Last year St Peters Caversham introduced a new Service into its annual cycle – a Watchnight Service to see in the new year.  That will happen again this year at the slightly later start time of 10.30 pm.

Such Services have a long lineage.  John Wesley originated them in 1740 to provide Methodist Christians with a godly alternative to the drunken gatherings common on New Year’s eve.  Such Services were sometimes called Covenant Renewal Services, and given the exuberant worship style of the first generation of Methodism often included spontaneous testimonies and extemporary prayers, in addition to hymn singing and Bible readings.  A somewhat more ordered liturgy for this Service can now be found in the United Methodist Book of Worship.

These kinds of Service have an honoured place in African-American churches, particularly since slaves all over America gathered in churches on New Year’s eve in 1862 to  hear news of and celebrate President Abraham Lincoln’s enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Victorian New Zealanders were keen on seeing in the new year in these kinds of Services also.  The Revd Carlyon, ritualist pioneer, driven from the parish of Kaiapoi in the 1870’s for his Anglo-Catholic ways, first experienced significant trouble and blow back from  disgruntled townspeople when his Watchnight Service was disrupted by the loud banging of a drum outside St Bartholomew’s.

The Vicar has drawn the readings and Vigil prayers for the St Peters Watchnight Service from the American Episcopal Book of Occasional Services 1991.  These are interpolated with appropriate and well known hymns.  As the Vigil of readings draws to a close we then continue with the Eucharist, using the Liturgy of St Basil, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy’s version of a famous Eastern Orthodox liturgy.  It is a memorable and inspiring way to see out the old year, and to see in the new.  Do join us.

Reference Code: JYWG
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