Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone. Though I'm not much on New Year's resolutions, one I will make for this year is to keep this blog regularly updated. Seeing as I've been saying that for a while, we'll see how that goes. In any case the change of year does offer the chance to try some new things and make a few changes.

It's also an opportunity to do more than just get ourselves back to the gym or drop a few items from our diet (for a few weeks). In a number of Christian traditions the New Year is taken as an opportunity to recommit ourselves to God. One of the best known is the practice of the New Year's Covenant service that goes back to John Wesley the founder of the Methodist tradition (though Wesley adapted much of his practice from the English Puritans).

Even though I'm a Presbyterian and a Calvinist, I've always had a love for John Wesley and his brother Charles (the great hymn writer). All of my ancestors on my Nana's side (my dad's mother) were devout Methodists going back to at least early decades of the 19th Century, and my dad also has a love for Charles Wesley's hymns.

Anyhow, one piece of the Covenant service that many people have perhaps heard of is Wesley's Covenant prayer. It's one of my favourite pieces of Protestant Christian liturgy (written prayer), and is an excellent way for any of us as individual Christians, small group ministries, or congregations can renew our commitment to God as we enter a new year, or really at any time of the year.

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 blessed 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. 
(The Methodist Church in Britain, 1999)

Note for History Geeks: You may be interested to know that while the words of the Covenant Prayer do go back to John Wesley, he did not compose them in the form of this compact liturgical prayer. In 1780 Wesley produced a 22 page pamphlet called Directions for Renewing our Covenant with God. It's a fascinating short work calling for intense self-examination, confession of sin, prayer and submission to God. Every single one of the phrases in the Covenant Prayer comes from this pamphlet. The Prayer in this form seems to have been compiled by the British Methodist Church in the first few decades of the 20th Century (the earliest version I could find is from a 1936 service book). If you're interested in Wesley's original work you can find a .pdf copy here:

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