By Steve Manskar
John Wesley introduced the annual covenant renewal service for use by the Methodist societies in 1755. Every year, on or near January 1, the Methodists gathered to renew their covenant with God. The service is adapted from a Puritan ritual. It is a powerful time of self-examination and confession that culminates in renewal of commitment to discipleship.
United Methodists may practice covenant renewal by using the contemporary adaptation of Wesley's Covenant Renewal service found in The United Methodist Book of Worship. Or congregations may choose to use the simpler "Congregational Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant" beginning at page 50 of The United Methodist Hymnal.
You will find versions of Wesley's Covenant Service here.
These services are powerful means of grace that give members an opportunity to recommit themselves to living and practicing the baptismal covenant with God. They remind us of our commitment to be witnesses to Jesus Christ in the world by the way we live and love every day.
How is your congregation renewing the covenant with God in the new year?
Here is a hymn Charles Wesley wrote expressly for the Covenant Service. It is #606 in The United Methodist Hymnal:
Come, let us use the grace divine,
And all, with one accord,
In a perpetual covenant 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 covenant we this moment make
Be ever kept in mind!
We will no more our God forsake,
Or cast his words behind.
We never will throw off his fear
Who hears our solemn vow;
And if thou art well-pleased to hear,
Come down, and meet us now!
Thee, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Let all our hearts receive!
Present with the celestial host,
The peaceful answer give!
To each the covenant-blood apply
Which takes our sins away;
And register our names on high,
And keep us to that day!