Watch Night

watch-nightI learned of Watch Nigh” at my historically black seminary (one of the many, many blessings I received by attending the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University).

In the African American community, Watch Night services on News Year’s Eve commemorate the evening of Dec. 31, 1862, as blacks looked to Jan. 1, 1863, and the implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The idea of a New Year’s Eve service actually is much older than Freedom’s Eve, and in fact finds its roots in the Moravian Church and a 1733 New Year’s Eve service held in Germany.

Never one to let a good idea go un-adopted, John Wesley incorporated the service into his denomination. Some Methodists continue to hold monthly evening services, known as “Covenant Renewal Services.”

The service obviously took on deeper significance in 1862, when it was more important than any before or since, and the effects will be felt in the black community tonight.

Everyone in the black community knows the name Tamir Rice. Because they live in a world where white men can roam the streets with rifles or point their weapons at law enforcement, but a black child gets shot for playing with a toy gun.

And now we watch and wait. Wait for the new year and wait for justice denied.

Some Americans have waited a very long time for justice, justice that still hasn’t come.

We watch for justice in a nation that seems more racist and destructive than ever before. While black people are no longer dragged out of their homes and lynched in the dark of night, unarmed, they are gunned down in their own yards, or murdered on city streets. Or on playgrounds.

And so we wait, and watch for justice. We wait for those in the dominant culture to recognize their privilege and their responsibility.

We watch for the new year, and pray for the unarmed, innocent victims of 2015, and pray for the next Tamir Rice.

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