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There have been some arguments surrounding the holding or withdrawing of worship services at the very end of an outgoing year ushering the survivors into the New Year.

This is an age long Christian service that has grown with Church growth and development across the world.

From history it is dated to the time when a group of revelers with party hats and noisemakers, ringing in the new year with champagne and social celebration.

But that same night, according to United Methodist Communications, then churches, including a growing number of United Methodist churches, welcome the coming year in a different way,  with a Watch Night service.

“Methodism founder John Wesley originated Watch Night services in the mid-18th century, sometimes calling them Covenant Renewal services. The original services were spontaneous prayer services designed to deepen the spiritual life of Methodists.

“The service is loosely constructed with singing, spontaneous prayers and testimonials, and readings, including the Covenant Renewal service from The United Methodist Book of Worship.

“There may be preaching or not, and the ritual may conclude with a candlelight procession from the church. Volunteers may take turns continuing quiet prayer in the sanctuary until dawn.

“In Methodist tradition, Watch Night was considered a time for recommitment,” said the Rev. Cynthia Wilson, an Atlanta-based worship leader. “The unity of the congregation was renewed, the covenant with Christendom was renewed, folks testified and sang.”

Wilson noted Watch Night services have special significance in the African-American community, where they date back to the days of slavery.

At the end of the year, owners tallied their property and often sold slaves to pay debts, Wilson said. “They didn’t know after tallying if they’d be separated.” New Year’s Eve was often the last night a family of slaves would be together.

Watch Night took on even more significance during the Civil War. When President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, it was to take effect Jan. 1, 1863. Slaves sat up the night before, waiting for their freedom to arrive at midnight.

Today, it’s a time the church comes together to celebrate life itself. “As we say in the black church, it’s celebrating surviving dangers seen and unseen,” Wilson added.

“The service is always upbeat, folks rejoice in making it to the end of another year. There’s a time of testimony and sharing how we’ve progressed and been blessed.”

In the same way it has become a Church ceremony in Lagos and other parts of the Christian world. In some areas non Christians have also been known to have imbibed the new Year eve celebration.

It is a time when friends meet, review the records of the outgoing year and commit themselves to New Year promises and resolutions usually tagged New Year resolutions.

Some people pray about what they resolve to do with their lives, businesses, relationships and families.

So much has been added to the practice mostly in Nigeria when many active and non active Christians attend Churches, create funs and renew relationship with their creator.

However the ugly development occasioned by Covid -19 challenge has also put a question mark on the need for holding a Cross Over Service.

It would be noted that the Covid -19 challenge has brought a lot of disruptions to many land mark and historic event in the year.

Easter was not celebrated with the usual procession and the pomp and pageantry, so many Christian and Church programmes and activities were affected, like also non Christian programmes and events.

It is believed that the same disruption is coming the way of Christmas and New Year which is the most celebrated event all over the world.

In Nigeria the Federal and State governmnents have refused to relax its long imposed all night curfew across the length and breadth of Nigeria. The Lagos State government has warned Churches in the State not to hold Cross over services beyond 11 pm. However the leadership of CAN, an umbrella body for all Christians in the State has arrived at the conclusion of holding a joint televised Cross over Service where different Church leaders across Church denominations would be called to minister.

It is however not very clear if this could douse the yearnings of young Christians and leaders that are use to holding watchnight and cross over service to a new year.

Some Churches have also adjusted their services to be in line with the government directive, bringing their services to evening and early night. Some will hold service between 9.00 pm and 11pm with church members linking to online media for service continuation and following other activities of their Church leaders.

One other aspect of New Year Eve is to hear Church leaders and pastors reeling out prophecies and New Year messages. This again may have to be monitored online as many programmes were aired at the top of the Covid -19 lockdown.

It is believed in some other quarters the affected states and government may be putting more danger on its people by withholding them from serving their God and presenting themselves and even the nation to God.

Somebody commented online that Nigeria in the coming year should prepare for the worst if it denied its people from the benefit of serving their God noting that, “When dangers come, all we know is to run after our God, the government cannot save us, the leaders cannot deliver us, and now they say we cannot serve our God. This has rendered the people hopeless and the government should prepare for the worst in the coming years when many hearts are turned against God.”

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Julius Adegunna, a writer, and publisher of good news and reports. He is also a trainer in Writing and Publishing, a Media Consultant and an Entrepreneur. A 1987 Graduate of International Relations of the University of Ife, (Now Obafemi Awolowo University) with Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations, and Master in Communication Studies of Lagos State University. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

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