Wesley's Watch Night Service

John Wesley developed this Covenant Service, usually offered on January 1st in 1780. The heart of the service, focused in the Covenant Prayer, requires persons to commit themselves to God. The Covenant Service is most commonly held on New Year's Eve or Day and therefore is sometimes called a Watch Night Service. Historically, a Watch Night Service would be three hours or longer, including readings from Scripture and hymn singing. John Wesley was the person that inspired followers to later form what we know today as the Methodist Church and because Brunswick Street Church has its roots in Methodism I thought a service like this on New Year's Day was a perfect fit for our faith-filled community.

I adapted this service for the purpose of using it was a time of reflection on New Year's promises, what it is we want to covenant with God to be and to do in the year ahead. I obviously shortened it, I only tweaked a word or two for clarity sake and I used hymns written by one or both of the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. There are many, many versions of the Watch Night Service, some much older than others. I found litanies, prayers, covenants from these various services that seemed to speak to Wesley's populist, personal and evangelical theology that was always grounded in good works and a sense of justice.  Here is a sampling:

 

Opening Prayer                                                                                                                    

O God, Searcher of all our hearts, you have formed us as a people and claimed us for your own. As we come to acknowledge your sovereignty and grace, and to enter anew into covenant with you, reveal any reluctance or falsehood within us. Let your Spirit impress your truth on our inmost being, and receive us in mercy, for the sake of our Mediator, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  

Litany of Thanksgiving                                                                                                         

One: Let us give thanks for all of God's mercies. O God, our Covenant Friend, you have been gracious to us through all the years of our lives. We thank you for your loving care, which has filled our days and brought us to this time and place.                                     

All: We praise your holy name, O God.                                                                               

One: You have given us life and reason, and set us in a world filled with your glory. You have comforted us with family and friends, and ministered to us through the hands of our sisters and brothers                                                                                              

All: We praise your holy name, O God.                                                                                 

One: You have filled our hearts with a hunger after you, and have given us your peace. You have redeemed us, and called us to a high calling in Christ Jesus. You have given us a place in the fellowship of your Spirit and the witness of your Church.                      

All: We praise your holy name, O God.                                                                                 

One: You have been our light in darkness and a rock of strength in adversity and temptation. You have been the very Spirit of joy in our joys and the all–sufficient reward in all our labours.                                                                                                        

All: We praise your holy name, O God.                                                                                   

One: You remembered us when we forgot you. You followed us even when we tried to flee from you. You met us with forgiveness when we returned to you. For all your patience and overflowing grace.                                                                                 

All: We praise your holy name, O God.

Covenant Prayer                                                                                                                          

I m no longer my own, but thine.                                                                                          

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.                                                         

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.                                                                                    

Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low by thee.                                                                                                                                 

Let me be full, let me be empty.                                                                                         

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.                                                                   

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.                                              

And now, O glorious and blessed God, Creator, Christ, and Spirit, Thou art mine and I am thine. So be it.                                                                                                                

And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it be ratified in the eternal. Amen.

Tonight, at our 6 pm. study time, at our 7 pm. worship time with a dialogue sermon shared in a circle, we 15 or so disciples of the Spirit will use this service as a guide to share our personal and collective covenant with God, focusing in particular on 2017. As always everyone is welcome to join us at 2107 Brunswick Street.