May/June 2010 - Vol. 40...

Reflections from Founding Members of Covenant Community 

Covenant Community began forty years ago in a very unlikely place – on a secular university campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, among a handful of students and local residents who were hungry for God and for the action of his Holy Spirit. Since that time numerous covenant communities have developed worldwide, including the Sword of the Spirit, a network of sixty-five member communities.

Over the next several months, Living Bulwark will feature articles on covenant community. This month we begin with a series of reflections by members of the Sword of the Spirit who were there from the beginnings in 1970 and have lived for 40 years in covenant community. 

A Work of the Spirit – New Forms of Christian Life in Community
By Steve Clark

[This 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.” 

[Steve 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 

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