Watch Night service is a special service in the life of the African American worshiper in that it is a service mingled with the sadness of our history and a celebration of our history and Godís spiritual intentions for us for a new year. The atmosphere is usually charged with a spirit of anticipation, excitement, and optimism. The optimism leads one to reflect upon the previous year and the year to come. The challenge for the music and arts department is to create an evening of great expectation and remembrance.
Years ago in many churches, it was required that everyone in attendance at the Watch Night Service testify, especially before the New Year came in. In the spirit of the old tradition, the suggestion is to have a prepared testimonial segment as part of the worship service. What is meant by prepared is that you should have pre-selected individuals to participate rather than the old-fashioned impromptu way of anyone saying anything, which can sometimes be unending. Select a few of the elders of the church and the mothers, youth, and various individuals who have come through great trials this year. Ask these individuals at least three weeks before the service and give them time parameters.
In addition to the music, dance, and other arts that will be featured during the evening, have your video media ministry prepare a slide presentation of the churchís upcoming calendar events. List special church-wide events for the new year, conferences, or even building plans! Include †weddings (have the couples send in a picture and their wedding date) and feature images of 2009 graduates to highlight graduation/Christian Education Sunday. In a separate slide, you can feature images of infants who were dedicated in 2009, persons who joined your church, and those who were baptized. In a third slide presentation, you can feature church members who died during 2009 and even members of the community who died in 2009 if their lives impacted your church. †(Also see #13 ďAudio Video SuggestionsĒ below.)
Watch Night Service
O God, as was customary of our parents and ancestors, we come to this Watch Night vigil to be with you, in your house, as we usher out the old year and welcome the dawning of a new year.
We come, thanking you for guidance and direction. Go before us, O God, and draw us into the future where you are.
Our enslaved ancestors watched that night long ago for the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lord, keep us awake and alert as we follow in the light of your Word, searching for the good news of the gospel, and the comforting signs of your love in this world.
We thank you for watching over us and caring for us through the old year, as we walked in the light of your love. We thank you for your promises of peace, healing, and justice.
We come, O God, with great expectations and great hopes. Keep these fires kindled within us that we may watch and wait, and once more feel your presence. Let us know your power as we embark upon this journey.
You have led us in the past. Guide us now, and always, that we might choose to do your will and follow your way. We are pilgrims in a barren land.
We give you praise, O God, for your goodness and mercy; for life, health, and friends, and for the many blessings you always send. Above all, we thank you for Jesus Christ, who lifts our hopes, guides us in the Way, in this new year, and in years to come.
All praise, honor, glory, and thanks to you, our God, and to Jesus Christ our risen Savior and Lord. Amen.
2. Hymns and Congregational Songs
(a) O God Our Help in Ages Past. By Isaac Watts. Tune, (St. Anne) by William Croft
(b) God of Our Fathers. By Daniel C. Roberts. Tune, (National Hymn) by George W. Warren
(c) God Never Fails. By George Jordan
(d) Watch Ye Saints. By Phoebe Palmer. Tune by William J. Kirkpatrick
3. Spirituals or Traditional Songs
(a) Great Day. By Moses Hogan
(b) I Donít Feel No Ways Tired. By Curtis Burrell. Arr. by Kenneth Morris
(c)Look Where He Brought Me From. Traditional. Arr. by Milton Biggham
(d) Over My Head. Traditional
4. Gospel Songs for Choirs, Ensembles, or Praise Teams
(a) Climbing Up the Mountain. Traditional. Arr. by Mattie Moss Clark
(b) Iím Not Tired Yet. Traditional. By Milton Biggham
(c) Iíve Got a Testimony. By Anthony Tidwell
5. Liturgical Dance, Mime, or Deaf Ministry Music
(a)We Shall Behold Him. By Dottie Rambo
(b) Seasons. By Donald Lawrence
(a) Look to This Day. By Adolphus Hailstork
(b) I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes, Movement I. By Adolphus Hailstork
(c) Higher Ground. By Mark Hayes
7. Modern Songs
(a) Cry Holy. By Brent Jones
(b) Bright Side. By Roger Hairston
(c) You Are an Heir. By Donald Lawrence
8. Offertory Song or Instrumental
(a) Thatís What Heís Done for Me. By Melvin Crispell
(b) Somehow I Made It. By James Cleveland
(c) I Made It. By DeAndre Patterson
9. Song or Instrumental for the Period of Prayer
(a) Weíve Come This Far by Faith. By Albert A Goodson. Arr. by Thurston Frazier
(b) God Leads Us Along. By G. A. Young
10. Sermonic Selection
(a) Jesus, Lover of My Soul. Traditional
(b) Hold to Godís Unchanging Hand. Arr. by James Hall
(c) Let the Lord Minister to Ya. By Donald Lawrence
(d) I Know Who Holds Tomorrow. By Ira F. Stamphill
11. Invitational Song or Instrumental
(a) Godís Tomorrow. By Alfred H. Ackley
(b) Never Would Have Made It. By Marvin Sapp and Matthew Brownie
12. Benediction Song or Instrumental
(a) If It Had Not Been for the Lord on My Side. By Margaret Douroux
(b) He Didnít Have to Do It but He Did. Traditional. Arr. by G. E. Patterson
13. Audio Visual Suggestions
As suggested in the Worship Planning Notes, have your video media ministry prepare a continuous slide presentation of the church events scheduled for the upcoming year. As musical accompaniment use the song entitled ďGreat ThingsĒ by DeAndre Patterson.
Cites and Additional Information for Music and Material Listed
1. Litany: ďWatch Night ServiceĒ
African American Heritage Hymnal. Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, 2001. #104. Used with permission.
2. Hymns and Congregational Songs
(a) O God Our Help in Ages Past. By Isaac Watts Tune, (St. Anne) by William Croft