Watchnight: John Wesley's Covenant Renewal Service

John Wesley; updated by Jonathon Powers with Intro by J.D. Walt

In 1775, John Wesley introduced a covenant service as an important part of spiritual life in the Methodist Societies. This renewal service was a time for the Methodists to gather annually in a time of self-examination, reflection, and dedication, wholly giving up themselves and renewing covenant with God. Repentance through confession and commitment was a key focus of the service, demanding humility from those willing to submit themselves to the dynamic words stated within the liturgy.

According to Wesley’s journal, though the covenant renewal service was held on various occasions throughout the year, by the end of his life, the service was observed typically on or the Sunday nearest January 1st. The covenant renewal service is a practice that continues in churches and Christian communities today, often near the beginning of the new year. It has undergone many revisions and adaptations, but its purpose as an evocative ceremony of commitment to ongoing discipleship and Christ-like character has always remained intact.

This 40-page Seedbed Seedling booklet features a modern liturgical adaptation of the covenant service. The vocabulary and syntax have been updated to what would be more familiar in the world today. At the end of the service there are some notes on how to plan for the service. Our prayer is for this resource to be a means of grace for the church, bringing renewal in the hearts and lives of God’s children, freely giving everything to God’s pleasure and disposal.

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