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COVID alters Watch Services

By Lauren Johson

Due to Covid-19, local churches have decided to make changes and even cancel the annual Watch Night Service this year. Daryl Caldwell, the pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, explained he has never had to cancel this service before.

“I planned to have a Watch Night Service for 2021 because of all the events that happened in 2020 from the effects of the pandemic to the heroes of the civil rights era who have passed away,” he said.

Watch Night Service is usually held every New Year’s Eve to not just watch the new year come, but to remember the Emancipation Proclamation.

“On December 31, 1862, the enslaved individuals were watching and anticipating the news that Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which meant their freedom,” explained Caldwell.

“For people of color in particular, it speaks of survival. It speaks of the small percentage of individuals who traveled the Middle Passage and made it to the Americas through the horrors of slavery and the inhumane treatment,” Caldwell said. “We remember those who lived to see a day where they would no longer be physical property, though there were other horrors that awaited them on the other side.”

Caldwell also explained that this service is a reminder of the importance of resilience and the possibility of overcoming horrible odds. “It speaks of resilience and advancements,” he said. “We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I’m reminded of people who beat the odds and rebuilt new lives. I get upset sometimes because we come from people who had little but did a lot, and many of us today have a lot but we do very little.”

While Caldwell’s church will not be having an official service this year, he hopes that others will remember the importance of the historical event. He wants to encourage others to be resilient in the difficult times we are facing today.

Caldwell also hopes people will look at the evidence of the faithfulness of God in their life. Even though a lot of terrible things have been happening this year, Caldwell explained God is still at work.

“This should cause a humbling effect and cause a great appreciation for life and other individuals,” he said. “Black or white, rich or poor, we are all brothers and have all been affected by this pandemic. It’s humbled me and made me appreciate friends, family, and individuals regardless of race or religious affiliations.”

Caldwell is disappointed about having to cancel the service on New Year’s Eve, but he understands the dangers of mass gatherings during this time. He also recognizes that this pandemic has brought about other pros and cons.

“The enemy is trying to destroy and decimate the fellowship of saints,” he explained, “but one of the positives about our situation is that it has forced us to really be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.”

This year Caldwell, as well as many other pastors, has worked to spread the Gospel through other means. “We can’t let the pandemic overwhelm or discourage us from being the body of Christ,” he said. Going into the year 2021, Caldwell encourages everyone to pray without ceasing, to be patient, to focus on being positive, and to be purposeful.

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