We have a ceremony at Eastrose welcoming new members. They stand in front of the congregation and the membership committee chair says something, then the president, then the minister, then the Congregation, then the new members and then everyone says something together. Usually the new members get a candle (our symbol is a flaming chalice) or a flower. Its welcoming, friendly and fun to see the new folk coming into the church.
But there is a one thing that it isn't, and that is inspiring. The words we use to welcome new members thud into the room (see below). We have a Membership Covenant with too many multi-syllabic Latin rooted words . Welcoming words should ring with poetry and power.
Ah those Latin rooted words like 'congregation', 'inspiration' and 'individuality'. Say one out loud and you're on a roller coaster and you have to ride it to the end. I don't have a classical education so I am winging it a bit here, but you can see how the word is constructed. Look at 'individuality', with its original word sitting somewhere in the middle. Who knows what 'divid' alone means, but it has all these mumbly syllables packed on the front and the back like pillows piled around a man on a couch. Like pillows they muffle.
The Latin isn't the only problem with the Membership Covenant -- there are also run on sentences and poorly chosen words. My favorite (as in hardest to say) is this sentences inflicted on our poor new members who must say "We join you with eager anticipation, understanding the responsibilities of membership, and aware that we are choosing this as our church home." It doesn't exactly trip off the tongue does it.
What else? It seems to be avoiding some issue -- it is so careful and abstract. If it was a body part it would definitely be a head, not a heart.
So here is the whole thing for you to read. I am going to play around with it a bit and see if I can improve it in future blogs. Join in if you want. Give it your own go, or if you want send me a link to an existing Membership Covenant you like better.
President: We welcome you with joy and pride as members of Eastrose Fellowship. We place our hands in yours, offering you our friendship and support, and receiving you as new companions on our journey.
Minister: may you find within these sheltering walls both inspiration and wisdom for daily living. May you also find here the strength and courage to go beyond these walls to serve the needs of others.
Congregation: we welcome your choice to join us in the search for truth and meaning in our lives. We celebrate your newfound commitment to this Unitarian Universalist congregation. We pledge to honor your individuality and freedom ,and we look forward to the new insight and vitality you bring.
New Members: We join you with eager anticipation, understanding the responsibilities of membership, and aware that we are chosing this as our church home. We bring to eastrose Fellowship our talents and energy, our doubts and concerns and our willingness to serve the needs of this community as we are able.
All: Let us build together a community of celebration, inspiration, sustenance, welcome, and service. In this spirit,we renew our commitment to seek the truth in love, to answer the call of justice, and to help one another. so may it be.