Christ the King Association

Covenant Community Today

by Steve Clark

The following article is excerpted from the book, Covenant Community and Church, by Steve Clark, Servant Publications, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A., 1992

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 (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5-10), and into one body (cf. 1 Cor. 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 Christans 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 (AA 18).

In our day, desire for such coming together is felt with greater strength because of the loss of natural community in society and in Catholic parishes. With this has come the weakening of mutual help for the needs of human life and of mutual support for Christian living. The Catholic Church has recognized the existence of such a spiritual impetus among the Christian people and has sought to encourage it. Consequently, the formation of new Christian groupings is now canonically recognized by the Church. It is protected by the right to freely establish and direct special associations to foster the Christian vocation in the world (CIC, c215).

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.

The relationship together of the members of covenant communities is personal and family-like, with a concern that extends to the whole of their lives. In that it contrasts to the partial and functional relationships that predominate in our society and tend to increasingly prevail in Catholic parishes and organizations. At the same time, the members' relationship to one another is not normally the kind of commitment that is found in religious communities and secular institutes, a commitment which puts the whole of each person's life under obedience to the leadership of the community. In this sense, the commitment together is a limited commitment. Those in authority in the community have the role of helping the members to live an active Christian life and to fulfill the commitments to one another they make in the covenant.

The plan of God is corporate. This can be seen in the way God, the source of all good, "created man in his own image and likeness...male and female he created them" (Gen.1:27). This can also be seen in the vision of the new Jerusalem which God, the end of all worthwhile human endeavor, will bring about at the ordained time. The new Jerusalem will be a city of mutual love in which God will dwell with his people (Rev. 21:3-4). Each person will know God as Father and one another as brothers and sisters and fellow servants.

Covenant communities have come into existence to allow many of Christ's faithful to live a life of discipleship more fully. Because they seek to do this together, members of covenant communities seek to achieve God's original purpose for the human race as fully as they can in this fallen world. In doing so they begin to live in this age the life of the age to come. "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come'. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:17-20).

(c) 1992 Stephen B. Clark

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