excerpt is from Covenant Community and Church, Chapter One, edited
by Steve Clark, and published by Servant Publications, 1992]
The church, the body of Christ, has Christ and his
Spirit dwelling within. It has every spiritual blessing in the heavenly
places. Yet it is in need of renewal. It is at the same time holy and always
in need of being purified. It is continually pursuing the path of penance
and renewal (LG 9). Recognizing the predestined call and nature of the
glorious church of God (Eph 5:27) should not lead to a failure to recognize
the actual state of the people of God and their need.
…The renewing work of the Holy Spirit is an ongoing
part of the life of the pilgrim people of God. In every age, the Holy Spirit
begins movements of renewal. Sometimes he does so through the ordinary
forms of church life, sometimes through special interventions that may
lead to new forms of Christian living.
We live in a special time of renewal…a time in
which we cannot simply rely on the accomplishments or forms of life of
the past. Rather we must live the unchanging life of Christ and his church
in new ways. These have to be both more effective for our age and more
faithful to what was entrusted to the church in the beginning.
As throughout the ages the Holy Spirit has been
active among the Christian people to bring about renewal, groups of Christians
have come together to respond. Many Christians have come together to perform
some special services or foster spiritual growth with no further bond among
themselves than that necessary for achieving particular goals.
But the human race is naturally social, and it
has pleased God to unite those who believe in Christ in the people of God
(see 1 Peter 2:5-10), and into one body (see 1 Co 12:12, AA 18).
Therefore the very nature of the Christian people is to be brothers and
sisters in the Lord, one in the Spirit in the bonds of peace and mutual
love (Eph. 4:3). Consequently, when the Holy Spirit renews his people,
he often leads groups of Christians to join themselves to one another to
live more fully the life together of the Christian people. Such a coming
together is not intended as an alternative to the life of the church.
Rather, it is a renewed living out of what the life of the church should
be and so signifies the communion and unity of the church of Christ.
In our day, desire for such coming together is
felt with greater strength because of the loss of natural community in
society and in [many parishes and congregations]... In recent years the
Lord has brought into existence new forms of Christian life that are called
covenant communities. They are covenantal because they are based on the
voluntary commitment of members to one another in a serious way that is
not necessarily lifelong and does not necessarily partake of the nature
of a vow. The commitment is in the form of a personal covenant of brothers
and sisters one to another that supplements and strengthens the relationship
that comes from being baptized members of the church. They are communities
because they share together their spiritual and material goods as a way
of expressing their relationship as brothers and sisters in the Lord.”
Clark is past president of the Sword
of the Spirit and founder of The
Servants of the Word.]
Go to next page > Our
Beginnings in Covenant Community, by Bruce Yocum