In this short article I intend to give a concise answer as to why African and Caribbean Churches practice New Years Eve services. I shall do this by exploring how their understanding of prayer has led to the annual practice of New Year’s Eve services. The practice of celebrating the New Year by these Churches stems from their theology of prayer. Prayer is an important DNA of African and Caribbean Churches. It is viewed as a lifeline that connects believers to God. It is also perceived as a sign of trust and dependence in God. Finally, it is seen as a mark of spirituality that can help Christians to grow and mature. Prayers in these Churches can be accompanied by fasting, watch-night services and praise and worship sessions.
The practice of watch-night services or night vigils as it is known in some of these Churches are rooted in biblical stories such as Jacob wrestling with an Angel till day break (see Genesis 32 emphasis on verse 24), Jesus praying in the night at Gethsemane and Paul and Silas praying and singing hymns at midnight. The understanding of these stories has led to African and Caribbean Churches to organize watch-night services in which it is believed that just as Jacob, Jesus and Paul and Silas had breakthroughs in their life circumstances; so will people have victory in their lives if they wait upon God through watch-night services. These watch-night services can be congregational or personal. I do recall in my Pentecostal Church back in Nigeria how we were encouraged to seek God through prayer and fasting as well as through personal night vigils. Due to the emphasis on watch-night services in African and Caribbean Churches, this has led to some of these Churches to organize it monthly, quarterly and annually.
The annual watch-night service is seen as special because it is usually organized on the 31st of December. It is also perceived as important because it is the last day of the year and the start of another year therefore; it is a perfect opportunity to share the vision of the Church for the following year. This is why at many New Year’s Eve services the vision of the Church is shared by the Church leaders, in addition, the congregation is also encouraged to have a personal vision for the following year.
Some African and Caribbean Churches’ New Year’s Eve services are a time for God to do something new in the life of his people. This why healing, deliverance, miracles are key part of these services. The need to be saved is also emphasized particularly for those who will like to renew their faith.
The annual watch-night service is viewed by majority of African and Caribbean Churches as the place to meet with God for a special blessing. This is why many African and Caribbean Christians prefer to be in Church to celebrate the New Year with God and their spiritual family rather than being with friends in a pub or social environment. I observed that Christians in the UK spend the New Year’s Eve with their family, friends and fellow well wishers. This observation was reinforced two years ago when I organized a New Year’s Eve celebration service in our Church in South-East London. Majority of the people that attended from our congregation were people from the African and Caribbean heritage while many of the English people in our congregation had a social gathering. This is not passing judgment it is just an observation of different approaches to New Year celebration. In conclusion, African and Caribbean Churches celebrate New Year in Churches because it is seen as a time to wait upon God in order to either have directions for next year or to have breakthroughs in their lives.