Covenant of Right Relations

Introduction

Unitarian Universalism is a covenantal religion. This covenant of right relationship expresses the aspirations we have for ourselves and each other about how we want to be in community together. We believe the way we treat each other expresses who and what we are as a congregation. Each of us is responsible for supporting ourselves and one another in making good faith efforts to abide by this covenant.

We, the members of Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church (CUUC), adopt this mutually binding covenant of right relations to strengthen the bonds of trust and loyalty in our Beloved Community, and to diminish the chances of hurt and disillusionment in times of disagreement. In adopting this covenant we seek to create an atmosphere of honesty, respect, trust, gratitude, forgiveness, acceptance, and loyalty within our congregation. The goal of this covenant is to provide a clear statement about how our Unitarian Universalist values and principles can best be demonstrated through our actions. It also provides a procedure to help us right wrongs that concern us.

Covenant

To bring love and reason to life and to build a just and compassionate world, we join in this covenant of right relationship as an individual relating to ourselves and others.

 

Right Relations Policy

We preface these suggestions with the commonsense wisdom that we all should adhere to the UU Principles and Purposes and our own church covenant, exhibiting behaviors that enhance the dignity and inherent worth of all participants: expressing sincere appreciation; allowing for human fallibility; dealing directly with each other; speaking softly; being creative in problem solving; maintaining a sense of humor; actively listening and clarifying what we hear; letting others have their say; respecting boundaries that may differ from our own; respecting confidentiality; refraining from harmful gossip about others; and speaking honestly. Each person, regardless of their role in the church, is expected to live to this covenant within the context of their relationship with the church community.

Individual to Self

I aspire to:

  • Treat myself with respect, kindness, and care;
  • Contribute to our Beloved Community in ways that enliven me and enrich my life, balancing my needs with the needs of the congregation;
  • Ask for and accept what I need from our congregation;
  • Act with integrity, speak honestly and honor the commitments I make to the Church;
  • Forgive myself and recommit if I break the covenant;
Individual to Individual

I aspire to:

  • Treat others with respect, kindness, care, an open mind, and acceptance;
  • Engage in congregational life to further our vision, the UUA Statement of Principles, and Sources of Our Living Tradition;
  • Make a genuine effort to get to know and understand people different from me;
  • Communicate directly, openly, and honestly, speaking only for myself, and listen deeply to others with the intention of understanding one another;
  • Recognize and accept that disagreements within the community are healthy and, when brought out into the open, can lead to better understanding of one another, more common ground, and more inclusive decision-making;
  • Speak directly and privately with individuals with whom there is a misunderstanding, concern, or disagreement in an effort to resolve interpersonal disputes;
  • Allow sufficient time to identify and explore disagreements and conflicts, focus on the message and not the messenger, and critique ideas not people;
  • Assume good intention of others while respectfully articulating the impact of behaviors on me;
  • Respect and appreciate others’ contributions to our Beloved Community as well as to their personal commitments, the value of their time, and their need to set boundaries or say no; and
  • Forgive others and compassionately and invite them back into covenant when it is broken.
Individual to Congregation

I aspire to:

  • Give my time, talent, financial support, and maintain the commitments I make;
  • Keep informed and inform others of happenings within the church community;
  • Support others in our search for meaning, recognizing each of us as a teacher as well as a student in the learning process;
  • Care for each other in our joys and sorrows;
  • Hold one another accountable to the covenant we have made to each other; and
  • Listen deeply to minority opinion(s); and
  • If you in the minority, understand that your view is valued though it is not the majority opinion.
Individual to Youth and Children

I aspire to:

  • Serve as a proper role model for our youth and children;
  • Be thoughtful and careful in my communications with our youth and children, speaking with clarity and honesty, listening deeply and attentively;
  • Be patient with our youth and children, allowing them time to gain experience and to learn for themselves;
  • Make my actions with our youth and children intentional, well thought out, consistent and trustworthy;
  • Include and empower our youth and children as full participants in church life appropriate to their age and experience;
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries with our children and youth; and
  • Include our youth and children as full participants in church life appropriate to their age and experience.
Individual to Minister

I aspire to:

  • Recognize and value the unique role of the minister in providing leadership for our church, while at the same time acknowledging my own responsibility for carrying out the church’s shared ministry;
  • Have a respectful relationship with the minister; specifically, a relationship that models justice, truth, equity, and compassion in all encounters;
  • Communicate directly and honestly and to provide feedback in a spirit of loving kindness;
  • Talk directly with the minister if I have concerns with them;
  • If I have unresolved issues with the minister, I will take them to the Shared Ministry Team (SMT);
  • Keep my personal relationship with the minister ethically and morally appropriate;
  • Not use the minister’s partner or family as a conduit to the minister and will treat the partner or family as I would any other member of the congregation;
  • Respect the freedom of the pulpit;
  • Support the professional growth of the minister;
  • Honor those needs and concerns of the minister that are outside of his/her role as leader of the congregation, including acknowledging that time away from the church is protected personal time;
  • Provide clear guidelines of expectations to any new minister asked to join our church community; These guidelines will provide a starting point in an evolving relationship between the membership and our chosen spiritual leader; and
  • Support fair compensation and benefits for the minister.
Individual to Staff

I aspire to:

  • Show respect by making clear requests in a timely manner, being aware of the individual’s job description, being civil in my interactions, honoring work hours, being open and direct in my communications, and showing sincere appreciation for work done;
  • Give the staff member adequate time to respond to my requests;
  • Honor the staff’s authority over their spheres of responsibility;
  • Not make any commitments on behalf of a staff member without their consent;
  • Provide staff with adequate resources, a healthy work environment, and opportunities for professional development;
  • Respect the time and effort a staff member contributes to our community and address issues to a staff member in an encouraging and positive manner;
  • Respect the personal time of each staff member;
  • Communicate my need to a staff member directly, and understand that my personal needs may or may not be met;
  • Discuss concerns about the church that are the responsibilities of a staff member, with that staff member;
  • Seek out opportunities to provide positive feedback to each staff member; and
  • Support fair compensation and benefits for staff.

 

Individual to Board Members

I aspire to:

  • Communicate openly, directly, and honestly with the Board;
  • Present problems with ideas for solutions and a willingness to help;
  • Honor and respect the work of the Board;
  • Respect Board requests for my time, knowing the Board will respect my right to say no;
  • Educate myself on the Board’s decision-making process, to raise issues directly consistent with that process, and to trust and accept the results; and
  • Empower the Board as our representatives with the authority to operate the Church as outlined in the By-Laws.
Individual to Larger Community

I aspire to:

  • Conduct myself in an ethical manner and thereby promote such behavior in our children and the community;
  • Act in a manner that fosters acceptance of other faiths and cultures, with the goal of working to build an anti-oppressive world;
  • Be aware of concerns, needs and conflicts in environmental, economic and social justice issues, and use my resources toward their resolution; and
  • Represent UU values and the CUUC covenantal values in my daily interactions with the community.
Procedure for Maintaining Right Relations: Expectations and Remedies

The well-being, strength, and reputation of our church depend on a sense of fellowship among the members, friends, and staff. That sense of well-being thrives in an atmosphere of trust, respect, and cooperation. Within such an atmosphere, differences of opinion and their resolution through compromise or consensus can enhance a sense of community. However, differences or misunderstandings that go unresolved and descend into prolonged conflict can threaten the social fabric of our church. We recognize that conflict will arise from time to time and that, when it does, its management and resolution are paramount. We recognize that such conflict may occur between members, members and staff, members and minister, or staff and minister. This document is intended to identify the steps to be followed in our church should unresolved conflicts arise.

We all, as responsible members of this community, have an obligation to bring to light concerns about things that threaten the health of our church. This should be done by using existing procedures, proper committees, etc. As members of this community, we have an obligation to find out what those procedures are, in a conflict or in any other dealing with the church, just as we have responsibilities to support the church, honor our pledges, fulfill our commitments for committees, and strive to be present and on time. In short, we owe each other respectful participation in the life of our church.

This is a living document intended to reflect the needs of our congregation as it changes and grows. Accordingly, the Shared Ministry Team (SMT) and the Board of Trustees (BOT) will review it every three years. Additionally, it will be included in our orientation process, made available for all to see, and incorporated into our congregational lives. Concerns about the health of Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church with regard to right relations will be directed to the Shared Ministry Team. The SMT is always available for consult in these matters.

 

The Partnership Process

The “partnership process” is based upon the following five principles. Keep them in mind whenever you are involved in a conflict:

  1. Think “we,” rather than “I versus you” – working together helps solve conflicts;
  2. Try to keep in mind the long-term relationship;
  3. Good conflict resolution will improve the relationship;
  4. Good conflict resolution benefits both parties; and
  5. Conflict resolution and relationship building go hand in hand.

 

Eight Steps Toward Conflict Resolution

Step 1 – Create an Effective Atmosphere

Creating an effective atmosphere is a very important step in the conflict resolution process. It is more likely for mutual agreements to be reached when atmosphere is given careful consideration. When thinking about atmosphere, remember these ideas:

  1. Personal preparation—doing all you can to ready yourself in positive ways to approach issues honestly and openly;
  2. Timing—choosing a time that is best for all parties involved. This is a time in which no one is feeling pressed to move on or pressured in other ways;
  3. Location—where you meet is as important as when you meet. It is best to pick a place where all parties can feel comfortable and at ease; and
  4. Opening statements—try to start out on a good note. Good openings are ones that let others know you are ready and willing to approach conflict with a team-like attitude that focuses on positive ends. They should also ensure the trust and confidentiality of the parties involved.

Step 2 – Clarify Perceptions

Clarifying perceptions about what is involved in the conflict is very important. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what it is about.

  1. Sort the parts of the conflict – ask what it is about;
  2.  Avoid ghost conflicts – get to the heart of the matter and avoid side issues;
  3. Clarify what, if any, values are involved; and
  4. Recognize that the parties involved need each other to be most effective.

Additionally, you need to clarify your perceptions of the other party.

  1. Avoid stereotyping;
  2. Listen carefully;
  3. Recognize the other’s needs and values;
  4. Empathize – ask why they feel the way they do; and
  5. Clear up misconceptions you may have of them.

Step 3 – Focus on Individual and Shared Needs

Expanding on shared needs is next. Realize that you need one another to successfully resolve conflicts. Be concerned about meeting others’ needs as well as your own. When you take the time to look, you will recognize that individuals often share needs in common.

Step 4 – Build Shared Positive Power

Focusing on the concept of positive power is crucial. Power is made up of people’s outlooks, ideas, convictions, and actions. A positive view of power enables people to be most effective. A negative outlook on power proves disempowering. Instead of “power with,” it encourages “power over.” Positive power promotes building together and strengthening partnerships. When parties in conflict have this outlook, they can encourage each other to use shared positive power. This gives an ultimate advantage to all involved because each person’s positive energy in being drawn upon for a worthwhile solution.

Step 5 – Look to the Future; and Learn from the Past

Not dwelling on negative past conflicts will be helpful in dealing positively in the present or the future. Try to understand what happened in the past, and avoid repeating the same mistakes. Don’t get stuck in a rut; learn from past conflicts and be forgiving. Let others know “I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at what you did.”

Step 6 – Generate Options

Recognizing that your solution is often not the only solution to solving the problem will help you better hear another’s point of view and the possibility of even better solutions.

  1. Beware of preconceived answers;
    2. Look for common threads;
    3. Make sure options are workable for all parties involved;
    4. Set aside disagreements and focus on options that seem most workable; and
    5. Avoid spin-off conflicts by bypassing options that won’t work for all involved.

In Generating Options:

  1. Ask first for the conflict partner’s options – and genuinely listen and learn.
  2. Try brainstorming options:
    1. Make new suggestions;
    2. Write them down;
    3. Wait to discuss them till they’re all out on the table;
    4. Group similar options together;
    5. Narrow down the list;
    6. Predict possible outcomes;
    7. Look at all ideas, no matter how silly they may seem; and
    8. Imagine
  3. Identify key options, ones that will:
    1. Meet one or more of the shared needs;
    2. Meet individual needs that are compatible with others’ needs;
    3. Use mutual positive power;
    4. Improve the relationship; and
    5. Be at least acceptable but preferably satisfying to all involved.
  4. When looking at options, don’t let past experiences cloud present perceptions and decisions.

Step 7 – Develop “Doables” – Stepping-Stones to Action
“Doables” are specific actions that have a good chance at being successful. “Doables” have the following characteristics:

  1. They include ideas that have the best chance at success;
  2. They don’t promote unfair advantages on any side;
  3. They are founded on shared input and information from all parties;
  4. They are trust builders that add confidence in working together; and
  5. They are actions that meet shared needs.

Step 8 – Make Mutual-Benefit Agreements

The final step is to create a Mutual-Benefit Agreements, which gives all parties lasting solutions to specific conflicts.

  1. Instead of demands, focus on developing agreements and find shared goals and needs;
  2. Build on “doable” things by working on smaller stepping-stone solutions;
  3. Pay attention to the needs of the other person in addition to your own interests;
  4. Recognize the “givens” – basic things that cannot be altered or compromised;
  5. Clarify exactly what is expected of you in the agreement – your individual responsibilities; and
  6. Keep the conflict partnership processes going by using and sharing these skills with others.

This document has been developed and is maintained by the Shared Ministry Team (SMT). It has been approved by the Board and Congregation on April 19,2020.