Several churches in the North Augusta area will continue the practice of observing historical Watch Night services.
At Second Providence Baptist Church, the Rev. Dr. Albert Michael James said his congregation will again have Watch Night services.
According to historical published reports, Watch Night church services in the black church can be traced to New Year’s Eve 1862, also known as Freedom’s Eve.
On the evening of Dec. 31 during the apex of the Civil War, slaves gathered at churches and private homes throughout the South, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed into law by President Lincoln.
At the stroke of midnight, Jan. 1, 1863, slaves who resided in Confederate States were officially deemed free from ownership.
The Rev. James said he realizes the historical significance of the event, but his congregation tends to focus on the upcoming year at the stroke of midnight.
“I’ll preach a brief sermon focused mainly on hope, as we leave the past behind. It’s a commitment to a fresh beginning, a new year of thanking God for allowing us to enter another year. We don’t really deal with the slavery aspect. That’s the past and we try to move on,” said the Rev. James.
At the 240-year-old Old Storm Branch Baptist Church, the Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Irvin Sr. takes a different approach.
“It’s a very special moment in our history and it’s our job as leaders to inform our flock of the significance of the event. I usually provide a special reading on this night. It’s very important,” said the Rev. Irvin.