Renewing Covenants – A Word to Welcome in 2013
The beginning of the year is always a good time to stop and take stock of where one is in life. It’s also often a time when we are invited to renew the various covenants we have made in our lives. John Wesley introduced a special service of Covenant Renewal among his followers in the 1740s that eventually came to be celebrated around the beginning of the new year. One hundred and fifty years ago, on December 31, 1862, many gathered throughout the United States in a service that was similar to the Wesleyan Covenant Renewal to usher in the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect the following day on January 1, 1863. The Watchnight Service on New Year’s Eve that many still celebrate in their churches in part grew out of this experience.
This month a number of events throughout the New York metropolitan area are being held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. These celebrations provide us with an ideal opportunity to renew our covenant with one another (“We the people…”) as we continue to work to form “a more perfect union” and become a more just and inclusive nation. We continue to be called upon to renew our covenant to end the discrimination not only against persons of African descent, but against women, against persons of diverse sexual orientations, against non-documented persons, and against persons who are poor. The killing of the children in Newton, Connecticut last month calls us to renew our covenant with our children, and against all forms of violence, but especially that brought about by guns. The destruction brought about by mega-storm Sandy is an occasion to renew our covenant not only with those who suffered great loss, but with the earth itself which is heating up and suffering numerous other forms of environmental degradation. We need to renew our covenants among nations, and among faith traditions. Finally, and most importantly, we need to renew our covenant (or covenants) with God, who is our creator, our redeemer, and our sustainer. May the coming month be a time of covenant renewal for you!