I believe that the annual Covenant Service is one of the gifts or treasures of the Methodist Church and it is hugely important to me to have this opportunity to draw near in faith and renew the covenant which binds me, as a member of the Christian Church, to God.
Through the years the covenant promise has challenged me, supported me, comforted me, demanded much of me and given me the assurance of God's love and grace. I have said it when I have felt happy and fulfilled, I have said it when I have been struggling, I have said it in times of great sadness, I have said it at times of ending and times of beginning. This prayer and promise is for the whole of life, it is not an easy option but for me it is the only option and a life-giving option.
The words of the covenant prayer are both hugely challenging and greatly affirming.
We make our promises only after recalling the grace and love of God; the self-giving love and life-giving gift of Jesus; and the teaching, confirming and enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
We make our promises as members of the whole body of Christ, no-one can make these promises on their own, we need each other.
We make our promises as those who inherit the faithfulness and example of the generations that have gone before us, renewing a covenant "which bound them and binds us to God"
We make our promises after confessing our inability to be perfect disciples and receiving forgiveness from God who is faithful and just.
Before we accept once again "our place within this covenant which God has made with us and with all who are called to be Christ's disciples" we will sing Charles Wesley's hymn which begins:
Come, let us use the grace divine,
And all, with one accord,
In a perpetual cov'nant join
Ourselves to Christ the Lord:
Give up ourselves, through Jesu's power
His name to glorify;
And promise, in this sacred hour,
For God to live and die.
The presiding Minister will then remind us that accepting our place in the covenant means accepting God's purpose for us, responding to God's call and recognising that we might be called to service which we welcome or to service which we do not welcome. We recognise that serving Christ may involve self-denial. Above all we are reminded that "the power to do all these things is given to us in Christ, who strengthens us."
And so the promise we all make together, trusting in God's promises and relying on God's grace begins with these words:
I am no longer my own but yours.
Your will, not mine be done in all things...
and it ends:
You can find the whole prayer at http://www.methodist.org.uk/who-we-are/what-is-distinctive-about-methodism/a-covenant-with-godI willingly offerall I have and amto 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 earthbe fulfilled in heaven.Amen.
Having renewed our promises we will share in the Lord's Supper, recalling the death and resurrection of Jesus, "the source of our life and salvation."
The final words of the service send us out in peace and love to serve the Lord - this commitment and this promise is for the whole of our lives and is worked out day by day with God's help.
I will renew my covenant relationship with God in the company of other disciples and I will will be filled with the deep joy that springs from the grace of God.