THINKING OUT ALOUD!
A New Year and a new blog! During the year I hope to share a few thoughts, and some of the resources produced by ByBrook ReSources across the Bristol and South Gloucestershire Circuit which is part of the Bristol District of the Methodist Church.
At the beginning of each year it is the custom of the Methodist Church hold their annual Covenant services.
‘I am no longer my own but yours.
Put me to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you,
or laid aside for you,
exalted for you,
or brought low for you;
let me be full,
let me be empty,
let me have all things,
let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours’
So be it
And the Covenant now made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven Amen’.
Each new year, Methodist congregations around the world hold ‘Covenant Services’, a practice that dates back to the movement’s founder, John Wesley. In 1663 Puritan Pastor Richard Alleine published Vindiciae Pietatis: or, A Vindication of Godliness in the Greater Strictness and Spirituality of It. John Wesley republished Alleine’s work in his ‘A Christian library’ and used a chapter from the book, “Application of the Whole”, in what was probably the first celebration of the Covenant Service in the Methodist movement.
Wesley urged that an opportunity be provided for Methodists to make, or renew, their “covenant” with God. This first formal covenant service was held on 11th August 1755 at the French Church (borrowed for the occasion to accommodate large numbers), situated in the Spitalfields area of east London and is still standing today.
This is what Wesley wrote in his journal about the event:
“I mentioned to the congregation another means of increasing serious religion which had been frequently practiced by our forefathers, namely, the joining in a covenant to serve God with all our heart and with all our soul. I explained this for several mornings, and on Friday, many of us kept a fast to the Lord, beseeching him to give us wisdom and strength, to make a promise unto the Lord our God and keep it.
“On Monday…I explained once more the nature of such an engagement and the manner of doing it acceptably to God.
“At six in the evening we met for that purpose. After I had recited the tenor of the covenant proposed, all those who desired to give testimony of their entrance into this covenant stood up, to the number of about 1,800 persons. Such a night I scarce ever saw before. Surely the fruit of it shall remain forever.”
The traditional Covenant prayer (above) makes it very clear that the affirmation is a serious one that embraces the whole of our life, in all its parts. The covenant is not just a one-to-one transaction between individuals and God, but the act of the whole faith community. Most people find it quite tough to say, and really mean it. But the prayer is so central to the Christian life that other churches have also adopted it.
The following reflections might be helpful for congregations to prepare for the service. Covenant Sunday Reflections 2012
The Methodist Covenant Prayer
Methodist minister, singer song writer of the band The Smiling Strangers, Jeff Reynolds, who sadly died at the age of 53, wrote many songs, one of which is called Covenant – based on the words of the Methodist Covenant Prayer. This moving reflective song reminds us how we need to be willing to be put to suffering, even shame, ‘as long as you’re there with me’.
To listen to the song click:HERE