Well, let me say yet again: Happy New Year! The year is 2013. That’s two zero thirteen. Or the year of our Lord: two-thousand and thirteen. And today, while many of us were doing our Bowl Watching things of having our teams competing, this day had a historical feel for one of America’s well known documents: The Emancipation Proclaimaiton It was on January 1st, 1863 that the document that President Abraham Lincoln signed in order to forward an idea to end slavery and also shifting gears to curb the Civil War in America at the time. Now for you “history buffs,” the document didn’t instantly free the slaves, but it started something in order to ended the period to make sure my black ancestors started to become free once and for all.
Technically, every American should know this as well as African-Americans. Even in the black churches. Now, why I’m putting the black churches in this blog? I’m so glad you asked the question. Let me answer the question, that I am prepared to answer. (Get used to me saying that this year) The black churches around the new year have Watch Night Services. Now for those who want to know or willing to know, what IS a Watch Night Service? A service to watch with New Year’s Rockin Eve? Not really. And what goes on in these Watch Services in the Black Churches? Well, Watch Night Services are defined as (according to Black Community Definitions) a religious meeting or service on watch night, terminating on the arrival of the new year. (source – Dictionary.com) It’s also like going to a religious New Year’s Eve party in a positive sense full of prayer, testimony, and preaching the word. The historical sense of the event goes back to the Methodism days of John Wesley, (whom also founded later on the United Methodist Church) during the American Revolution era.
And for the record, this event has been around longer than Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
150 years ago, many of the black slaves were gathered in the churches were in a different scene in terms waiting to hear the good news from President Lincoln. Many of them were were hoping and praying he would do something in terms of changing the paths to curb the Civil War and ending Slavery in the Union. Even in the safe places, or plantations where they felt to kneel and pray in hoping that the President would make the decision to accept the idea to sign the document in guaranteeing the President would do the task. As it turns out, the prayers were answered. President Lincoln signed the document officially to generate a change in the course of that era. The night before was also labeled “Freedom’s Eve”.
This past year towards the end of 2012, and into 2013, the preparations of all watch night services were geared towards the anniversary of the signing of the document to recognizing the thought of change, recognizing thanking God for the year that was, and for the year yet to be. 150 years ago, there was no Facebook, no Gangnam Style Dance Moves, DVR’s, blogging, the game systems of Nintendo and Xbox weren’t not around, No social media platforms like Twitter weren’t the thing to use nor thought about, cool hair styles weren’t made, or many other things we have currently. And even to say, the thought of having a African-American U.S. President wasn’t on the meter yet!
The tradition still continues in black christian churches today. Even my church in Milwaukee had a Watch Night Service in recognizing the long old-school tradition. There were testimonies prayers, dances, celebrations, sermons, and good fellowship. Plus we had a Breakfast afterwards. Overall there is nothing wrong going to a Watch Night Service in the celebration of the coming year. But I felt a need to say this as a 52-week church going, African-American, United Methodist Church Christian person: We need to recognize the significance of this occasion! I’m not knocking the organizers of the service setups and having everyone to come out. I feel a need to recognize the historical part of this because those who are my age and younger may not that know about the meaning behind the event. In other words, what is this Watch Night Service? Technically, Watch Night Services are apart of Black History in ways that it can be and must be recognizable to appreciate. What can be done I think, that EVERY BLACK CHURCH, needs to incorporate in their services or before their services, a historical reference!
No matter if you’re United Methodist, Baptist, or whatever. And since yet again it’s part of African-American History, that must be told, retold, and passed down to all generations!
Know the history.
- Rev. Joan R. Harrell: Watch Night Service In The Black Church In America: 150 Years After The Emancipation Proclamation (huffingtonpost.com)
- Watch Nights Mark Emancipation Proclamation 150th (blackamericaweb.com)
- You: For black churches, this Watch Night has special meaning (latimes.com)
- Nation set to celebrate 150 years of Emancipation Proclamation (newsobserver.com)
- President Obama Recognizes 150 Anniversary Of Emancipation Proclamation (newsone.com)