Covenants more than a statement!

‘I will make my covenant between me and you.’ (Gen. 17:2 NRSV)

The Mayflower Compact was the first covenant in North American history.

The Mayflower Compact was the first covenant in North American history.

An Open and Affirming covenant is more than a statement, policy, declaration or an amendment to a congregation’s by-laws. In the UCC’s Reformed tradition, a covenant is an act of faith, a solemn promise to God in response to God’s holy Word. An ONA covenant is a serious step for a congregation in its life of faith.

In a church covenant, a congregation seeks “to walk together in all God’s ways” (Constitution of the United Church of Christ).

The first Reformed covenant in North America was the Mayflower Compact (1620): “[We] solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.” In one of the first church covenants in New England, the congregation gathered in Dedham, Mass., professed in 1638 “through the help of the Lord to live together in this our holy fellowship according to the rule of love.” In 1648, Congregationalist theologian Thomas Shepard grounded church covenants in Christ: “Members [of the church are] bound to cleave only to Christ, their head … and to one another by [mutual] love, which they are bound to strengthen and confirm … by a Solemn Covenant.”

In New England, a church covenant was affirmed by the congregation as a body after a time of prayerful discernment. As a contemporary expression of this tradition, an ONA covenant is grounded in prayer, Bible study and dialogue “according to the rule of love” (Dedham church covenant).

Explore this page to learn how UCC congregations have framed their ONA covenants.

Examples of ONA covenants

PLAINFIELD CONGREGATIONAL UCC, PLAINFIELD, IL

We, the people of the Plainfield Congregational United Church of Christ, seek to be a community of Christians who celebrate and live in openness to the voice of the Still Speaking God. We celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of each expression of God’s diverse family as well as our oneness in Christ. As we seek to live out our mission to “live Christ’s compassion and promote justice, healing and wholeness of life” we welcome into our community persons of every gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, mental and physical ability, age, race, nationality, economic and social status, faith background, marital standing and family structure; and we invite them to share in the life, leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities, blessings and joys of our congregation as we seek to “grow together in faith and love”.

OLD SOUTH CHURCH, BOSTON, MA

The Old South Church in Boston, in the name of its host, Jesus Christ, and in the spirit of Christ’s invitation carved into the stone of this church’s portico, “Behold I Set Before You an Open Door,” welcomes all who seek to know God.

Following the One who we believe is Sovereign and Savior, we affirm that each individual is a child of God, and recognize that we are called to be like one body with many members, seeking with others of every race, ethnicity, creed, class, age, gender, marital status, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to journey together toward the promised realm of God.

We invite everyone to join in the common life and mission of our reconciling community through participation and leadership in this congregation, and by fully sharing in the worship, rites and sacraments of this church.

As we all move forward with the work of this church, we commit ourselves to making justice and inclusivity a reality in this congregation and in the world. On the threshold of Christ’s open door, we rely upon the healing, unconditional nature of God’s love and grace to be our help and guide.

ROCKY HILL CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, ROCKY HILL, CT

Because we believe that all people are created in God’s image and thus are blessed and loved equally by God, and because love is a unifying and strengthening force within our Christian faith, we, the members of the Rocky Hill Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, hereby declare ourselves an Open and Affirming Christian community, actively expressing Jesus’ inclusive embrace of all people.

We welcome all who seek to follow Jesus, including persons of every age, gender, race, national origin, faith background, marital status and family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, mental and physical ability, economic and social status, and educational background, to share in the life, leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities, blessings and joys of our church family.

Jesus teaches us to welcome all God’s children into God’s covenantal community. As we grow together in faith and love, we will strive to celebrate the diversity in which God has created us.

GRACE IMMANUEL UCC, LOUISVILLE, KY

We are an open and affirming community following the teachings of Jesus.

We seek God’s will for today through an inner spiritual journey and an outer journey of engagement in community life.

Our faith leads us to welcome all persons, including those of all races, ethnicities, ages, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, family structures, faith backgrounds, abilities and economic circumstances, into the full life and ministry of this church.

CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF FARIBAULT, MN

We the Congregational Church of Faribault, Minnesota, United Church of Christ, declare our congregation to be an Open and Affirming church. We acknowledge God’s acceptance of every individual and Jesus’ commandment to love one another. Therefore, we welcome gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual individuals to worship and enter into the full life and ministry of this church. We strive for justice and equality for all of God’s children in our journey of faith.

PHOENIX UCC, TONAWANDA, NY

We, the members of Phoenix UCC, believe that all people are created in God’s image and thus are loved and blessed equally by God. We take seriously the command Jesus teaches us “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:25-28).

Therefore, on April 12, 2009, a unanimous vote by the congregation was taken to become an Open and Affirming congregation in the United Church of Christ.

We invite and welcome into our community persons of every gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ability, age, race, nationality, economic and social status, faith background, marital standing and family structure.

In our community of faith all people are encouraged to participate and share their talents and energy in worship and sacraments, leadership positions, ordained ministry, lay ministry, learning, service, mission and fellowship.

Therefore, no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome in this United Church of Christ.

HOPE UNITED, GEORGETOWN, TX

Hope United is an Open and Affirming congregation, embracing diversity and affirming the dignity and worth of every person, since we are all created in God’s image. We welcome into full membership and participation in the Body of Christ persons of every race, ethnic background, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, socio-economic background, marital status and faith background. We welcome all to share in the life, leadership, ministry, fellowship, worship, sacraments, responsibilities and blessings of participation in our congregation.

ZION UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, DELAWARE, OH

We, the members of Zion United Church of Christ, welcome you.

If you are Asian, Hispanic, Black, or White;
If you are male, female, or transgender;
If you are 3 days old, 33 years old, or 103 years old;
If you’ve never stepped foot in a church, a synagogue, a temple, a cathedral, or a mosque;
If you are single, married, widowed, divorced, separated, or partnered;
If you are straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or yet unsure of your sexuality;
If you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist, Libertarian, affiliated with another political party or no party at all:
If you are pro life, or pro choice;
If you have, or have had, addictions, phobias, or a criminal record;
If you own your home, rent, live with your parents, or are homeless;
If you have typical or atypical skills or are just beginning to sense your God given gifts and talent;
However the rest of the world describes you, and however you describe yourself:
You are welcome at Zion.

Being fully welcome in our community here at Zion United Church of Christ means that our congregation will:
Always seek to affirm the person that you are with loving hearts and open minds.
Follow the way of Christ Jesus with you in loving and being loved by both God and neighbor, with the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.
Love you for the person you are by living out our denomination’s promise that “No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome at Zion UCC.”
Portions adapted from the Affirmation of Welcome of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, ELCA, Philadelphia, PA