As the clock ticks closer to midnight tonight, Christians at annual Watch Night services will ring in the new year with prayer, reflection, praise and music.
For some black churches, the services hold special significance.
In September 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Although the document did not end slavery in America, it declared “that all persons held as slaves” in the states which had seceded from the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
Late on Dec. 31, 1862, slaves and white abolitionists gathered in anticipation of the day Lincoln’s order would take effect – Jan. 1, 1863.
The vigils held on that first “Freedom’s Eve” were part of an even earlier church tradition, dating to the mid-18th century.
John Wesley, whose teachings established Methodism, encouraged reaffirmations of faith in “covenant renewal” services on New Year’s Eve.
Nearly 150 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, churches continue the tradition with services including special speakers and music, often followed by a late-night breakfast.
EMANCIPATION DAY CELEBRATION
WHAT: An annual service celebrates the 149th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and is organized by the Augusta Lincoln League, which awards college scholarships to youths.
WHEN: 11 a.m. Monday
WHERE: Tabernacle Baptist Church, 1223 Laney-Walker Blvd.
LEARN MORE: Call (706) 724-1230 or see tbcaugusta.org.
WATCH NIGHT SERVICES
ROCK OF AGES MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: Meeting at Jamestown Community Center, 3647 Karleen Road, Hephzibah, 10 p.m. today; the Rev. Tony Miller of Compass Christian Church will speak; breakfast will be served
TABERNACLE BAPTIST CHURCH: 1223 Laney-Walker Blvd.; services at noon, 6:30 and 10 p.m. today
ST. CATHERINE CHRISTIAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: 1578 Old Jackson Highway, Jackson; 10:30 p.m. today; with the Rev. Sam Roundtree
GALILEE MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: 931 Cedar St.; 10:30 p.m. today
JERUSALEM MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: 1415 Jones St.; 10 p.m. today
FRANKLIN COVENANT BAPTIST CHURCH: 4800 Franklin Covenant Road, Hephzibah; 10 p.m. today with the Rev. James Strowbridge
MOUNT VERNON MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: 1930 Olive Road; 10 p.m. today
BETHLEHEM MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: 815 Murrah Road, North Augusta; 10 p.m. today
JORDAN BAPTIST CHURCH: 300 Skyland Farm Road, Williston, S.C.; 10 p.m. today; the Rev. Darrell Blocker will speak; the church will serve fish and grits.
MOUNT ZION MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: 2526 Lumpkin Road; 10 p.m. today
RUNS MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: 1809 Williston Road, North Augusta; 10 p.m. today; The Rev. Anthony Wilson will speak.
WORLD OUTREACH EVANGELISTIC CHURCH: 3521 Jack Kelly Road; 10 p.m. today; breakfast will be served.
BUTLER CREEK AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: 1959 Tobacco Road; 10:30 p.m. today
HAMMOND GROVE WORD POWER MINISTRY: 214 West Five Notch Road, North Augusta, 10 p.m. today, with a performance by The Sensational Nightingales
GOOD HOPE MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: 710 E. Cedar St., 10 p.m. today