The origin to the Methodist Covenant church
Regrettably, due to the lockdown at the commencement of the New Year, we were unable to conduct our annual Covenant Service on the first Sunday in January. So, I felt it appropriate that we should hold our delayed Covenant Service on the first Sunday of the Methodist Year, (5th September). In that the period immediately prior to our usual Covenant Service is caught up with our Christmas Season, holding the service in September affords us the opportunity consider in depth its significance.
First, a little history behind the Wesleyan Covenant Service.
The Covenant Renewal Service, or simply called the Covenant Service, was adapted by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, for the purpose of the renewal of the Christian believer's covenant with God.
In his short history of the people called Methodists, Wesley describes the first covenant service; a similar account is to be found in his Journal of the time. Wesley says that the first service was held on Monday 11 August 1755, at the French church at Spitalfields in London, with 1800 people present.
The covenant prayer and service are recognised as one of the most distinctive contributions of Methodism to the liturgy of Protestantism in general, and they are also used from time to time by other Christian denominations. An example of this is that the Northumbria Community who use the covenant prayer as part of their Celtic Daily Prayer on the sixth of each month.
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."
We will meditate on the covenant prayer each day between now and the 5th September.
'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’.