As The United Methodist Book of Worship reminds us, "All Saints (November 1 or the first Sunday in November) is a day of remembrance for the saints, with the New Testament meaning of all Christian people of every time and place. We celebrate the communion of saints as we remember the dead, both of the Church universal and of our local congregations. For this reason, the names of persons in the congregation who have died during the past year may be solemnly read as a Response to the Word."
Since, All Saints' is not only a recognition of death, but also a celebration of life through the Resurrection, all of the paraments, banners & stoles are white, which is the joyful and festive color used at Christmas and Easter.
All Saints' was a favorite of John Wesley's. He mentioned it four times in his journal. On All Saints' in 1748, Wesley said, "Being All-Saints' day, we had a solemn assembly at the chapel; as I cannot but observe, we have had on this very day, for several years. Surely, 'right dear in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints!'" In 1756 Wesley says, "November 1, was a day of triumphant joy, as All-Saints' Day generally is. How superstitious are they who scruple giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints!" In 1767, he included in his journal the following comments: "Being All-Saints' Day, (a festival I dearly love,) I could not but observe the admirable propriety with which the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel for the day are suited to each other."
The Collect for the day from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (which would be the Pray Book Wesley used) reads as follows (and I would encourage all to pray):
O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for them that unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle was Revelation 7:2-12. The Gospel was Matthew 5:1-12. - I would encourage you to read these Scripture lessons.
The year prior to this entry, Wesley wrote, "'God, who hath knit together his elect in one communion and fellowship,' gave us a solemn season at West-Street (as usual) in praising him for all his Saints. On this day in particular, I commonly find the truth of these words:
The Church triumphant in his love,
Their mighty joys we know;
They praise the Lamb in hymns above,
And we in hymns below."
That is the second verse of Charles Wesley's "Happy the Souls to Jesus Joined." Unfortunately, that hymn is not found in either The United Methodist Hymnal, nor the Nazarene's Sing to the Lord hymnal. Three verses of it did appear in the older The Methodist Hymnal. The four verses, below, were taken from the Wesley Hymns book, compiled by Ken Bible and published by Lillenas Publishing Company (Nazarene):
1.) Happy the souls to Jesus joined
And saved by grace alone.
Walking in all Thy ways they find
Their heaven on earth begun.
2.) The Church triumphant in Thy love,
Their mighty joys we know;
They sing the Lamb in hymns above,
And we in hymns below.
3.) Thee in Thy glorious realm they praise,
And bow before Thy throne;
We in the kingdom of Thy grace;
The kingdoms are but one.
4.) The holy to the holiest leads;
From thence our spirits rise.
He that in all Thy statutes treads
Shall meet Thee in the skies.
Since the hymn is in common meter, it can be sung to a number of familiar tunes, not the least of which is Wesley's "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" (Azmon). We will be singing it this Sunday to Land of Rest (which is the tune that the Nazarene hymnal uses for Wesley's "All Praise to Our Redeeming Lord").
It is unfortunate that more of our churches do not have an All Saints' Day service on November 1, no matter the day on which it falls. However, with the transference that most Protestant churches do, to the following Sunday, All Saints' becomes a major focus during the primary service of worship.
May God be praised for all of His saints who have finished their course and have become for us such a great cloud of witnesses!
The Journal entries were taken from the Jackson edition of Wesley's Works.