On my desk I have a list called “Ten Ways to Live Restoratively” that comes from the work of Howard Zehr. Here are some key items from that list:
These words sound like a covenant to me, a sacred agreement I can make with the whole world. I will treat everyone respectfully. I will view harms and conflicts in my life as opportunities. I will engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult. And what happens when I fail to do these things? If this is my covenant with the world, my sacred commitment, I must have a way of being accountable: seeing when I am living up to these ideals, and being honest about the times when I am not. This is why Howard Zehr also includes this one as part of his list:
I love the part about even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it. This is what my friend Kai calls, “turning yourself in.” This is true accountability. We all know when we have failed in our agreements, and when we admit it, we can make it right and restore relationships.
I am thinking about all this in the context of our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, this community of about a hundred members and friends. Like the agreements Howard Zehr lists, we have agreements with one another. Because we are a spiritual community, we frame our agreements together as a covenant: a sacred agreement among us about how we will treat one another. Our official covenant reads in part: we pledge to be mindful when speaking of and to one another. We will walk in the ways of truth and loving-kindness that we and our children may always be fulfilled. And, like any humans, individually and in groups, we will break the covenant at times. There will be conflict and harm. In our Fellowship, as anywhere in life, the ideal is for each of us to take responsibility for the times when we break the covenant.
As board president Guy Newland talked about last Sunday, we also have further policies in place to address the breaking of the covenant and any disruptive behavior that may occur in the life and events of the Fellowship. We have a small committee who take the responsibility to call people back into covenant when it is broken. If someone were to do serious or repeated harm to someone else in the Fellowship, the board of trustees could take action including suspending or excluding that person. This would be a serious step, but if it kept the community safe from someone’s toxic behavior it would be warranted and welcome.
In life, and in the microcosm of this spiritual community, we strive to be our best selves, treating each other with respect and confronting difficult situations with an open mind and a loving heart. May we be strengthened in our resolve to do so.
Spirit of Life and Love, guide me into ways of being that make me open and loving, compassionate and fair. Help me see the prejudices and selfishness of my ego when they get in the way of treating people well.
Help me see that healthy boundaries are a good thing: within myself; in my personal relations; and in my communities.
May all people be well and safe, loved and cared for. May all people know healthy communication and healthy boundaries.
Amen. Aho. Blessed be.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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Rev. Andrew Frantz
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