Annual Watch Night Services honor past, usher in the new year

12/26/2014, 6 a.m.

Church members and others will be headed to church Dec. 31 for Watch Night Services to welcome the new year.

The annual observances, which took on great significance for slaves, freedmen and abolitionists during the Civil War, endure in the Black Church.

Itihari Toure

Itihari Toure

Dr. Itihari Toure, an elder at First Afrikan Presbyterian in Lithonia, said that Dec. 31, 1862, also was known as “Freedom’s Eve,” the day before the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in all territories still at war with the Union on Jan. 1, 1863.

“African-descended people gathered all across the United States to watch and wait for the daybreak’s passing of the Emancipation Proclamation,” she said. “As Jan. 1, 1863, rose with the dawn’s sun, so did shouts of jubilee and prayers ring from enslaved and freed African-descended people everywhere.”

For its Watch Night observance, First Afrikan Church will present its Umoja Karamu Service beginning at 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 31.

Toure said the Umoja Karamu, or unity feast, is a spiritual journey through the sojourn of African people from the motherland, enslavement and rebellion.

“It is portrayed through the preached narratives, songs, dance and poetry,” she said.

During the service, worshippers eat samples of gold, white, black, green and red foods to symbolize stages in the struggle for freedom – enslavement, emancipation, freedom movement and the future.

The church is at 5197 Salem Road. For more information, call 770-981-2601.

Other Watch Night Services

  • Ray of Hope Christian Church, 10 p.m. in the main sanctuary. Service includes worship, praise and dance. The church is at 2778 Snapfinger Road in Decatur.
  • For more information, visit rayofhope.org or call 770-696-5700.
  • Ousley United Methodist Church, 10 p.m. The church is at 3261 Panola Road.
  • For more information, visit www.ousleyumc.org or call 770-981-0180.
  • New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, 6 and 9:30 p.m. The church is at 6400 Woodrow Road in Lithonia.
  • For more information, call 770-696-9600 or visit www.newbirth.org.
  • Greater Travelers Rest Baptist Church, House of Hope, 10 p.m. in the cathedral.

The church is at 4650 Flat Shoals Parkway in Decatur. For more information, call 404-243-9336.

Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church, 7 and 10 p.m. The church is at 1879-1921 Glenwood Ave. S.E. in Atlanta.

For more information, visit www.pineygrovebapt.org or call 404-377-0561.