The United Covenant Union was incorporated and founded on March 1st 2019 and is considered the successor to the Chesapeake Regional Organization of People (CROP), which had developed and consulted with peer groups in Baltimore, Washington, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland from 2013 to 2018). After intentional discernment in the summer and autumn of 2018, leaders and organizers made the decision to dissolve CROP in order to build a "faith based community union" that has a simple polity which is designed to accelerate membership growth and the development of auxiliary congregations.
We believe that in its highest practice, community organizing is a form of spiritual direction. For this reason, all community organizers in The United Covenant Union have some training in theology in addition to community organizing practice. Our community organizers are sometimes referred to as "chaplains," or as "chaplain organizers."
Our Connectional Polity
The basic rule in biology is that in order for something to function it must be structured to do so. The same can be said of organizations. Like the early Methodist societies, The United Covenant Union is a connectional institution. This means that all of our auxiliary congregations and sponsors are connected to each other, and that they all have some stake in governing The United Covenant Union. John Wesley's genius was in creating an interconnected network of societies, each composed of cellular "classes" and each part of regional "circuits." He designed a polity that was easy to understand and which enabled rapid membership and organizational growth. Since the Methodist movement was not originally a separatist endeavor, Methodist societies could be labeled as the original "auxiliary congregations," and the whole network of societies could be identified as the first "faith based community union."
There are two types of organizational members in The United Covenant Union:
There are three governing bodies in The United Covenant Union:
The United Covenant Union is a faith-based community union that works to bring about justice in public life. We practice public engagement as a prayer form. We are made up of different congregational units that hold prayer meetings, engage in voter registration, advocate for fair employment and empower members to run their own food aid programs. We partner with congregations that sponsor and incubate congregational units to be vessels for change in public life. Informed by generations of labor and congregational organizing, we believe that "the congregation is the new shop floor," By developing our capacity and reclaiming our power, we are acting on our shared faith which calls upon us to live into our agency and stand up for justice.
Our Theory of Change
We believe that a democracy is strongest when poor and working people have some control over their own lives, and are able to sculpt the destiny of their communities. When poor and working people have power (the ability to make a change), the moral arc of the universe bends closer to justice. The United Covenant Union is committed to building auxiliary congregations based in church basements and in union halls that develop civic and prophetic leaders who reclaim their power and work for justice.
The members who collect backlogged wages, watch the shelter doors, and pass out brown bags today will be registering voters and coordinating meetings with elected officials tomorrow. When people collectively control their basic needs, they become more engaged citizens, and grow as "judges" in the tradition of the Exodus. The weekly prayer and community meetings that auxiliary congregations hold becomes the binding glue of the relationships among members. Every auxiliary congregation is a support group, prayer group, and workers group all in one.
The name United Covenant Union was officially chosen in October of 2018, and is an obvious reference to the covenants between God the Hebrew people . Those covenants, at their core, were about belonging to each other. So long as the tribe was held together and committed to the causes of justice - God would be with and among them. Today, as a United Covenant Union we are committed to each other, and believe that our destiny is tied with that of our fellow members.
From its outset, The United Covenant Union has invested in building auxiliary congregations in both urban AND rural communities. Quite often, community organizing is framed as being an urban enterprise. However, there is as much poverty and under-development in rural areas as there are in urban areas. We are committed to the development of rural leaders as well as urban leaders, because repairing the breach between urban and rural communities will develop the capacity to wield considerable power over public affairs.
In order to have power, an auxiliary congregation must develop leaders who can organize their people and money to take action in public affairs. Real change requires the development of leaders who have deep relationships within their community.
At its inception an auxiliary congregation will work to address issues that most directly affect members. For example, an auxiliary of informal workers may establish a common wage rate and standards of treatment for its members. An auxiliary of homeless people may run a small shelter, and an auxiliary of those on food assistance may run their own brown-bag program to supply food. While the informal workers may not be able to start a business, and the homeless may not be able to afford rent, or the hungry may not be able to purchase food - though they all have the agency to make sure they have decent wages, maintain upkeep on a small shelter, or package their own food.
The United Covenant Union
When Moses' fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian who violently struck a Hebrew man, he came across the priest of Midian, Jethro, who would become his mentor and father-in-law. Jethro' became Moses spiritual and civic teacher, developing him to return to Egypt and coordinate the exodus from slavery. Once the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea, Jethro challenged Moses to develop judges who could lead groups of 10 to 50 people to pray, work, and act for the improvement of their tribe. Jethro's advice to "develop the judges," said to come from God, reveal the holiness of leadership development.
The United Covenant Union is grounded in a theology of agency. We seek to develop judges among working people who can convene their people to build an auxiliary congregation that spiritually, vocationally, and civically develops its people to be powerful in public life.