A Good Start to the New Year

Dear First United Methodist Church,

Happy New Year! It was so good to celebrate together with you on New Year’s Eve at our one, combined service at 10 am. We had 160 people together in worship on what is usually one of the lowest attended Sundays out of the year.

Like me, I know you want to get the new year off to a good start. Making a covenant (formal relationship built on promise, commitment, and devotion) with God is the best way to do this. In our own Methodist tradition, we have a tradition that dates back to the 18th century of “The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer” that John Wesley adapted from Puritan sources for use by the early Methodists to renew their commitment with God around the New Year. If you were there this past Sunday, you will recognize this prayer.

The Wesleyan Covenant Prayer was adapted by John Wesley, the co-founder of Methodism (along with his brother, Charles) for the renewal of the believer’s covenant with God. Wesley says that the prayer was first used in a covenant renewal service held on Monday, August 11, 1755, in London, with 1800 people present. By 1775, it had become a Methodist tradition to celebrate this service around the New Year. Since then, the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer has often been used in Methodist services around the world on the first Sunday of the year. The prayer points to deep surrender of ourselves in complete trust to God. At first use, the words of the prayer can be jarring. Pray these words until you mean them.

A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition (adapted from United Methodist Hymnal #607)

This Sunday, we will begin 2024 with a renewal of our baptismal covenant in observing the close of the Christmas season with Epiphany (actually occurs on January 6th), and the beginning of the season after Epiphany when we traditionally observe the Baptism of the Lord. At our three services, we will renew our baptismal covenant, share in Holy Communion, and each service will hear from a different preacher on the topic of Baptism:

Rosemary Plummer, Certified Lay Minister (8:00 am)
Rev. Dr. Donna Manwaring, retired United Methodist pastor from Florida (9:30 am)
Rev. Dr. Richard Williamson, retired United Methodist pastor from New York (11:00 am)

We will also offer anointing with oil after Holy Communion at the 11 am service. I look forward to sharing in this time of renewal with you.

Finally, I invite you to join me in reading 1 and 2 Corinthians over the next 3 weeks:

Pastor David

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