Hymns rich in workaday yet powerful images are usually ranked as Methodism’s main contribution to literature, but yesterday witnessed another example of this small but hugely influential church’s power of inspirational writing. Many Methodists across the country celebrated their annual covenant service, a renewal of faith comparable to new year resolutions, but one that impressively emphasises the importance of doing as much as believing. The heart of the occasion is a passage that includes the words: “Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you.” It should not be misinterpreted as a sort of fatalism, for many Methodists have held eminent positions, espoused radical politics, and gone to prison for opposing injustice and war. Its nobility is the recognition of the accretion of great good through small deeds. There are other fine examples of this in English literature, including George Herbert’s The Elixir, with its celebrated reference to making drudgery divine, and the magnificent concluding passage of Middlemarch. In the latter George Eliot does not honour those “who lived faithfully a hidden life” out of sentiment, but because of their robust contribution to the growing good of the world. The same may be said for those who say the Methodist covenant and try not to forget it, until the second Sunday in the new year comes round once again.
Excellent stuff, via Pam BG. The fact that many Methodists will have celebrated the renewal of the Covenant on the first Sunday of the year doesn’t detract from the column’s point.