In the South Pacific the ending of the old year and the breaking of day of the new is often celebrated with worship by the Methodist communities. These are lengthy services – maybe two or three hours with several sermons and much hymn-singing. After midnight there is a feast and a bit of mayhem with throwing water and talc powder over people. Some of the migrant communities in Australia such as Tongans and Fijians still have New Year’s Eve services and many people stay up all night.
In Australia there used to be summer youth camps organised by some churches and I remember that John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer was used in these services in the 50s and 60s. Probably not today! Peceli sometimes organised a short New Year’s Eve program at East Geelong which had a bit of carpet bowling, supper and worship , but mostly these days we go to Fijian gatherings in Melbourne. It also happens to be our wedding anniversary on 31st December – once upon a time there was a party in Lautoka, way back in 1966!
Below is the text of Wesley's Original Prayer as it appeared in Covenant Renewal Services for the Methodist Movement in 1780.
I am 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 for 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, Father, Son and Holy 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 heaven.
It appears a bit over the top these days to be so humble and self-giving, but in the days when we wanted to change the world with a passion and convert everyone (!) we were serious about it all. Today, I am more than a bit despondent that the world is seriously ill, that too many people are hurting and hurt one another in the process. I think that God lets us do the work, even when we muck it up!
I still like part of that poem by Minnie Louise Harkins 1875-1957 though, even though it’s not inclusive in language.
At the gate of the year
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'
And he replied,
'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'
So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.
So heart be still!
What need our human life to know
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife of things
Both high and low,
God hideth his intention."