A Baptist Thinks about the Methodist Covenant Service
The annual Covenant Service is a tradition going back to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. On January 5th this year it was led in Christchurch by our Baptist minister, and here are his thoughts on its meaning.
On Sunday I led the Covenant Service for our Methodist members.
Here are the words of the Covenant. They are addressed to the God of the New Covenant sealed by the blood of Christ.
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 that I am and have to serve you,
As and where you choose.
Glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine and I am yours.
So be it.
And let this covenant now made on earth
Be ratified in heaven.
So be it.
I find these words deeply challenging. I admire people who are prepared to say them and take this sort of responsibility for their relationship with God. I am used to a more discrete sort of commitment to Christ.
As a Baptist I have known times of public testimony in those churches but usually a person’s devotion was assumed rather than undergoing such a public examination each year. Of course believers’ baptism is a very eye-catching demonstration of a person’s beliefs but it tends to be a one-off event in their life and for the rest they are left to witness in whatever way it suits them. Some Baptists may feel that is too much of a parody. It is not meant to be.
What strikes me in the words of the Covenant is this:
· They are realistic; life can be calm or chaotic
· They do not infer any responsibility to the life of a church
· They place our God-relationship at the centre of the life
· They have an eternal dimension.
I do not know what a Methodist does with these words until the next time they are asked to speak them. If it were me I would dwell on their significance regularly through the year especially at times of heightened Christian devotion like Good Friday, Easter Day and Pentecost.
But does it matter whether or not you can say these words? It depends on the value you place on words and special occasions.
How many God-parents recall l what they promised at the side of the font?
How many married people can repeat the promises they made to another person?
Words spoken at significant times can either sink without trace or create a pathway that soars into an unknown future.
Saying them may give a sense of direction and purpose. In the end it is the fruit that such words produce that counts, isn’t it?
John Rackley, Associate Baptist Minister at Christchurch