Watch Night

Faith on the Fringe

watch-nightI learned of Watch Nigh” at my historically black seminary (one of the many, many blessings I received by attending the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University).

In the African American community, Watch Night services on News Year’s Eve commemorate the evening of Dec. 31, 1862, as blacks looked to Jan. 1, 1863, and the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The idea of a New Year’s Eve service actually is much older than Freedom’s Eve, and in fact finds its roots in the Moravian Church and a 1733 New Year’s Eve service held in Germany.

Never one to let a good idea go un-adopted, John Wesley incorporated the service into his denomination. Some Methodists continue to hold monthly evening services, known as “Covenant Renewal Services.”

The service obviously took on deeper significance in 1862, when it was more important than any before or since, and…

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