LAURINBURG — More than a dozen churches will ring in the new year on Thursday night with singing, worship, and testimony in an extravaganza of old-time religion open to everyone in Scotland County.
Billed as a countywide unity service, the gathering will be held in the Scotland High School auditorium with doors opening at 9 p.m.
The service continues the tradition of New Year’s Eve “watch night” services, which began in 1862 as slaves gathered in churches and in homes to wait for the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect, legally freeing them on Jan. 1, 1863. The tradition was first known as “Freedom’s Eve,” though for many slaves freedom did not come until the end of the Civil War.
Thursday’s modern watch night service, a celebration of the blessings of 2015 and communal pledge to an even better new year, will begin at 9:30 p.m. with an “old-school devotional service,” according to Nazareth Missionary Baptist Church pastor, the Rev. Darrel Gibson.
“In the formal church, years ago, they had what they call testimonial services or devotional services,” Gibson said, describing songs and declarations of blessings offered by the laity.
“In the modern, more contemporary church, they do what they call praise and worship. The intent in all of this is to make sure that every generation is receiving something throughout the worship.”
Once all who wish to offer testimony have done so, a worship service will begin. Featuring a mass choir, a mass mime team, and messages from local ministers, it will not end until the clock strikes midnight and 2015 comes to a close.
“We have put together a mass community choir with all of our churches’ choirs coming together to share in music that night,” said Gibson. “We have also made a mass mime team where all of our young people will come together and do one mime selection.”
Churches leading the service include Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, Bright Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church, Community Missionary Baptist Church, Fletcher Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Franklin Chapel AME Zion Church, From the Word International Ministries, Galilee United Methodist Church, Greater Glory Outreach Ministries, Nashville Missionary Baptist Church, Nazareth Missionary Baptist Church, Solid Rock Missionary Baptist Church, and Westminster Presbyterian Church.
“It’s not just for these churches; it’s for the community to come together with us as well as we celebrate the end of this year and our hopes for the new year,” said Gibson.
At the conclusion of the service, breakfast will be served in the Scotland High commons.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.