County churches to welcome new year with Night Watch services
Published 8:39 pm Saturday, December 30, 2023
Sunday, starting between 10 and 11 p.m. and going until midnight or 12:30 a.m. Monday, the congregations at several African American churches in Warren County will participate in a service with foundations in the United States and Europe.
Watch Night services, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, can be traced to the early 18th century in Moravian churches, when churchgoers began marking the occasion with a vigil to reflect on the past year and consider what was coming in the new year.
The service gained significance among African Americans on Dec. 31, 1862, when slaves in the Confederate states gathered in churches and private homes the night before President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was to be signed. The slaves stayed awake all night, waiting for news that the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued and they were legally free.
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While the historical significance of the Emancipation Proclamation remains when Watch Night is discussed, there are other reasons why the tradition remains.
For some, Watch Night now carries a more religious meaning as they prepare to greet the new year.
The Rev. Linda Sweezer-Rowster, pastor of House of Peace Worship Church International, said the church will hold services Sunday from 10 p.m. to midnight at St. Mark Christian Church 3395 North Washington St.
“We call it a prophetic New Years Eve service,” she said. “Breakfast will be served and we will have prophetic calendars available.”
House of Peace members have been attending services at the Gertrude A. Young Jackson Street Community Center on Jackson Street since the first of December after the church on Holly Street was flooded by a main city waterline break.
Dr. Casey Fisher, pastor of Greater Grove M.B. Church, said Greater Grove will have its regular Sunday service, adding a Watch Night service will be held from 7:30-9 p.m. at his home church, Greater Zion Traveler Church, 7501 MS. 27, in Utica, while King Solomon Baptist Church will hold a Watch Night service at the church,180 Oak Ridge Road Sunday from 10 p.m. to midnight.
The Rev. James Bowman, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Christ, 100 Fisher Ferry Road, said services begin at 11:15 p.m.
“We’re going to open the doors at 11 o’clock,” he said. “We’re going to bring in the word and open the doors for anyone who wants to join us. We’ll let the folks join together in prayer and then we’ll go home. We want to bring in the new year giving thanks to God.”