Methodists hold an annual Covenant Service, at which we celebrate all that God has done for us, and affirm that we give our lives and choices to God. In this service we are invited to make a distinctive resolution for the year ahead. Most churches hold this Service in January at the beginning of the calendar New Year, but some hold the service in September, at the beginning of the Methodist Connexional Year.
Introduced by John Wesley, the Covenant Service has been an important part of spiritual life in the Methodist Societies. He invited the Methodist people for renewal of their covenant with God. This was a time of self-examination, reflection, and dedication. Repentance through confession and commitment was a key focus of the Service. Over time it has undergone many revisions and adaptations, but its purpose as an evocative ceremony of commitment to ongoing discipleship and Christ-like character has always remained intact.
The high point of this service which is held within a Service of the Holy Communion is the Covenant Prayer, which we say together:
"I am no longer my own but yours. Your will, not mine, be done in all things, wherever you may place me, in all that I do and in all that I may endure; when there is work for me and when there is none; when I am troubled and when I am at peace. Your will be done when I am valued and when I am disregarded; when I find fulfilment and when it is lacking; when I have all things, and when I have nothing. I willingly offer all I have and am to serve you, as and where you choose.
Glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. May it be so for ever. Let this covenant now made on earth be fulfilled in heaven. Amen."
This covenant prayer makes it very clear that this affirmation is a serious one that embraces the whole of our life, in all its parts. This prayer is central to Christian life though tough to say, for it appears to be very demanding. But our perception changes when we realise that the Covenant is not a demand but an offer of a loving relationship from God.
The Covenant is not a contract in which God and human beings agree to provide particular goods and services for each other! Rather, the Covenant is the means of grace by which we accept the relationship and then seek to sustain it. It is therefore not so much about getting in to a relationship with God as it is about staying in it. It is not about acquiring a relationship with God, but living within the loving relationship that God has freely and graciously made it possible. This service is a gift not a demand! And God will give us the grace to do it all. We are not alone!
For more information about the origins of the Covenant Service please visit https://www.methodist.org.uk/about-us/the-methodist-church/what-is-distinctive-about-methodism/a-covenant-with-god/the-covenant-service/.