?
According to the UCC Constitution: Article III. Covenantal Relationships
Within the United Church of Christ, the various expressions of the church relate to each other in a covenantal manner. Each expression of the Church has responsibilities and rights in relation to the others, to the end that the whole Church will seek God’s will and be faithful to God’s mission. Decisions are made in consultation and collaboration among the various parts of the structure. As members of the Body of Christ, each expression of the Church listens, hears, and carefully considers the advice, counsel, and requests of others. In this covenant, the various expressions of the United Church of Christ seek to walk together in all God’s ways.
How covenant in the UCC “works”
As a UCC pastor, I am in covenant with all parts of “the Church”. Our congregation is also in a covenant with all parts of the UCC. My covenant with the Local Church (First UCC) is to be your pastor and to exercise my duties as best I can with exceptional ethics. The congregation’s responsibility in the covenant is to compensate me fairly and treat me as they would like to be treated.
Our covenant responsibilities with our UCC Conference (Penn Northeast Conference) are to:
• provide financial support to the Conference (I believe 80% or more of our gifts stay in the Conference)
• participate in the ministry of the Conference (I co-chair a committee, Diane French is on a committee and Diane and I both attend Conference meetings as voting delegates, Marji is active on the Spiritual Development Ministry Team.)
• Take seriously their resolutions, requests and statements, (although we need not necessarily comply nor agree)
Conference’s covenant responsibilities to us are:
• to help the church find qualified new pastors
• help find interim pastors
• provide pastors with opportunities for continuing education
• provide pastors with support (my Conference Minister visited me in the hospital when I had surgery)
• be available to help if there is conflict within the church (especially if it’s between the church and the pastor)
• the Conference has given me grants to pay for educational opportunities
• Create programs to help churches and their leaders deal with their needs
• Be present for celebrations and major events
The national UCC’s covenant asks us to:
• Take seriously their resolutions, requests and statements, (but we need not necessarily comply or agree)
• The national UCC does the following in covenant with us:
• Administers the Pension Board which provides health insurance, investment opportunities and other “human
resources” functions for the entire UCC
• Creates publications for use in congregations (Confirmation books, hymnals and stewardship resources, worship and preaching resources)
• Provides media campaigns and promotional materials for churches to promote themselves
• Manage our relationships with other denominations around the world.
• Provide churches with information about and responses to significant world events that speak to our faith
• Provide educational opportunities (I was scheduled to go to a multi day event in Little Rock before the pandemic ruined that)
• Provide suggestions about how churches/associations/conferences should be run (Manual on Church) and about how people should become pastors (Manual on Ministry). We don’t necessarily follow what these documents say, but most do.