On Sunday I told a story about a friend who is an imam at a mosque. He lives his life in a mindful manner consistent with his faith. One day, which happened to be the day before he was to leave on a big trip, he was notified by the powers that be, that his fence was on his neighbor’s property. Upset that he had offended his neighbor (even though the fence was in place before he bought his house) and that he might be in the wrong, he sprung into action. He delayed his trip and took care of the issue, allowing his neighbor to resume their building plans. His faith guided him to make amends, even if it meant he was inconvenienced.
My question to the congregation was, if the fence was your fence, how would your UU faith inform your actions?
For me, I believe it is our covenant. We don’t have creeds or dogma, but we do have covenants aka promises. I hold these to be true as ideals for how I interact within our church and outside its walls – family, work, grocery store… Even if they are inconvenient, you can’t just switch covenants on and off as you come and go. They inform your life.
What are our covenants?
Look at our seven UU principles. We covenant together to practice them in our lives. At first, they look easy, common sense. But they are actually hard to do. You can’t cherry pick – you have to hold them in balance. They way I look at is, the first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and the seventh, the interdependence of everything, everyone, are the pillars. The remaining principles, 2–6, are the bridge that informs how we accomplish numbers 1 and 7.
We also have a Covenant of Respectful Relations in our church. You can find it here.
Beyond the actual covenants though, is this idea of covenant itself. It is something that I promise. It holds integrity. And it holds me accountable. In the case of our UU covenants, they also create a high standard of expectations and behavior. The seven principles are like our UU version of the Golden Rule.
This is what informs how I respond to my neighbor who has pointed out that my fence is over the property line. As much as I would like to ignore the situation, tell them to wait because I am too busy, or egads, engage in a tit for tat, I can’t do that and maintain my integrity, my promise, my covenant.
Oh, how I fall short. Often. If covenants were easy, they probably wouldn’t exist. They hold us accountable to a set of expectations that help shape how we are with each other.
When is the last time you paused, thought about a situation, and used our UU principles as a guide? How would you respond to your neighbor whose project was being blocked by your fence?
Blessings in covenant,
P.S. I need your input…
Sunday’s service is about hope. If you were to write a letter about hope to younger generation(s) about where do you find hope, what wisdom would you offer? Email your letter (100-250 words) to me and we will include as many as we can in our service.