WHAT IS IT?
Not part of the Christian liturgical calendar but a Methodist distinctive. Essentially a vigil, it is a service usually held on New Year’s Eve, crossing into the new year. This gave rise to its more popular name – a “Watchnight” Service.
WHY DO WE CELEBRATE IT?
John Wesley found the service to be an important means of spiritual renewal, and conducted such services in the the Methodist societies he visited.
Central to the service is the Covenant Prayer, where we are summoned to commit ourselves completely to God, in every area of our lives. It is a serious covenant not meant to entered into without adequate preparation.
WHAT DO WE DO?
We gather to reflect, and give thanks to God for the year that is past, and renew our covenant, rooted in our baptism, for God to be our God and we to be his people.
Red is used to as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, consecrating us and setting us apart for God
We commit ourselves completely to God and his purposes.
VIGILS AND CHRISTIAN WORSHIP
Vigils are worship services in which Christians watch and wait in the presence of God through the night into the new day. Its roots lie in the Jewish practice of passover. Early Christians gathered on the eve of Easter for the similar purpose of retelling the Gospel story which shapes our identity as Christians. This became known as the Great Easter Vigil, inspiring other lesser vigils in Christian worship.
Alexander, J. Neil. Celebrating Liturgical Time: Days, Weeks, and Seasons, 2014.
United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Book of Worship. Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992.