Stories From Our Faith

When the early Puritans came to America looking to form a new type of church, they chose to organize themselves into independent congregations bound together by covenant, rather than establishing a formal creed and a centralized church hierarchy. Their survival depended upon mutual cooperation and a willingness to put the needs of the community first.

Sailing to New England in 1630, John Winthrop (soon to become the first governor of Massachusetts) spoke to his stalwart and pious band of fellow Puritans:

“Now the only way to avoid . . . shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. . .[W]e must be willing to abridge ourselves of our superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience, and liberality. We must delight in each other, make others’ conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”

In 2003, in his book The American Creed, the Rev. Dr. Forrest Church captured the essence of the Puritans’ covenant in language adapted to modern Unitarian Universalism:


We pledge to walk together
In the ways of truth and affection,
As best we know them now
Or may learn them in days to come,
That we and our children may be fulfilled
And that we may speak to the world
In words and actions
Of peace and goodwill.

Unitarian Universalism today remains a covenantal faith. Our congregations and our movement as a whole cohere not around universally shared religious beliefs or creeds, but around the way we promise to walk together as we continue seeking insight, compassion, and spiritual maturity.

Source materials from:
UUA Tapestry of Faith: A History of Covenant
“Bound in Covenant”

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