Wesley scholar Ken Collins said that Wesley’s theological vision could be summarized in two words: Holy Love. As the people of this “holy love” tradition, it seems only right that we should take hold of the love holiday, Valentine’s Day, as a tool to express the love of God to a hurting world.
In fact, that is just what United Methodist churches across the U.S. are doing. We hope these love-filled ideas from around the church will help you claim this holiday of love and fill it with the presence of the Spirit.
- Celebrate and renew vows of love.
On the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, the Rev. Brian Kent, senior pastor of Hope United Methodist Church in San Diego, officiates at a special service that seeks to celebrate love and a renewal of marriage vows. This special celebration happens between worship services with enough of a gap so that those who prefer not to participate may excuse themselves.
Following a modified version of the Service of Christian Marriage in the hymnal, Kent leads all couples present in renewing their vows as a group. After the service, each couple is given a “Marriage Vow Renewal” certificate. This short service, lasting about 15 minutes, is a great experience that when done carefully is a blessing for everyone involved.
- Send washcloths and love letters from home.
In the panhandle of Nebraska the people of Hemingford UMC use this season of love to reach out to the youth group alumnae. During the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, they collect things that the youth who have moved away to college will need. “Each year the contents vary from washcloths, toothbrushes, popcorn, candy, bouncy balls, books, to any other small item that will fit in our package,” says youth leader Kim Haas.
Though the supplies are appreciated, what the college students talk about the most is the “love letters.” Along with trinkets and daily necessities, the packages are filled with personal notes of encouragement and Scripture from every person who has contributed. Some come from people the students know and some from strangers who want them to feel loved. That’s precisely what happens each February when young adults all over the U.S. unwrap these love-filled packages from home.
Staying connected with college students is important, and it doesn’t have to stop after Valentine’s Day.
- Serve a multi-generation Valentine’s Day meal.
When the Rev. Jim Hart was appointed to the Altamont/Jonas Ridge charge, he began seeking a way to bring the youth together with the older generation. After a bit of deliberation, the congregation decided to revive an old tradition: the Valentine’s Day meal. Hart invited the youth to take the lead in planning. Energy and enthusiasm spread throughout the church as they planned the meal and recruited help.
Youth dressed up, set tables and served food as the older generations enjoyed a fun evening out. After dinner, some musicians in the church came to perform. Though the food and music were good, Hart said the love connecting generations was the real win. “The relationships built between our youth and our older members are amazing,” he noted.