An Introduction to the Covenant Service

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Methodist Covenant Service

Revd Dr Iain Ballard

An Introduction by our Superintendent Minister — Rev Dr Iain Ballard

The people of God have been in a covenant relationship with God since the time of Abraham. Promises were exchanged, and promises have continued to be exchanged throughout the ages. It marks the relationship between the all-powerful, almighty, ever-loving God, and us — God's people.

At the time of Wesley, this service grew in importance, and became an annual act for the Methodist people, a way of reminding ourselves that we are in relationship with God. That, in that relationship, we give all to God asking him to rule over us. Although Wesley borrowed ideas from elsewhere, the service became uniquely Methodist, held annually either in September or January. Nowadays, we share this act of commitment with the universal church throughout the world, knowing that other communities and church denominations have chosen to use either the words or the concept of our covenant service.

Yet this service remains a significant act of commitment to God. It is not to be taken lightly and places great demands upon us. If you are new to covenant, you may find the words difficult, you may find the act of commitment and offering everything to God, to be a very significant one. You may find that you wish to simply listen to the words, rather than saying them yourself. Equally you are invited to join with us as we make our commitment in this service. Maybe this service raises questions and thoughts, and if so you are invited to email or make contact with us to hold those conversations.

Normally these services would take place in corporate worship with us all together, for although the words of the covenant are often expressed as 'I', they are said together in community with each other, holding each other before God, supporting each other, caring for each other. The Circuit's Covenant Service may be watched at any time over the coming weeks, and you may feel that you are alone in making these promises; but be assured we make them together.

The words of the covenant are not easy — they ask us to give everything to God. Some may appear to be asking God to undertake certain things that we don't believe God does, in part of the prayer we use the words 'Put us to suffering'. We do not believe that God causes us to suffer, but that it is our desire by God's help to actively do, or patiently accept, what is God's will for us. It is not that God causes our suffering, but in our suffering, we will continue to find God.

The service would usually conclude with a celebration of Holy Communion, a reminder that the relationship that we have with God is through the loving sacrifice of Christ. Online, we cannot celebrate that communion, the words will not be used in those services, but hopefully, the other words of the service, the hymns and the general feeling is one of us relying on the love of God, shown to us through the life, death, resurrection of Christ, and through the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit with us now. You can join in our online worship of the Covenant here

The Covenant Prayer (traditional form):

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 blessèd 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.

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