Thursday, December 31, 2015

Interfaith Days: Watch Night

This post concludes my year-long project: following the holidays of world religions, based on the calendar of the Diversity Awareness Partnership of St. Louis. I started this journey last year with this post, and I posted 117 short descriptions altogether. The DAP has already published its calendar of interfaith holidays for 2016. See all their work at their website,

Tonight, we look with hope to the new year. On the Gregorian calendar, New Year's Eve is a night of festivities and gatherings to welcome the new year. In some Christian churches it is also a occasion for a "watch night service," for confession, review of the just-past year, and prayers and resolution for the new year. John Wesley, for instance, began in 1740 what he called Covenant Renewal Services for prayers, readings, singing, and worship. The United Methodist Book of Worship has the liturgy for this service. Other churches have similar occasions.

Watch Night became important for African Americans congregations, as well, because slaves waited in churches on December 31, 1862, for the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, to take effect the next day. In this contemporary moment, when the call Black Lives Matter is raised around the nation, prayers for justice and liberation will take on all the more urgency this night.

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