ImageWhat is a watchnight service? According to Wikipedia, it’s a late night service in various Protestant churches in which people repent of their failures to live a Christian life and anticipate the new year. I had never heard of this custom until I attended a house church in 1971.

In total, I attended fifteen of these services. They usually began at nine o’clock on New Year’s Eve. We began by singing some hymns before receiving communion. Various members exhorted us from Scripture until about ten-fifteen. We had a fifteen-minute coffee break before Sister Roberta rang the hand bell, calling us back to the sanctuary in the basement.

The highlight of the evening, for the first nine watchnight services I attended, was the sermon from Brother Herald. He occasionally prophesied during those evenings. That was what I looked forward to since I felt excited at the prospect of knowing the future.

At the end of the service, we prayed for God’s protection during the coming year. Then Sister Roberta would dismiss us.

Some people would linger upstairs in Sister Eileen’s kitchen but most attendees left immediately. Sister Roberta or Sister Eileen drove me home once the others had departed.

Though the minister taught blasphemous doctrines and his prophecies didn’t come to pass, I enjoyed the fellowship we shared on that occasion. I now know that there is no magical division between one year and another. New Year’s Eve isn’t a special time for me anymore. Even so, I think about the year gone by and what I hope to accomplish in the new year.

I wrote about watchnight services in my How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity memoir. Amazon and Barnes & Noble stock the e-book version while Virtual Bookworm distributes the paperback version. Please also check out my previous memoirs at the Bruce Atchison’s books link.


Author: bruce Atchison - author

I'm a legally-blind freelance writer as well as the author of three memoirs and scores of articles. Contact me for details.


  1. Our family has never done much to ring in the new year. One time though when my younger brother was about five or six, and I was seven years older, we lit sparklers indoors while watching the ball fall on Times Square on television. Believe it or not, Dad and Mother were supervisxing, but it’s still a wonder we didn’t catch the house on fire.

    This year will still be as uneventful. I’ll stay home, read a good book, and be in bed by ten. I hope to be sound asleep by the time 2013 rolls around, but that will depend on my neighbors. Happy New Year!

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