Origin of "Watch Night"

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I happened to hear an interview on NPR yesterday wherein the interviewee was asked the origin of "Watch Night." It was clear that he really didn't know. I know he was not an A.M.E.!! Just for those who are unaware, I thought I would share something that was received from "Today in Black History." FYI: December 31,1862 - The Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church holds a Watch Night Service in Suburban Maryland. It begins a tradition when African Americans pray and worship in anticipation of the next day, New Year's Day 1863, when President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamationis to take effect.

Happy New to Everybody! A "Lurcher"

-- Anonymous, January 01, 2004


I've always wondered about the origins of Watch Night as well? Did it begin with the Methodists? Did the tradition begin in America?

We had a wonderful Watch Night Service at my church. We started (7:00PM) with the reading of the Psalms until around 10:00PM. At 10:00PM we went into Love Feast, and at 10:30PM Worship Service began with the congregation assembled around the alter at 12:00AM.

-- Anonymous, January 02, 2004

I found it! I found it! The history of Watch Night Services as follows:

The original watch-night services were spontaneous prayer services designed to deepen the spiritual life of Methodists. The Methodist watch-night services seem to have begun spontaneously at Kingswood in April 1742, when converted miners, trying to stay out of the ale house and trouble, gathered to spend the greater part of the night in prayer and praise. Busybodies asked John Wesley to "put an end to it." He responded that it was after the practice of the ancient Christians and he could see no cause to forbid the vigil.

Watch-night prayers became a regular service in the Methodist centers of Bristol, London and Newcastle. They were generally held between 8:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on the Friday nearest the full moon "so that participants walked safely home through moonlit streets," as stated in Wesley's journal, Dec. 31, 1777. Wesley linked the watch-night vigil liturgically with a covenant of grace (an invitation to accept renewed obedience to Christ) in a service on Aug. 11, 1775 -- 33 years after the first watch night.

In North America, the first watch-night services were held at St. George's parish in Philadelphia and at Wesley Chapel in New York City in November 1770. Methodists continued the practice of watch-night services on New Year's Eve in the 19th century in both Britain and the United States. Watch-night vigils, even for New Year's Eve, have been abandoned in much of the 20th century.

-- Anonymous, January 02, 2004

watch night is a time that the slaves in the south not the north was staying up all night december 31 1864 , waiting for the next day to arrive because it was a new law that all slaves would be set free by the presendent abriham l . the fifth presendent .

so thats is my answer . sincerly your friend best regaurdless tyisha sharnice harden

-- Anonymous, January 05, 2004

Hello there Everyone!

I live in the south, and have never had these things told me before, I'm very happy that I came upon this imformation, I'll be sore to pass it on to my people in our Area. (it's not just the old year out and the new year in.)

P.S. Thanks for these notes on black history:

-- Anonymous, January 21, 2004

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