The Best Laid Plans

CrossOver reflection for Week Seven • Beginning January 13, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 20

Rev. Daniel Miranda


When I was a child, I noticed a trend in our family vacations that I might describe as a curse or maybe just bad luck. Every time we planned a vacation, my dad’s car would have some major problem and wouldn’t work. Vacations were often postponed or cancelled.

It can be so exciting to sit down to plan a vacation. We get to imagine, plan and hope for the best adventure ever! When I go on an adventure, I attempt to plan well and ask myself some questions—with the help of my spouse, of course. Questions like: Where are we going? What are we going to do? How long will we stay? What do we need to take? All of these are important questions to ask when we are planning a trip.

But the word adventure, by definition, implies some unknowns because no matter how well we plan, there are things we can’t know or anticipate. No matter how much we plan the weather may change, someone may become ill, or like it often happened in our home when I was a child, there could be problems with transportation. And yet, even when vacations and adventures don’t turn out as we intend them to, good times and fun memories are often still produced.

The adventure of being a part of a church family and having a deep faith in Christ is often like that. We imagine who God is, where God is going to take us and what God is going to do with us and through us.

I have done a lot of wonderful things I never anticipated doing and I have failed in unexpected and unimaginable ways. Those successes and failures are part of my faith adventure. Journeys have changed my mind about things I once believed very deeply and have taken me on detours I never expected to enjoy. I have been challenged to see the world from other perspectives which have ultimately made me a better person. I have, more often than I want to admit, chosen wrongs roads that led to nowhere, but I learned something important there too.

These experiences are part of the adventure. I guess we can choose not to go on adventures. We can stay in our silos. We can disengage and stop planning and hoping. But it is my prayer that we will join the adventure. Let’s plan, hope and dream that wherever the adventure takes us we’ll discover some new understanding and experience of what is means to be a people called by God to serve and love each other.


Rev. Daniel Miranda is currently serving his fourth year of appointment to First United Methodist Church in Auburn, Washington. He also serves on the PNW Council on Finance and Administration. When not engaged in ministry Daniel also enjoys playing racquetball, time with family and cooking.

Coming of Age as a Couple

CrossOver reflection for Week Six • Beginning January 6, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 19

By Rev. Wendy Joy Woodworth


Can you come of age more than once? How many times did Jesus “come of age?” Was it a one-time thing when he was 12 and stayed back in the temple to hang out with the religious scholars and teachers? Or, was it when he entered into the muddy Jordan River to be baptized like all the others by John and communicate that he too needed to be touched by waters of grace and hear of God’s love? Perhaps Jesus came of age when he encountered the Canaanite woman as she asked for her daughter to be healed and was challenged to realize his ministry is to share God’s love and grace with all people. 

Jesus came of age all of these times and more. Each time he delved deeper into the realization of God’s deep love for him and his call to live out that love, he had a coming of age moment.  

I have had various moments in my own life. There was a time in my life when I would approach communion with the thought, “make me worthy to receive this sacrament.” Through much interpersonal work and prayer, one day the narrative changed, “through God’s love and grace I am worthy, I am God’s beloved.” It was a coming of age time, into both my worthiness as a child of God and hearing God’s call into ministry.

Rev. Wendy Joy Woodworth and Lori Alton
Rev. Wendy Joy Woodworth and Lori Alton.

Coming of age is not solely an individual endeavor, it is also something that can be experienced within a family, a relationship and a community. For Lori and I, we experienced a coming of age moment when we got married on May 20, 2017. It was a moment over 24 years in the making.

Our relationship, which began during my last year of seminary, was complicated in the life of the church. We knew we loved each other, made a life-long commitment, and we knew that I was called to serve the church, specifically The United Methodist Church, my life-long faith community. In faith, we struggled to make it work. We played, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In time, we found community outside the church to affirm our relationship and discovered support within the church. I had trusted colleagues who became valued friends where our relationship was also affirmed. 

Not being fully out though, created limitations in our relationship and ministry. We had talked about marriage off and on, but felt we wanted it to be something we could share with the wider community, plus the legality was not there yet. On June 26, 2015 same-sex marriage became legal in the USA and our talk went into action. We began planning and getting excited. When I signed the UMC Clergy Out letter in May of 2016, we no longer had to decide how to handle the church.

When we gathered with family and friends, with those who had supported us through the 24 years, we had a complete sense that we, as a couple, were loved and affirmed by them as well as God. Lori shared with me this morning, that when we had a blessing of our marriage at church, that support of the faith community spoke to her of God’s love in a new way.

We came to age as a couple, fully embracing and embraced by the love of family and community and delved deeper into the understanding of God’s love for us as beloved daughters, as a beloved couple. What are some of your coming of age moments, as an individual or with others?


Rev. Wendy Joy Woodworth is currently appointed to Open Door Churches, a cooperative of six United Methodist faith communities in and around Salem, Oregon. She also serves the Oregon-Idaho Conference as chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry and Agenda Chair for the Annual Conference Session.

A bright star in the night sky

CrossOver reflection for Watch Night, Epiphany • December 30, 2018
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 18

By Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


A baby was born who turned the world on its head. Lives are changed by Jesus, who opens our eyes to God’s transforming love and justice. We celebrate his birth extravagantly, because we understand that his life, death and resurrection are awesome in their creative power—maybe even awe-ful in their disruptive power. They show us that life is not in vain, that the most violent powers of sin and death cannot snuff out the hope that burns in our hearts, even at times like a small, flickering flame. 

The story of Jesus turns us inside out as we sing, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I pray that your very personal hopes and fears are met by Jesus in the New Year.  

This week, United Methodists will carry our very public hopes and fears from 2018 into 2019 as the year turns. A special session of General Conference in February will seek a way forward out of decades of strife over whether and how the Church will welcome and include, or reject and exclude, people based upon their sexual identities and orientations.  

What are the hopes that delegates will bring to the Conference?  

  • Full Inclusion. The Simple Plan would remove of restrictive language in the Book of Discipline to enact full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life and ministry of the Church. Sexual identity and orientation would not be a standard for ordination. Same sex weddings would be allowed. [Learn More|Proposed Legislation]
  • Obedience to scripture and discipline. The Traditional Plan reaffirms the traditional teaching that marriage between one man and one woman is the norm. “Self-avowed practicing homosexuals” would be prohibited from ordination and same-sex weddings would be prohibited, with stricter enforcement of each. [Learn More|Proposed Legislation]
  • A new definition of Connection. The Connectional Conference Plan is the most complicated of the three proposed by the Commission on a Way Forward providing for three overlapping conferences which share some services but have more theological autonomy. Of the major plans, if provides the most space for theological differences but probably has the least support due to the number, and difficulty, of the changes proposed. [Learn More|Proposed Legislation]
  • Room for contextual adaptation.  The One Church Plan offers less legislated uniformity and allows clergy, local churches and annual conferences to set standards and practices appropriate to their ministry context and exercise of conscience. [Learn More|Proposed Legislation] I have publicly joined other bishops and leaders of the Western Jurisdiction in support of the One Church Plan. [Press Release]

Depending on the outcome of the Special General Conference, our United Methodist Church could enter into a season of wrenching schism, with some churches leaving whatever the new form is that emerges, or we could experience a tectonic shift as differing standards are set in conferences and churches across the denomination.  

There’s a lot at stake. Feelings run high. Opinions about what scripture says, and how determinative it should be, run deep. At times there is more heat than light in the conversations.

This week we will celebrate Epiphany, which means the manifestation of God to gentiles—people outside the Jewish community of faith. Matthew tells the story of Magi whose astrological faith traditions led them to follow a star to Jesus. It teaches us that people don’t have to think or believe alike to recognize God’s transforming presence in the world. It shines as a bright star in the night sky. It shines on the just and the unjust. It is universally accessible to all. 

So, if God’s revelation is visible and accessible to people of many faith perspectives. And United Methodist Christians are led on their journeys with Jesus to very different understandings of human sexuality and standards for participation in the Church, then how are any of us to find our way through the complex and contradictory proposals under consideration?

Here’s what I’m going to do, and what I invite you to do with me.

  1. As a way of searching our own hearts and inviting God to speak to us for what lies ahead. On or around New Year’s Eve, take a quiet time apart to experience John Wesley’s Watch Night Covenant Service.  First, prayerfully read through the service (Click here to review and download) and write your reflections and personal commitments and prayers. Then, alone or with others, pray through the service. This is a time-honored new year’s practice of Methodists—a time of reflection, humility, re-dedication. Brian McLaren, author of We Make the Road by Walking, describes it as one of the treasures of the Church.  
  2. If you aren’t already participating in the year-long study of We Make the Road by Walking, January 1 is a great time to jump in.  Go to greaternw.org/crossover/ to learn how.  Especially subscribe to the “CrossOver to Life” blog by following the link on that page.
  3. From now through February, pray for the Special General Conference.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would be present to bless and guide our Church for a future of faithfulness and fruitfulness.  
  4. Follow the events of the General Conference at http://greaternw.org/gc2019/. As the time grows closer, up to date coverage will be posted here.   

What we know for certain is that on February 27, we will have neighbors to love and to welcome, and we must be prepared to carry our ministries forward no matter what.   

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us to-day.
We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, 
    Our Lord Emmanuel.


Elaine JW Stanovsky serves as the resident bishop of the Greater Northwest Area including the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences of The United Methodist Church.

Give to Light

CrossOver reflection for Christmas Eve • December 24, 2018
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 17a

By Rev. Dr. Lyda Pierce


I knew it must be getting close to time to get up but I was cold, tired and very grouchy.  

It was about 1985, during the counter-revolutionary and Sandinista war in Nicaragua. My husband and I were serving as missionaries with an ecumenical development agency, CEPAD, and one of my roles was to care for groups of church folk from the US coming to see for themselves what was going on. This group’s plan was to experience coffee picking.

We had arrived to this mountain farm the previous evening, just in time to sit with the regular workers and eat dinner together. After dinner, we went with them to get settled for the night. We were taken to a big old wooden barn that had been converted into a bunk house by building giant shelving along both of the long sides of the barn. Each bunk was about 4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 6 feet long. Bunks were stacked four high. There were no beds, just wooden shelves and we had not come well enough prepared. Still, we passed around the blankets and sheets we did have and each sought out a shelf to sleep on.

I ended up with just a sheet, and this mountain area was much colder than the hot sea level city I lived in. All night long,  I tossed and turned, pulled the sheet tighter, then rearranged it over and over, all the while whining to myself about how miserable I felt.

It was still quite dark when I heard a guitar beginning to play quietly, and then a voice began to sing. I peeled open my eyes and saw a small light up at the very top of the barn. One of the Nicaraguans had gone to the top shelf, reached out and hung a hammock from the middle of the roof. From that hammock a lovely voice was calling us into a new day, a day to work together, a day to pick coffee instead of picking up guns.

In another moment lights began to flicker on all around the barn. I could hear people moving around and whispering greetings to one another. In that light the barn changed. It became a home for a people working together. That light led me from feeling sorry for myself, to being part of a community of hope. I was still cold and tired but I could get up and rejoice in a new day. 

In the beginning was the Word
    and the Word was with God
    and the Word was God.
What came into being
     through the Word was life,[a]
      and the life was the light for all people.
 The light shines in the darkness,
      and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light. 

John 1:1, 3d-5, The Message

In Spanish, one of the most common ways to say “give birth” is “dar a luz” or give to light. I’m sure that Mary did not sleep much that night as she labored in a barn to give her baby to the light; her baby that would be light for us all, a light that changes everything. Thank you Mary, may we follow in your pathway and give others to the light of your baby.


The Rev. Dr. Lyda Pierce serves as a United Methodist missionary for Hispanic/ Latino Ministry Development in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference.

Boundary Crossers

CrossOver reflection for Week Four • Beginning December 23, 2018
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 17

By Rev. Shalom Agtarap


A spiritual mentor gifted me the book, “Soul Sisters” by Edwina Gateley, poetry inspired by the surprising women who show up in scripture. This book is one of the few physical gifts from my ordination that continues to bless me in its probing invitation to experience God through the perspective of dear ones on the margins. 

Both Brian McLaren and Edwina Gateley shine the spotlight on the surprising people who show up in Jesus’ genealogy. McLaren takes special note of the bold women, low-ranked shepherds, and the impoverished in Jesus’s story while the poetry from “Soul Sisters” highlights the messiness and even violence present in the lives of marginalized people.

“And so you carried
life for the world, Mary,
as you fled,
to protect that very life
from threats of death.
Joining the world’s mass of displaced people
you became
Refugee,
Alien,
Immigrant,
Homeless,
and settled in a foreign land–
the only place
to safely nurture
your fragile dream.
Like so many other women
who flee violence,
clutching their babies,
you crossed the border defining you
a stranger,
dependent on foreign aid, welfare
and hand-outs–
the charity of others–
to feed the Son of God.” 

— Edwina Gateley

Who are the marginal people in our communities today? Who are those crossing boundaries that define them as stranger, “receiver of hand-outs” and “needy?” I try to imagine labels—“refugee,” “alien,” “immigrant,” “foreigner,”—and how they might feel when said about me. I let the uneasiness creep in and the discomfort fill me. On a deeper level, I am transported to personal experiences my family has endured as strangers in a new land. I notice the anger at how my parents were treated and if I stay with these emotions long enough, I also notice gratitude. I notice those who crossed boundaries with us.

It is in these moments where I steady myself in the promise of the One who accompanied my migrant family and continues to accompany landless masses, half a world away or right outside on my sidewalk. The hope present in Mary’s story is that she, and all who are “othered” with her—are called “highly favored one” by God. 

Who else in your life and community are pushing through, fleeing violence, clutching their babies, “to feed the Son of God?” May we be bold like all the surprising people in Jesus’ life who, through daily acts of courage and deep faith in God, feed, clothe, and raise the incarnate of God in our midst.


Rev. Shalom Agtarap serves as Associate Director of Innovation for a New Church and as a member of the Greater Northwest Area’s Innovation Vitality Team.

Keep Herod in Christmas?

CrossOver reflection for Week Three • Beginning December 16, 2018
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 16

by Rev. Gregg Sealey, CPCC, ACC


How many of us have a nativity scene or crèche decorating our home this Advent?

Nativities include some powerful symbols in this season of waiting, even outside of the Christ child (that incidentally should be absent until Christmas!).

  • The shepherds are a powerful reminder of those who are looked down upon as they were the first to see and worship the incarnation of God.
  • The wise men/”stargazers” are symbolic of the government representatives who have to travel long distances to celebrate this Good News and are transformed along the journey
  • Joseph had three opportunities to bail on Mary but remained steadfast and faithful
  • Mary, God’s chosen one, is an unwed, pregnant teenager of all people.

We often see animals that are clean and happy in nativity scenes, but I wonder if we lose some of the message of Christmas (and in fact the message Jesus himself brings to us as Emmanuel/”God with us”) if we keep our holy season completely sanitized. Does the season speak to the world today as richly when we don’t realize the importance of keeping Herod in our awareness during Advent and Christmas.

There was darkness in the world that first Christmas, and there is certainly darkness in our world today. Just as innocents were slaughtered by Herod, we have innocents who have been slaughtered in places of worship, in stores and in schools. We don’t have to look any further than the daily news to see the darkness in our world. Herod is THE symbol of our messed up world ruled by fear and violence.

Will we acquiesce, become cynical or depressed, or will we look for another way? Mary’s song, the Magnificat, foreshadows how the rulers of the darkness will be brought down and how her son will lift us up! The message Jesus brings is a call for us to be people of love and hope in a world of fear and violence; to be people who can attest to the light that cannot be overcome by darkness; to be a people of healing and life in a world of death and disease.

In this CrossOver year, where there is anxiety in our United Methodist system, my prayer is that we don’t forget about the darkness in our world, but it ought not be our sole focus either. What if we were to actually “cross over” from an existence ruled by anxious reactions to the darkness in our world to one in which we can thoughtfully and faithfully respond, guided by the peace and grace of Christ?

There is another way … a way that leads to life.

May we follow that more excellent way, this Advent and always.


Rev. Gregg Sealey serves as Superintendent for the Inland Missional District in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He is the current dean of the PNW Cabinet and is a trained and certified Professional Co-Active Coach.

Thoughts on Women on the Edge

Bonus Content for Week Two • Beginning December 9, 2018
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 15

by Llewellyn Pritchard   


The Bible tells us of the challenges faced by Sarah and Elizabeth in their efforts to conceive a child. The way women of their time established their validity and self-esteem was to have a child and they could not do so. Their time had passed, and they had no hope!

The impossible happened: They conceived and gave birth. Luke also shares another conception story—the miracle of Mary and the Virgin birth.

Llewellyn Pritchard
Llewellyn Pritchard

The Impossible Happens: Three women prevail against all the forces of nature and science which are arrayed against these powerful women.

This devotion brought back memories of Elizabeth Korn, my art history professor at a college, decades ago. She was a Jew living in Germany with her scientist husband in the face of Nazi persecution. She was headed to the Death Camps. She fled in the dark of night to Norway and ultimately arrived in the United States.

Her life was impossible: She had lost everything. She told me the only thing she had left was her education and her talent as an artist. She moved into a third floor walk-up flat in Hoboken, New Jersey and took a job teaching as an instructor at my alma mater. She was a gifted teacher and an inspiration in the classroom. She took me to New York and to every museum and instilled in me a love of art which greatly impacted my life. At the same time, she became an American citizen and helped defeat a corrupt political boss in the city where she resided.

The impossible happens: Today’s headlines reveal many stories of women and their children who, like Professor Korn, face incredible challenges as immigrants to our wonderful country. Perhaps we should help make the impossible happen so they, and their children, can find a safe haven in our land.


Llewellyn Pritchard is a lay member of Lake Washington United Methodist Church in Kirkland, Washington. He also is the long-serving chancellor for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Impossible Possibilities

CrossOver reflection for Week Two • Beginning December 9, 2018
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 15

by Rev. Donna M.L. Pritchard


Okay, question number one – it’s a “fill in the blank” kind of question. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s _____________________!  That’s right – Superman!

That one may have been a little too easy. So question number two – who teaches us that with great power comes great responsibility? Yes – Spiderman!

Finally, number three. Tell me who this sounds like – Stop a bullet cold, make the axis fold, change their minds and change the world? This one is a little trickier, but the answer is of course, Wonder Woman!

Ah, superheroes – we are all familiar with them, in part because we’ve grown up with them. We might even think we know all about them. For instance, we know that they all have some sort of amazing, and often superhuman, abilities. Perhaps it is X-ray vision, or the power of flight. Maybe they are super strong or super-fast, or have the ability to become invisible at will. They have some amazing abilities, which are combined with an agenda that has something to do with justice and fairness. Our superheroes even seem to maintain a moral code which goes beyond the ordinary level of commitment.

But there is something else these superheroes all have in common, something which I like to call the ability to live out “the art of possibility”. The superheroes of fantasy, fiction, and even of real life all somehow manage to see possibilities where others see only the impossible.

In a way, the season of Advent calls to the “superhero” in each of us, because it asks us to see possibilities where others may only see the impossible. Certainly that was true for Mary, the mother of Jesus, and for her cousin Elizabeth. (See Luke 1:5-45) It is easy to discount their stories of miraculous pregnancies and the babies that spring from them. After all, isn’t it impossible for an old woman, well past child-bearing age to conceive? And a virgin… come on! We all know it is impossible. But as Brian McLaren puts it:

But what if that’s the point? What if the purpose of these stories is to challenge us to blur the line between what we think is possible and what we think is impossible? Could we ever come to a time when swords would be beaten into plowshares? When God’s justice would flow like a river – to the lowest and most ‘god-forsaken’ places on Earth? When the brokenhearted would be comforted and the poor would receive good news? If you think “Never – it’s impossible!”, then maybe you need to think again. Maybe it’s not too late for something beautiful to be born. Maybe the present moment is pregnant with possibilities we can’t see or even imagine. (We Make the Road by Walking, pg.68-69)

We can – each of us – choose to live a new way, seeing what is possible instead of focusing on what we find impossible. We can trust in God’s presence when we can see it and even when we cannot. We can focus on abundance rather than scarcity, on hope instead of fear, and on rejoicing rather than despairing. My friends, God does not expect us to be super-human. But I believe God is inviting us to become super-heroic, seeing possibilities where others may only see what is impossible.

The Christmas story would go nowhere without Mary’s willingness to do just that. Consider, if you will:

Is there anything about your church right now that feels “pregnant with possibility”?

Who do you think can help you to see possibilities where you may only notice the impossible?

Prayer for the day:

Amen, God… usually we say it at the end of our prayers. But today, I say it right up front, in the beginning, to remind me of Mary and Elizabeth, of all those heroic ones who help me see beyond the impossible and remind me of your possibilities every day. Amen… “So be it”… with me this day.


Rev. Donna M.L. Pritchard, Senior Pastor of Portland First UMC, believes that faith ought to be a pathway to joy!  As a pastor, she helps create a deep sense of joy in spiritual growth, compassion, and social justice ministries. When not working, Donna loves spending time with her two adult daughters, walking her Corgi, laughing with friends, painting silk, playing the piano, traveling and reading “just for fun”.

Donna also serves as Chair of the Western Jurisdiction’s Leadership Team, and as a member of the Commission on a Way Forward for The United Methodist Church.

What can I believe?

CrossOver reflection for Week One • Beginning December 2, 2018
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 14

by Rev. Charles D. Brower


“His clothes were as white as snow.
… And flames were all around its wheels.
A river of fire was flowing. It was coming out in front of God.
Thousands and thousands of angels served him.”
– Daniel 7:9b-10a (NIRV)

A worldwide flood with only two of each type of animal surviving?

A burning bush not consumed by flame?

A sea parting so a people can escape slavery?

Early missionaries to Alaska met a people used to hearing tales of feats by the shamans making these Bible stories easy to believe. The locals had heard of shamans’ interstellar travels or of their experiences changing into spirit animals.

Ever wonder how the concept of a Promised Land might sound to an indigenous person hearing a missionary expound promises of a life eternal? Then to hear that same promise followed by an uncertainty of when that fulfillment might happen?

What might be our response today to stories we deem hard to believe? Do the stories in the Bible challenge our faith; do the stories seem impossible?


Rev. Charles Brower is an Inupiaq serving Nome’s Community United Methodist Church. Social justice, homelessness, and high poverty challenge this mission church.

Photo Credit: parting the red sea” by amboo who? , CC BY-SA 2.0.

Wesleyan Traditions: Watch Night & Covenant Renewal

I often struggle to experience worship when I am leading worship. That was not the case on January 1, 2017. That Sunday morning I led my congregation through the liturgy of Wesley’s covenant renewal service. We included a time for personal reflection and journaling our covenant with God for the year ahead. I then kept my covenant within reach at my desk for the entire year. I reread it a few times. Looking back on it now, it’s plain to see how the covenant I entered into that day shaped the year ahead, shifted my ministry, and compelled me to follow my call in a new direction.  It was a powerful experience for me!

A new calendar year is a time of crossing over. It signals a fresh start, the opportunity to begin again—and that’s a gift many need any given year. What if we could invite our congregations, our small groups, our families, or just ourselves to really make the start of the new year a deeply meaningful time in our faith?

I remember well the challenge of offering something new or creative in worship immediately after an exhausting Advent and a pull-out-all-the-stops Christmas Eve. As a result, I want to offer you some resources in hopes that you and those with whom you worship and fellowship might revisit the tradition of a covenant renewal service.

The resources you’ll find here are intended to be helpful, which means that I hope you will adapt them to fit your context and your sense of where the Spirit is leading you. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking creatively:

  • Use these materials as a ready-to-go Sunday morning service on any of the first several Sundays after Christmas or at a time when a fresh, new start is needed in your setting.
  • In keeping more with the watchnight tradition, include this opportunity for covenant on New Year’s Eve. (Shout out to Burley UMC in Burley, Idaho! In years gone by, they sometimes had a game night on Dec. 31 as an option for those who didn’t have or want a raucous party. Shortly before midnight, there was an invitation to enter the sanctuary for a very informal covenant renewal service. Got a recovery ministry in your church? Invite them to join you!)
  • Have a potluck with all those holiday leftovers and invite those gathered around the table (in homes or church fellowship halls) to read the covenant renewal liturgy and talk about it together.
  • Familiarize yourself with the liturgy, then gather a group for informal conversation about the ideas within it. Talk about God’s faithfulness in the past year and your commitment to following God more closely or in new ways and different directions in the year ahead.
  • Include in the life of your family, your small group, your friends, or your church a “blessing of the calendars.” Gather all kinds of time-keepers—watches, day planners, cell phones—hold them or place them in the center of the group. Invite other voices and pray about how you long for God to be present and how you commit to be present to God in your moments and days, throughout the seasons and the year ahead.

Resources offered here include the following:

  • Sample Order of Worship—Watchnight Service – PDF
    A basic pattern of worship for traditional Sunday morning worship services that includes the Covenant Renewal liturgy and reflection time in lieu of a sermon
  • Wesleyan Tradition of Covenant Renewal—Sample Introduction – PDF
    The sample order of worship includes an introduction to this tradition. The text provided here can be used as that introductory material or adapted to suit your community.
  • Covenant Renewal Service Liturgy & Journal Pages   PDF Version – Publisher Version
    This document includes the complete liturgy, covenant prayer, and lined pages for journaling about one’s own covenant.It is designed to be printed on letter sized paper, two-sided pages (flip on short edge), and folded in half. Each booklet uses 3 sheets of paper.
  • Covenant Renewal journal for KIDS – PDF VersionPublisher Version)
    This document invites children to think about the past year and the year ahead. It is most useful for children who can read, but it can be used alongside an adult for non-readers and has plenty of spaces for drawing or coloring. It is designed to be printed on letter sized paper, two-sided pages (flip on short edge), and folded in half. Each booklet uses 3 sheets of paper.

Click here for some additional Watchnight liturgical resources courtesy of Ministry Matters

Do you have great ideas of your own about how to bring greater meaning to people of faith at the start of the new calendar year?  Share them here!


Rev. Karen Hernandez is Sage District Superintendent. Most recently she served Kuna United Methodist Church (Kuna, Idaho), where the congregation graciously tried all kinds of new things in worship and beyond. 

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