A covenant.

So, here’s the update on our first Sunday at our new church.

It actually went pretty well 🙂  There were a number of little encouragements – we were sat behind some friends, in front of others, and across the aisle from others.  To go to a ‘new’ church and literally be surrounded by friends is pretty reassuring!  The friends who sat in front of us have a child Luke’s age.  A classmate of Joshua’s was also there (not a boy, but you can’t win ’em all…).  The service was a joint one with the local URC (more on that in a moment) and Joshua knew two of the boys from the other church because they’d met at a mutual friend’s birthday party.  So though we were new, there were still plenty of people we knew.  We were made to feel very welcome, too, by other members of the congregation, some of whom we knew through our regular attendance at Messy Church.

The service itself started with the hymn ‘Great is thy faithfulness’.  (I’m beginning to feel like I’m writing a Mystery Worshipper report for Ship of Fools!)  I found those words a really helpful reminder to kick things off in a new church.  Different church, same faithful God.  The final hymn was ‘I the Lord of Sea and Sky’ which has that chorus,

Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

Given that we feel called to be at St. Wystan’s, that seemed like a pretty apt sort of song to be singing.  But, as mentioned before, the service was a joint one with the other church in the village, and that brought perhaps the greatest encouragements.  It was a ‘covenant service’, and I’m going to include a fair chunk of the prayer we prayed together below, as it all felt very appropriate for where we are at.  It’s a chunk of Church of England liturgy.  I love liturgy.

Christ has many services to be done; some are easy, others are difficult; some bring honour, others bring reproach; some are suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests, others are contrary to both; in some we may please Christ and please ourselves; in others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.

I don’t really know what to say, other than that I love this paragraph.  Christ calls us.  This is what matters.  Whether we enjoy it or not, whether it suits us or not, whether it reflects our desires or not; these things are not important – what matters is that He calls.  That demands a response.  Some people might focus too much on the blessings we are promised, others might be blinkered and see only the sacrifices we must make.  But the Christian life is a combination of both – ‘some are easy, others are difficult’.  Christ’s call brings both heartache and hope, both puzzlement and peace, both work and rest.

Then we were called to join in the covenant – God’s call to be a holy people:

Therefore let us make this covenant of God our own.  Let us give ourselves to him, trusting in his promises and relying on his grace.  Eternal God, in your faithful and enduring love you call us to share in your gracious covenant in Jesus Christ.  In obedience we hear and accept your commands; in love we seek to do your perfect will; with joy we offer ourselves anew to you.

And so, standing together, we said this:

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 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

It was a great way to mark a new beginning.  And there was plenty in there to get me thinking.  We’ve moved from a church where I helped with music, preached, ran some youth work and previously helped to run the toddler group.  We’ve moved to a church where I currently have no ‘work’.  Here, too, I want to see God’s will being done, in me and in those around me.

The sermon was (in my opinion) unnecessarily short (about 8 minutes) and unnecessarily shallow.  The readings were the Wedding at Cana and 1 Corinthians 12, about unity.  The latter would have been a great passage to preach on in a united service, but the focus was on the former.  The general thrust was that the power of God is only a prayer away.  This is true, but I felt more could have been said.  There was a thought-provoking link to the promise of the coming eternal kingdom and the ‘feast’ we will celebrate together.

But I’ve still not heard the vicar preach, as it wasn’t him doing the sermon this week 🙂

So all in all, there were many positives.  Some things I struggled a bit with, but will continue to pray that we allow God to use us there to His glory.

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