To endure, a community needs both heart and structures. Interpersonal relations bind it together, and structures channel that energy in a positive direction.

In the first ten years of our community, we faced a crisis. One of our members was obstructing, passively, our meetings and decision-making. One of the ways we attempted to improve the situation was to hire a family systems therapist to work with us over several months. One product of this was our Community Covenant, a written articulation of our common agreements and expectations of each other. With some modifications, it has served us well over the years.


Community Gatherings

One way of expressing our commitment to intentional presence to one another and to hospitality is through planned community gatherings such as mid-week Community Night, Sunday Extended Community Night, and Community Retreats. As a member of Sophia Community…

Community Night

I agree to participate consistently in mid-week community nights. This includes:
❑ being present at dinner,
❑ engaging in any community activities, prayers and meetings planned for the evening
❑ taking my turn cooking, planning and leading prayer and check-in, facilitating business meetings, and planning processes and activities, and
❑ signing up for these roles on a regular basis as specified by the community.

I agree not to miss mid-week Community Night unless it is for one of the following reasons (or another reason that is agreed acceptable by the community):
❑ Out of town or on vacation
❑ Visiting family members or friends who are not usually in town
❑ Sickness
❑ Work that cannot be re-scheduled
❑ A major (non-recurring) personal event

I agree to notify my community members in advance if I have to miss community night for one of the above reasons.

Sunday Extended Community Nights

I agree to participate as often I am able in Sunday Extended Community Night, including both prayer (when it is scheduled) and dinner. As part of my Sunday Extended Community Night participation, I agree to:
❑ let community members know if I am unable to attend Sunday dinner and/or prayer
❑ take my turn cooking dinner and planning prayer or, if work schedule or other ongoing commitments prohibit this, to sign up to do so for Thursday nights instead;
❑ extend my hands in welcome to those guests present at prayer and dinner by
▪ including guests in dinner table conversation
▪ paying attention to guests
▪ keeping conversation about Sophia or Quaker House business to a minimum

Retreats

I agree to attend and participate in the planning of two yearly Sophia Community Retreats, one in the fall and one in the winter. My commitment to these retreats includes:
❑ being present at each retreat from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon;
❑ participating fully in setting retreat agendas and planning of retreat activities, prayers and reflections;
❑ taking my turn driving to the retreat sites (if deemed necessary by the community)
❑ attending entire retreat and participating fully in all activities;
❑ contributing to the cost of the retreat site (cost of site will be divided among community members unless otherwise decided by the community).

Respect

In order to live out Sophia’s Mission of intentional presence as an offering of support and encouragement to each individual, I agree to be present to all community members, making an effort to get to know and to engage with them on a regular basis, both through planned community events and through spontaneous gatherings and interactions.

I agree to foster healthy community relationships in the following ways:

Communication


❑ engaging in direct communication with community members, particularly in matters pertaining to them individually. This includes talking to other community members directly about issues that concern them, and refraining from talking about individuals with other community members when those individuals are not present;
❑ participating in opportunities, such as regular check-ins, where I can share my feelings about the community life, information about my life, and raise concerns about interpersonal or community issues before they become disabling;
❑ making an effort to share my own needs, feelings, concerns and the happenings of my life with other community members;
❑ asking other community members about their own lives, and listening to other community members;
❑ informing my community members when I will be out of town and/or absent from a community meal or function, and leaving information as to where I can be reached in case of emergency;
❑ using the White Board or listserv for communicating information that all community members might be interested in but that can’t necessarily wait to be announced at a community meeting;
❑ responding in a timely way to questions and queries posed by other community members on the White Board;
❑ informing community members when I will be having an overnight guest(s);
❑ initiating a discussion with the community if I engage in an intimate relationship with another community member or with a guest in the house.

Respect


❑ honoring other community members’ privacy by not walking into their bedrooms unless invited to do so;
❑ keeping music and other noise-producing activities at low levels during hours when community members are sleeping;
❑ asking community members before borrowing personal items;
❑ taking good care of all furniture, equipment, and household items that are used by the community; this includes being especially mindful of how I treat property that is owned by another community member but made available for communal use;
❑ refraining from smoking in the house and from using illegal drugs on the property belonging to the Quakers; informing guests of this policy if I see them doing either of the above;
❑ abiding by the community policies regarding Significant Others in the house

Decision-Making

Our mission statement expresses our commitment to a consensus model of decision making, one that calls forth, hears, and respects the honest offers of each woman and man.  In keeping with that commitment, I agree to participate fully in all Sophia Community decision-making processes and to engage in a consensus decision making process when making community decisions.  I also agree to abide by community decisions, even when those decisions do not completely reflect my ideal outcome or personal wishes.

Household Chores

In order to honor our mission to come together to create a home and as part of our  commitment of love and service to one another, I agree to participate in the upkeep and maintenance of Sophia Community living spaces.  In so doing, I agree to:

❑ sign up for the agreed-upon number of chores at community meetings and to complete these chores on a weekly basis (unless more frequent attention is required), according to agreed upon chore descriptions (chore descriptions can be found in the Sophia Community Manual);

❑ inform community members when an absence will be prevent me from doing my chores and, if necessary, find someone to do my chores in my absence;

❑ help out with other community members’ chores when they are on vacation or out of town;

❑ use cleaning products and laundry soap purchased by Sophia Community or by myself in the completion of my Sophia Community chores. This means that I will not use products purchased with Quaker money either for my personal laundry/cleaning or for Sophia House laundry/cleaning;

❑ purchase only non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaning products with Sophia Community money. If I choose to use other products in community or Quaker spaces, I will so do only on very limited basis, and I will purchase those products with my own money.  I will also inform other community members when and where those products are being used;

❑ participate regularly in after dinner cleanup, including washing and drying dishes, after all community nights and community meals in which I take part;

❑ pick up after myself in a timely manner in all community and Quaker areas. This includes taking responsibility for my own dishes, crumbs, laundry and any personal items left in the kitchen, salon, hallways, community room or chapel;

❑ contribute to the cleanliness and maintenance of the household by attending to things as I notice them. This includes things such as:

❑ replacing toilet paper rolls,

❑ sweeping the floor

❑ answering the door and phone

❑ sorting the mail

❑ emptying the dish drainer

❑ turning lights off and on

❑ putting items on the grocery list

Food

❑ I agree to seek reimbursement from Sophia Community only for food that I have purchased that is open for consumption by all community members.  I agree to keep all food purchased with Sophia Community money in a common space, such as the kitchen or pantry, so that it is available for all community members.

❑ I agree to put my name on foods that are bought with my own money and that I do not wish to make available for consumption by other community members.  I agree not to eat food that is marked with another community member’s name unless that community member has given me permission to do so.

❑ I agree not to purchase meat products with Sophia Community money and to cook only vegetarian foods when cooking for community nights and other community meals unless consensus is reached to make an exception for a holiday or another special occasion.

Financial Commitment

As a member of Sophia Community, I agree to pay the agreed upon rent to the designated person no later than the 2nd day of the month, and to pay my Sophia Community dues by the date agreed to by the community. I acknowledge that I am responsible for the full month, even if I will be away from the house, and that any reduction requires community agreement.

If I decide to leave the community prior to the end of my contract (June 30th), I will be responsible to do one of the following as decided by community consensus:

❑ pay rent and/or Sophia monthly dues until June 30th, or

❑ recruit a new community member acceptable to the community,

unless

❑ Sophia agrees to rent out the bedroom as part of the Guest Business or

❑ Sophia agrees that I am not responsible for the remainder of my rent/Sophia monthly household payment

New Members

Living in an intentional community operating by consensus is a demanding commitment, requiring skills and emotional maturity for which society provides little preparation. Further, Sophia Community is a particular shared-house community with its own history, vision, values and community culture. It takes time to absorb and integrate this culture and to learn the operating procedures of the community. It also takes time to for new members to demonstrate that they have the requisites to contribute to and fit into Sophia Community.

As a new member, I agree:

❑ to invest time into my new member orientation, asking questions and learning where materials and documents are stored

❑ to read the Community Manual, so I am aware of other Living Together Policies that have been agreed upon, and for full details of the chores I am undertaking

New members are accepted into Sophia Community as provisional members. They:

❑ Participate in community decision-making but do not have the power to block agreements

❑ Can apply for full membership after a minimum of 6 months living in the community

❑ Attain full member status after discussion at a community meeting and agreement by full community members

❑ Can apply for another 12 months of provisional membership if their first application for full membership is not accepted

Annual Commitment

❑ All community members commit for one year at a time.

❑ All community members will re-apply to the community for membership for another year, if they wish to continue.

❑ Membership decisions will be made by consensus of other community members who intend to continue for another year. The applicant does not have a say in this consensus.

❑The criteria for re-acceptance will be the community’s core values, not personal preferences.

Added to our Covenant more recently is our conflict resolution policy, which will be a separate post in the future.