While New Year’s revelers clink champagne flutes, exchange kisses and try to elude police out on patrol for tipsy drivers Sunday night, many of their neighbors will usher in 2018 with prayer and reflection.
At least half a dozen Richmond County churches have planned Watch Night — or Watch Care — services, designed to gather families to observe a 200-year-old tradition of spiritual preparation for coming challenges. (Dobbins Heights will offer a community service Sunday morning.)
“It’s an alternative for folks to be in church … and be worshiping the Lord to bring in the new year,” said Cris Beck, whose pastor established Watch Night Services at Cordova Baptist Church in 2015. The first service brought together members of three area congregations.
The service “is open to anybody who would like sing praise to the Lord,” Beck said. Church members also will hear a message from the Rev. Doug Anderson and gather around the altar at midnight to usher in 2018.
A light breakfast of biscuits will round out the celebration, Beck said Friday.
Worship at St. John Missionary Baptist Church also will include a community meal, but it will be anything but light, promised Pastor Mary Lindsey.
“We’re going to break (diet resolutions) right quick and early,” she said with a chuckle.
Watch Care at St. John’s will include “singing, praying and testifying,” Lindsey said. Those who aren’t regular churchgoers often attend, she said, because the service celebrates the coming year with family.
“I like it because we come together, and families come together … to give thanks to the Lord that they made it to 2018,” she said.
Watch Night services began in America in 1740, established by John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. Wesley wanted to give Christians a godly alternative to the drunken madness that occurred in the secular community. (He himself borrowed the idea from the Moravian Christians in what is now the Czech Republic.)
The celebration took on an added layer of significance for some in 1862, when African-American slaves came together in churches and private homes, hoping for word of freedom. President Abraham Lincoln signed a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, freeing all slaves in the Confederate states.
The following churches and community will offer Watch Night/New Year’s services:
• Beverly Hills Baptist Church, 101 Kemberley St., Rockingham, New Year’s Eve service, 6 p.m. Child care will be available.
• Church of God of Prophecy, 139 Flowers St., Rockingham, 11 a.m., featuring the JayStone Singers of Fayetteville.
• Community New Year’s service, Dobbins Heights Community Center, 222 Earle Franklin Blvd., Dobbins Heights, 9 p.m. Speaker, Pastor Terry Broady, Carl’s Revival Center Bible Church, Dobbins Heights. Breakfast will be served after the service.
• Cordova Baptist Church, 226 Ledbetter St., Cordova, 10 p.m., Watch Night service. Breakfast will follow.
• Freedom Baptist Church, 987 U.S. 1, Rockingham, 6 p.m., New Year’s Eve service.
• Providence Missionary Baptist Church, 1120 E. Washington St., Rockingham, 10:30 p.m., Watch Night service. Guest speaker, interim pastor the Rev. Dr. John D. Fuller Sr. of Fayetteville.
• St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 1729 Derby Road, Ellerbe, 11 p.m., Watch Care service. Singing, praying, testifying. Speaker will be the Rev. Sharon Gladden, church associate.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.