Creating Covenant

As we approach the start of a new Bible study offering this fall on the topic of covenant, we recognize that covenant is both a basic tenet of our faith and a complex theological idea. In it we share a common identity, but it also manifests itself differently in each of our lives.

Rev. Dr. John Patton will help to lead this in-depth study, one that “focuses on our relationship with God, with each other, and with the world around us…using the biblical theological concept of covenant as a key interpretive theme for understanding the relationship between God and humankind in the Bible and in life today.” Structured around three eight-session segments, the first this fall will center on creating covenant.

Glenn member Don Pollard is excited to take part in the Bible study. Don’s understanding of covenant is influenced by his personal relationship with disability, as he is an incomplete quadriplegic. He suffered a brainstem injury from an automobile accident when he was a year and a half old, leaving him impaired in multiple limbs.

The creation of covenant relationships is shaped by our own experiences. Don’s unique experience with disability has led him to reflect on covenant in three ways - belonging, acceptance, and equality:

To belong is an ingrained need from birth. Early humans grouped themselves together for protection which bred stronger feelings of membership. Students form cliques naturally in school with whom they feel comfortable. These bonds might or might not last into adulthood, but the continuous need to belong doesn’t stop at a certain age. Our need for communion, to feel like we are needed at the table and that we belong at the table, feeds this desire.

The fight for disability rights is a fight for belonging. For too long, people with disabilities have been shunned from society because of the uncomfortableness that we seem to impose on the world around us. The desire to simply belong has been misconstrued as invasiveness. I can guarantee that all that is wanted is to feel like we have a place. Simply provide a seat at the table, with proper access to the seat, of course.

Some may find acceptance too akin to belonging but I believe it is different in my context. I belong to the Caucasian race, to the male gender, and to a Southern family heritage. But I do not take acceptance for granted within these sectors. For example, regarding gender roles, not all men have looked upon me as their equal because of their perceptions of my disability; their actions and body language speak loudly.

Belonging and acceptance both relate to equality, but there are gaps: can you automatically have equality if you have belonging? I don’t think so. Does equality present itself when acceptance is added to the mix? I don’t think so. How then does equality happen?

To put it plainly, equality happens when all people are thought of as equal.

The society we live in shows us that this is not easy to achieve. I think the term can get defined by one’s specific perception, which then becomes rampant and overtakes truth. To say I’m equal to you does not take away your unique qualities. My disability doesn’t make you more enabled and neither does another’s disability diminish or embellish my disability. We are all equal at the table. As 1 Corinthians 12:21 says: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”

To achieve covenant, we have to first feel a sense of belonging. This hopefully leads to a sense of acceptance, and if processed correctly, can breed equality. I feel that Glenn embodies the spirit of covenant in many ways.

Covenant Bible study is open to people with a variety of backgrounds in the study of the Bible, and there is no one theological understanding of scripture that is necessary for everyone to hold. What is important, however, is an assumption that scripture holds meaning for each of our lives and a commitment to discovering that meaning anew.  

Covenant Bible study begins on Sunday, September 11, at 6:30 p.m. in Room 401 of the Church School Building. If you are interested in joining, please contact Rev. Susan Pinson.