There is an opportunity here for the church. With New Year’s Eve on Saturday and New Year’s Day on Sunday, it would be possible to observe both the vigil of hope and Covenant renewal and to add in an Epiphany observance on Sunday. Yes, it would be possible to do that all on a Sunday, but it might be a lot for one service to carry. Of course, you have to be aware of “what the congregation will support.” But there is nothing wrong with stretching or with being aspirational in terms of gathering as a community on these high and holy days. Plus, a few can represent the whole. So, if you plan a covenant service for watchnight, then whoever comes can be representative of the whole body. Then the worship team and leaders can consider how the rest can be invited to join in the covenant, either on Sunday morning or through other means such as through email or livestream, small groups or Sunday school classes.
Watchnight services have been important in the African American traditions. This might be an opportunity to partner with another congregation of a different ethnic demographic. If you are an Anglo congregation, is there an African American church nearby to whom you could reach out to ask how you might partner together to provide this worship opportunity for both congregations? If you are part of an African American church, is there an Anglo church nearby that you might invite to join you in the sacred observance? Here is a way for our communities to reflect something of the beloved community when we share our histories and traditions together.
For some, this is a quiet observance, spent in prayer and reflection in anticipation of the new year to come. Others use the opportunity for a joyous celebration of the grace already shared and the promise of God’s presence in the future. Either is appropriate, and both can provide opportunities for the Wesley Covenant prayer, or even the whole covenant service as a way of entering into the new year fully committed to making and being made disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Here are some links to suggested outlines or ideas for shaping worship from previous years. Feel free to adapt and add to and create an experience that suits your context.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.