My third and final post about the Covenant Service. Today I attended a Covenant Service in one of the more unlikely venues – the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft at the Palace of Westminster. This service is an annual event organised by the Parliamentary Methodist Fellowship, a cross-party group of Methodist Peers and MPs. In some years the service is attended by the President and Vice-President of Conference. This year was a little more low key, but was ably led by Revd Martin Turner, Superintendent Minister of Westminster Central Hall and Chaplain to the Parliamentary Methodist Fellowship. The scripture readings were read by members of the PMF and staff of Westminster Central Hall shared in the leading of the prayers.
The worship was the standard Covenant Service liturgy, including the more contemporary of the two covenant prayers in the Methodist Worship Book. Now I think about it, it is probably the first time I have said this version of the prayer – in my own services I use the traditional version. But as this is my third Covenant Service in two weeks, the change was welcome and got me thinking in a fresh way about the meaning of the covenant renewal.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Your will, not mine, be done in all things,
wherever you may place me,
in all that I do and in all that I may endure;
when there is work for me and when there is none;
when I am troubled and when I am at peace.
Your will be done
when I am valued and when I am disregarded;
when I find fulfilment and when it is lacking;
when I have all things and when I have nothing.
I willingly offer all that I have and am
to serve you, as and where you choose.
Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
May it be so for ever.
Let this covenant now made on earth
be fulfilled in heaven. Amen.
The venue for the service is quite a remarkable place. Originally built in 1297 as a chapel in the crypt of St Stephen’s Chapel (later used as the chamber of the House of Commons), St Mary Undercroft had long fallen out of use as a place of worship when the fire of 1834 swept away the mediaeval buildings. Although badly damaged, the crypt was one of the few structures to survive the fire, and the decision was made to return it back to use as a chapel. It was restored in a lavish neo-Gothic style.
There was one addition to the Methodist liturgy. Very appropriately the intercessions included the Prayer for Parliament. This is the prayer read by the Speaker’s chaplain at the beginning of each sitting of the House of Commons:
Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, grant to our Queen and her government, to Members of Parliament and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance of your Spirit. May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals but laying aside all private interests and prejudices keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind; so may your kingdom come and your name be hallowed.