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Covenant Service

John Wesley derived from Puritanism the custom of making an explicit covenant with God. He published and used forms composed by the Puritans Richard and Joseph Alleine, but made them a corporate rather than an individual act. The first Methodist Covenant Service was held at the former Huguenot chapel in Grey Eagle Street, Spitalfields London, on 11 August 1755, after a week in which Wesley had been preparing the society for the occasion.

In Wesley's day the service was held at various times in the year, especially on Easter Monday. It later came to be held on the first Sunday of the year as a corporate renewal of individual discipleship. It first appeared in a full service book in the WM book of 1882. It there consisted of a long exhortation followed by a covenant prayer, but usually included a hymn (now HP 649) written by Charles Wesley for the purpose, and was followed by a Communion Service. In subsequent service books the WM liturgical form has been extensively revised, but still includes a sentence or so from the original prayer.

In the MNC and UMFC (and from 1907 on, in the UMC) the Wesleyan usage continued to be followed quite closely, but the PM and BC churches, while retaining the concept of renewing one's covenant with God, abandoned its liturgical expression.

Sources

  • Frederick Hunter, 'The Origin of Wesley's Covenant Service', in WHS Proceedings 22 pp.126-31 and London Quarterly and Holborn Review, 1939 pp.78-87
  • Frank Baker, 'The Beginnings of the Methodist Covenant Service', in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, July 1955, pp. 215-20
  • David Tripp, 'A Revised Covenant Service' in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, January 1966 pp. 46-50
  • David H. Tripp, The Renewal of the Covenant in the Methodist Tradition (1969)
  • E. Alan Rose, 'The Renewal of the Covenant in the Methodist New Connexion', in WHS Proceedings, 38 pp.115-16
  • Oliver A. Beckerlegge, 'The Covenant Service in the Non-Wesleyan Tradition', in WHS Proceedings, 38 pp.147-48
  • David Tripp, 'Some Vicissitudes of "the Covenant Hymn"', in WHS Proceedings, 49 pp.18-21
  • Marion A. Jackson, 'An Analysis of the Source of John Wesley's "Directions for Renewing our Covenant with God"', in Methodist History, 30:3 (April 1992), pp.176-84
  • William Parkes, 'Watchnight, covenant service and the love-feast in early British Methodism', in Wesleyan Theological Journal, 32:2 (Fall, 1997), pp.35-58
  • Methodist Recorder, 11 August 2005
  • David M. Chapman, Born in Song: Methodist Worship in Britain (Buxton, 2006), pp.171-96

Entry written by: ARG
Category: Subject

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