Watch Night service prepares congregation for the New Year

Rev. Dr. George C. Banks prays with the entire congregation as the clock hits midnight during the Watch

Watch Night service prepares congregation for the New Year
January 05
04:15 2017

Photo by Timothy Ramsey



With New Year’s Eve falling on a Saturday last week, it provided a unique problem for many churches across the nation, to hold or not to hold a Watch Night service.

Traditionally, Watch Night services do not conclude until after the clock strikes midnight, which creates a short turnaround for churches that hold 8 or 9 a.m. Sunday worship services.

For the Rev. Dr. George C. Banks and the congregation of Goler Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, at 630 Patterson Ave., the fact New Year’s Eve fell on a Saturday had no bearing on their decision to hold a Watch Night service to bring in the new year.  They saw it as an opportunity to reflect on the past year, then hours later fellowship once again to bring in the new year.

“Watch Night gives us the opportunity to look back in a godly way and see how God has brought us forward,” Banks said.  “It encourages a lot of people because we as humans like the ability to restart like in a video game; it gives them hope.”

Before the service, the youth ministry sponsored a pre-watch night spaghetti dinner and salad bar, which also included a showing of the movie “War Room.”

The service started with individuals giving testimonies of what they were grateful for over the past years and the things God has brought them through.  A selection from the church choir followed.

During his sermon, Dr. Banks told the people to “follow God’s purpose for you in 2017”

and to “be sure to remember the past, but don’t dwell on it.”  He said too many people are delivered from things by the Lord just to run right back to those things.  He said the past is meant to be reflected upon but not lived in. Banks said in 2017 he wants his congregation to “live on purpose, with purpose, by finding your purpose.

“When you find your purpose, you will understand why certain things occurred in your life,” he said.  “Once you find your purpose, the picture begins to become a bit clearer although it will never become totally clear.”

Banks says he initially thought about not holding a Watch Night service, but many people came to him and said they would like to have one.

Banks continued by saying, “There’s an old saying: Wherever you are when the year comes in, that’s what you are going to be doing all year long.  We didn’t necessarily have to be in the building but just being surrounded by God’s presence to begin 2017 because we all need that as we go on our journey.”

Origins of Watch Night

According to the African American Registry, the

Watch Night service can be traced back to gatherings also known as “Freedom’s Eve.” On that night, black slaves and free blacks came together in churches and private homes all across the nation awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law.  At the stroke of midnight, it was Jan. 1, 1863; all slaves in the Confederate states were declared legally free. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as many people fell to their knees and thanked God.

About Author

Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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