Services filled with joyful noise

Published 12:02 am Friday, December 30, 2011

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Jason Turner sings during Thursday night’s rehearsal for the watch service at New Hope — The Vision Center. The watch service will begin at 9 p.m. at the church on Morgantown Road.

NATCHEZ — For most, New Year’s Eve is a time to party. For some, though, it’s not a party with drinks and dancing. It is, in the words of the Rev. Clifton Marvel, a “hallelujah jamboree party.”

New Year’s is the perfect time for a church service, said Marvel, the pastor of Greater Macedonia Baptist Church.

“Some people shoot guns and make noise and have toasts and all that yakity-yack, but we give thanksgiving and prayer and song to the God of heaven,” he said.

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But far from being a somber service where dour-faced congregants frown in the New Year in opposition to the world, New Year’s services are meant to be joyous occasions.

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Ashli White, bottom, sings solo during the New Hope — The Vision Center rehearsal of the song “Freedom” for Saturday evening’s watch service.

“The emphasis is on directing our thanksgiving and appreciation to God at this crucial time at the going out of one year and the coming in of another,” Marvel said. “Within that is what we may share as a celebratory experience.”

While they by no means have singular claim to the practice, historically black congregations have a long-standing tradition of ushering in the New Year with a church service, often called a “watch service.” Watch services often include singing, preaching and liturgical dance.

The New Year’s watch service had its origins in the early Methodist movement.

But it later took on a new meaning when the Emancipation Proclamation was to go into effect on Jan. 1, 1863.

The then-slaves stayed up until midnight waiting for the New Year, said Mario Radford, worship leader and choir director for New Hope — The Vision Center.

Now, the midnight services are used to serve as a time of reflection, gratefulness and anticipation, Radford said.

“We are commemorating the year and celebrating all the different things we have come through throughout the year as well as the great things that will happen through the New Year,” he said.

“We want to have a refreshed sense of purpose to move into a new area (of life).”

Some area New Year’s services will be at:

• Mount Beulah Baptist Church, Ferriday, 9 p.m.

• Pilgrim Baptist Church, 9 p.m.

• Rising Sun Full Gospel Baptist Church, 9 p.m.

• New Hope — The Vision Center, 9 p.m.

• Greater Mount Carmel Baptist Church, 9:30 p.m.

• Pleasant Green Baptist Church, 9:30 p.m.

• Zion Chapel Church No. 2, 9:30 p.m.

• Forest Grove Baptist Church, Fayette, 10 p.m.

• Mount Sinai Baptist Church, 10 p.m.

• New St. James Baptist Church, Concordia Park, 10 p.m.

• Second Union Baptist Church, 10 p.m.

• St. Peter Baptist Church, 10 p.m.

• Wayside Lighthouse Love and Holiness Church, 10 p.m.

• Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 10 p.m.

• Antioch Baptist Church, 10 p.m.

• Greater St. Mark Baptist Church, 10 p.m.

• Rose Hill No. 2 Missionary Baptist Church, 10:30 p.m.

• St. James Baptist Church, Ridgecrest, 11 p.m.