A number of local churches will host special Watch Night services late on Monday to commemorate the start of the new year with prayer and song.
According to an article by the New York Times, the tradition of Watch Night services dates back to the mid-1700s when the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, adopted a 17th-century covenant service to renew religious faith on New Year’s Day.
The Rev. Jackie Culberson said that main objective of a Watch Night service is to give all of the praise to God for what has happened throughout the year.
“We pray the old year out and the new year in,” said Culberson, who is the pastor at Mount Calvary Freewill Baptist Church in Shannon. “We’re thanking the Lord for what he did for us in 2012 and what he is going to do for us in 2013.”
Culberson’s church will begin its service at 8 p.m. with singing and then food followed by more singing from the group Mercy Call out of Summerville.
They will then begin prayer at about 10 minutes until midnight and continue through the first minutes of the new year.
The Watch Night service at St. Paul AME Church on East Sixth Street will include the singing of hymns and prayer, as well as a special candlelight prayer vigil for the children, teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
The Rev. John Woods said that his grandmother and three of his sisters are schoolteachers and the safety of the students is always on the minds of educators and their families.
“The event in Connecticut touched all of the minds of the members of St. Paul,” Woods said. “It is something that has impacted the entire nation and rightfully so.”
He said that they wanted to take the time to recognize the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School but knew to wait and do so when prayer was at the forefront.
Woods said that while the service is important for the church as a whole and a staple of the black community, the occasion is an important one for all Christians.
“We welcome all of Rome,” Woods said. “It is important for us to do this and believe that in our most painful moments we must come together and show people that we can come together for one another.”