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Grow a covenant community

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Holiday season is officially upon us. This time next week, this nation will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. Some will be traveling home to be with family, and others will welcome family and friends to their homes. It is a time when people gather and traditions are revisited.

Last week, I shared about the visit I made to Jamestown Historic Settlement on a school field trip. We, particularly school children, will be reminded about Plymouth and Pilgrims over these next few days as next Thursday approaches. Ever since leaving Jamestown, I have thought a lot about the early settlers and their history’s influence on us. One aspect of that historical place that continually plays over in my mind is the faith of those first settlers and their covenant relationships. Recently I came across what is known as the Jamestown Settlers 1607 Covenant Prayer. It reads:

“We do hereby dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this earth remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelist to the World. May all who see this Cross, remember what we have done here, and may those who come here to inhabit join us in this Covenant and in this most noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled.”

The Jamestown chaplain, the Rev. Robert Hunt, read this prayer during a dedication ceremony when a large cross was erected on the shore of Cape Henry.

I have heard it said that the symbol of the cross represents the vertical relationship between the believer and God. While at the same time, the cross represents the horizontal relationship between the believer and his neighbors, sisters and brothers. The midpoint where those relationships intersect is represented by the person of Jesus Christ, the great mediator. I am probably not alone when I admit that I rarely think about that horizontal plank of the cross whenever I see an erected cross. I remember my Savior. Because Jesus is such a great mediator, He has used this Jamestown visit to further impress upon me the need to strengthen my community perspective.

The last line of the Jamestown 1607 Covenant Prayer implies that the settlers were joined together in covenant to fulfill God’s plan. When was the last time you made covenant with a neighbor, a sister or brother? What was the last challenge you faced with a group or a project you decided to undertake for the good of someone besides yourself? Today, we don’t practice covenant making, burden bearing or promise keeping among each other as much as we should.

With the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaching, we need to rediscover covenant relationship with our fellow man. This holiday is particularly difficult for many of our neighbors who have lost loved ones, who are elderly or who have no home. Volunteer to serve a Thanksgiving meal at the Salvation Army or donate to their needs for canned goods. Plan to prepare a meal for an elderly neighbor. Gift a gas card to a college student traveling home for the holidays. Give a thank-you card to your neighbors to provide some encouragement, or just let them know you are not so concerned with your own affairs that you don’t care about them. On the front of the card, draw a beautiful cross which represents you, God, that neighbor, your families and Jesus Christ. That is the picture of a covenant community.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.