Watchnight service

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A watchnight service (also called Watchnight Mass) is a late-night Christian church service. In many different Christian traditions, such as those of Moravians, Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans and Pentecostals, watchnight services are held late on New Year's Eve. This provides the opportunity for Christians to review the year that has passed and make confession, and then prepare for the year ahead by praying and resolving.[1] The services often include singing, praying, exhorting, and preaching.[2]

Watchnight service has added significance and history in the African-American community in the United States, since many slaves were said to have gathered in churches on New Year's Eve, in 1862, to await news and confirmation of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, on January 1, 1863.[3]

Moravianism[edit]

In the Moravian Church, many congregations observe a watchnight service, which often includes a celebration of the lovefeast.[4][5]

Methodism[edit]

Following the lead of the Moravian Brethren who began having "watch" services in 1733, the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, originated watch night services in 1740, sometimes calling them Covenant Renewal Services.[2][6] The services provided Methodist Christians with a godly alternative to times of drunken revelry, such as Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.[2] Today, a Methodist watchnight service includes singing, spontaneous prayers and testimonials, as well as scripture readings; the liturgy for this service is found in The United Methodist Book of Worship.[1][7]

Anglicanism[edit]

Many Anglican parishes hold watchnight services, including several cathedrals, among them being the Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Wilfrid, St Andrew's Cathedral, Singapore and Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos.[8][9]

The Penrith Observer reported that a watchnight service was held at St Andrew's Parish Church on 31st December 1884.

In 1935, the Hull Daily Mail noted that St. Oswald's Parish Church (Filey) had observed its 53rd annual watchnight service.

Presbyterianism[edit]

In the Church of Scotland, the Watchnight service is a popular ceremony marking the beginning of Christmas Day.[10] This is known as Midnight Mass elsewhere.

Some churches, however, hold a Watchnight service late on Hogmanay. One such example is St Cuthbert's Church, Edinburgh.

Roman Catholicism[edit]

In Roman Catholic churches, this ceremony is often replicated in the form of a Midnight Mass held on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day; these are often called the "Watch Night Mass".[11] The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nassau has watchnight services at parishes throughout the ecclesiastical territory.[12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b James Ewing Ritchie (1870). The Religious Life of London. Tinsley Brothers. Retrieved 28 December 2011. At A WATCH-NIGHT SERVICE: Methodism has one special institution. Its lovefeasts are old-old as Apostolic times. Its class meetings are the confessional in its simplest and most unobjectionable type, but in the institution of the watch-night it boldly struck out a new path for itself. In publicly setting apart the last fleeting moments of the old year and the first of the new to penitence, and special prayer, and stirring appeal, and fresh resolve, it has set an example which other sects are preparing to follow.
  2. ^ a b c Anna M. Lawrence (5 May 2011). One Family Under God: Love, Belonging, and Authority in Early Transatlantic Methodism. University of Pennsylvania Press. Retrieved 28 December 2011. In 1740, Wesley started watch-night services for the coal miners of the Kingswood area, offering this nocturnal worship as a godly alternative to spending their evenings in ale-houses. The watch-night services consisted of singing, praying, exhorting, and preaching for a number of hours. Wesley meant to establish it as a monthly practice, always at full moon to keep the meeting well lit. In America, this service often supplanted times of traditional drunken revelry, like New Year's Eve and Christmas Eve.
  3. ^ "Watch Night services provide spiritual way to bring in New Year". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 28 December 2011. Watch Night took on even more significance during the Civil War. When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, it was to take effect Jan. 1, 1863. Slaves sat up the night before, waiting for their freedom to arrive at midnight.
  4. ^ "Watchnight Service". Ephraim Moravian Church. 16 January 2011. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  5. ^ "2018 New Year's Eve Watchnight Lovefeast". Moravian Church Southern Province. 14 December 2018.
  6. ^ "Watch Night services provide spiritual way to bring in New Year". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 28 December 2011. Methodism founder John Wesley originated Watch Night services in the mid-18th century, sometimes calling them Covenant Renewal services. The original services were spontaneous prayer services designed to deepen the spiritual life of Methodists.
  7. ^ "Watch Night services provide spiritual way to bring in New Year". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 28 December 2011. The service is loosely constructed with singing, spontaneous prayers and testimonials, and readings, including the Covenant Renewal service from The United Methodist Book of Worship (pp. 288-294).
  8. ^ "WatchNight Service". Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos. 31 December 2015.
  9. ^ Priestley, Joe (27 November 2018). "The Season of Advent". Ripon Cathedral. On New Year’s Eve our atmospheric Watchnight Service takes place at 11.15pm. The short carol service is followed by a candlelit procession to the Market Square where Bishop Helen-Ann will give a blessing just before midnight and the New Year is brought in with fireworks.
  10. ^ "Christmas Eve Christmas Day and Boxing Day Services". The Times. London. 2005-12-17. Retrieved 2010-05-27.
  11. ^ "New Year's Eve Watch Night Mass". Our Lady of Lourdes Atlanta. 2015.
  12. ^ User, Super (20 December 2017). "Christmas & New Year's Mass Schedules". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nassau.

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