This years Covenant Service will take place on Sunday 15th January 2017. For those of you who are not familiar what a Covenant Service consists of an explanation of covenant services is below. This description was originally written by our Minister Rev. Arthur Cowburn last year.
The Covenant Service has been part of Methodism from the very beginning although, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t a Methodist invention. John Wesley’s original service came from the works of Richard and Joseph Alleine which were from the Puritan tradition of pastoral care and spiritual guidance. Wesley invited his people to share in this service on an annual basis although the timing varied between the beginning of the Methodist year in September and the Calendar Year in January.
The purpose of the service was to remember God’s enduring love for us and to recommit ourselves to God whatever that might mean for our lives. The words of the original Covenant Prayer were something like a marriage as it involved each person taking Christ as “my Head and Husband, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, for all times and conditions, to love, honour and obey thee before all others, and this to the death”. Although the Wesleyan Methodists retained the tradition of an Annual Covenant Service, the other strands of Methodism celebrated it only occasionally or in some cases not at all and it was only in 1932 with Methodist Union that it once again became an annual event for all Methodists.
It is a service which many people love but which is often quite poorly attended. I used to think that some older folk may have belonged to those traditions that didn’t have the covenant service pre 1932 but that excuse is fast disappearing. Or is it that the words are just too difficult for some of us ?
“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.”
Half of these clauses are all right but the other half can be a struggle and yet if we believe that our God is all loving ought we not to be able to trust God and say them ?