A week and a half ago, a couple hundred people told me they would stick with me forever. Now, I was actually the one "making the covenant" (myself and six others in our branch of the People of Praise), and I did tell those hundreds of people that I would stick with them too; but the cool thing about the covenant ceremony is that the newbies and the already-covenanted members all say the covenant together. Because "together" is the point of it all.
I've delayed writing this post because I just couldn't settle on the right words, especially because some of you reading this don't exactly know what I'm talking about. For you, here's a brief explanation: the People of Praise is an ecumenical, charismatic, covenant community. It's not my church (I go to Mass at Holy Cross and try to be pretty involved there); it's a way to live with other Christians, and build God's kingdom, beyond my life in my parish. In the People of Praise I live in household, work in the Action Division (that's the group I go to Louisiana with every summer), hang out with my women's group once a week, hang out with the young adults group the rest of the time, and get together with everybody in the branch on Sunday afternoons for a prayer meeting. There's tons more to say about it, but that's a basic explanation.
(If you click on the "POP" tag at the end of this post you can take a look at all the other posts that have had something to do with my life in the People of Praise.)
So that's PoP. What's "making the covenant"? Basically it's making a formal statement that I am going to be part of the People of Praise for the rest of my life. It's a pretty big deal (my mom even came out for the covenant ceremony, thanks Mom!). But in another way it's not a big change. I made the covenant on a Sunday. Monday morning I got up and lived the same PoP life that I lived on Saturday and many days before (I've been in PoP for about seven years). Actually, the whole thing is beautifully mundane. While much of the covenant statement is eloquent, the last line is decidedly un-poetic: "... we agree that the weekly meeting of the community is primary among our commitments and that we will not be absent except for a serious reason." The end. I love that it's not poetic. Because Christian life is not about poetry - although sometimes it is quite beautiful - mostly it's about practical decisions and day-to-day details. Rolling out of bed in time to croak out a song at household morning prayer. Cutting errands short to make it to the PoP center on time for a prayer meeting. Bringing pretzels and two liters of Dr. Pepper to a women's event. These are the things I've been doing for the past sven years and I'm just going to keep on doing them.
But the part that really is awe-inspiring is the people. Apart from all the things we do - we could change it all tomorrow if the Spirit so led us - apart from all the meetings and routines, I have quite simply bonded myself to a couple hundred people in South Bend, and hundreds elsewhere, anf they have bonded themselves to me. We've promised to support each other "spiritually, materially, and financially." We will praise the Lord together, build His kingdom together, live life together, for the rest of our lives. As a covenanted friend joked last night: "We're stuck with each other."