Reflection on Affirming Covenant
As we approach the date for our Regional Assembly, I have been thinking about our covenant with one another as members of the Christian Church in Ohio (Disciples of Christ).
When I began serving in regional ministry in North Carolina in 2003, I quickly realized the large Bible I had used to read scripture from for years in a local congregation was not practical to carry with me as I traveled to different congregations to teach and preach. So, I purchased a smaller size of the same translation, and from the same publisher.
Taped near the front cover of what came to be known as my “traveling Bible” is a copy of a statement called “An Affirmation of Covenant,” with a photo of those who wrote it—the photo as a way of everyone “signing” the statement we crafted together, on the third Sunday in Advent 2004. All thirty-six individuals in the photo were general and regional church leaders at that point in time. The photo was taken with us standing around the Campbell statue in front of the building in Nashville, Tennessee, which was, at that time, the Disciples of Christ Historical Society. At that time there was speculation, misinformation and distrust among regional ministers and general church leaders. Affirming who we are and the ministry to which we are called was an important moment in our life together.
An Affirmation of Covenant
As leaders of ministries that serve the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
We make the covenant with God and each other.
We do so because:
God is a witness to all that we do, separately and together;
We are called by God to be servant leaders in mission to the world;
As the church, we are one Body in Christ.
Therefore we will:
Pray daily for each other;
Trust and respect each ministry and each other;
Communicate openly and directly;
Honor the diversity of persons and perspectives;
Be open to the counsel of one another.
we will live and speak with confidence and hope
in the future that God is creating.
--Signed this Third Sunday in Advent in the Year of our Lord 2004
This covenant did not make us better church leaders the moment the words were written and the picture made. However, as I reflect back over the past 14 years, I believe it was a turning point, where we stopped maintaining distance from one another, and talking to others about each other, and began walking toward God’s call upon our lives, our ministries and our church. We began to understand our life and ministry together in a different way—a healthier and holier way.
There is a need to revisit any covenant made—to reaffirm a covenant. Of the thirty-six church leaders in the photo-signature, only four are still active in general and regional ministry positions, not counting myself. I believe this “Nashville Covenant” marked a turning point in our church leadership. But we so easily forget even the most important of moments. We get distracted, and soon, without noticing it we have drifted. We become too isolated from one another—feeling safe in our silos. We lose sight of the journey we committed to travel together.
And so, given the difficult journey we have been on together, I pray, that as the Christian Church in Ohio gathers in assembly on October 6, it will be a moment where we are able to affirm:
We will live and speak with confidence and hope
In the future that God is creating.
Grace and peace to you,
John M. Richardson
Interim Regional Minister