Churches watch-in new year

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, January 2, 2008

NATCHEZ — On New Year’s Eve, while most people were popping firecrackers or looking for some one to kiss at midnight, some Natchez residents were answering to a higher calling.

Churches all over the Miss-Lou were having watch meetings.

To some the term “watch meeting” might bring a puzzled expression. To others, it’s a tradition they simply could not go without.

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On Monday, approximately 50 parishioners gathered at St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church for a joint watch meeting that included four other local churches.

Watch meetings are like prayer services that normally start a couple of hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

St. Peter’s officer William Blowe said the watch meeting is a chance to pray in the new year.

“It’s a way to praise God for all the blessings in the past year,” he said. “And it’s the best way to prepare for the year to come.”

A watch meeting could possibly be best described as a spiritual year in review.

And while many would never consider missing out on the most party-rich time of the year, Blowe said he would not consider anything but a watch meeting on New Year’s Eve.

“This is the best place to be,” he said. “Right here in church with God.”

So just before 10 p.m. parishioners, decked out in their Sunday best, began to fill the churches red pews ready to pray in the new year.

Edna Davis said she has been participating in watch meetings for several years.

“This is important for salvation,” she said. “This is the place you need to be.”

Bessie Bradley, also at Monday’s service, said while the meeting is of great spiritual importance, it’s a cultural tradition as well.

“This is a tradition in the black community for years,” she said.

However, no one at the watch meeting was able to pinpoint the origins of the first meetings.

But those at Monday’s meeting did not appear to be overly concerned with the origins of the meeting, but rather the meaning of the meeting.

Carl Stewart said he views the meeting as time to praise the Lord.

As the meeting started, attendees closed their eyes and bowed their heads in prayer.

Blowe, with head in hand, began the service with a prayer.

“The pure at heart shall see God,” he said.