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Night Watch Service remains strong tradition in Black church

admin | 12/28/2011, 7:43 a.m.

There are disparate accounts of just how Night Watch Services began from supposed stories of slaves watching the new year dawn on their newly appointed emancipation to the more mundane account of how churches decided to offer a safer, more spiritual alternative to the more rowdier celebrations held during New Years Eve. Regardless of how the tradition officially began, many people are compelled to attend the New Years Eve service for two main personal reasons, according to Dr. Nathaniel Holmes, professor of religion and philosophy at Florida Memorial University. Maybe [they go] to attempt to rededicate oneself to the spiritual life, another reason can be to seek Gods blessings for a successful, prosperous New Year, Holmes explained. Rev. Norman Freeman of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church is not surprised that so many people choose to bring in the New Year at their local sanctuaries. Its a validation of hope and faith, a celebration of how God has looked over us all year long and anticipating that he will look over us in the years to come, explained Freeman. Night Watch service has been a long-established tradition at Mt. Claire Holiness Church in Miami. Often the church holds joint services with other local ministries and often features guest speakers. If Mt. Claires Bishop Willie Robinson leads the service this year, he knows that he will likely give a personal testimony. In the past, hes fought and won against leukemia and this past year he suffered a heart attack. Yet all of his trials have served to strengthen his devotion to God, according to the 78-year-old Robinson. I will tell people that He will do the same for them, but most of all I will talk about the world and what God expects us to be in this present world. St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Homestead typically draws up to 200 worshippers, according to Freeman. The service, which starts at 7 p.m., typically features praise dancing, a spoken word artist and even a guest soloist along with a sermon. The [sermons] focus Im taking this year will be about taking the initiative to complete what you started last [2011] year and completing it this [2012] year, Freeman said. By Kaila Heard kheard@miamitimesonline.com