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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Watch Night

Congregation marks New Year with worship

Ringing in the New Year is largely a secular celebration—left to gatherings in homes, bars, restaurants or Times Square. But on Chicago's South Side, members of Bethany Lutheran tap into a traditional church gathering called Watch Night every New Year's Eve. And if the timing is about right with the preacher's homily, they enter the New Year sharing the peace.

photodisc"It's not about drinking or partying or firing our guns. It's not about some big ball dropping. It's about God seeing us through to a new year," said Darryl Thompson Powell, pastor. "It's a somewhat traditional black church gathering with a Bethany twist."

Members gather in the fellowship hall about 9:30 p.m. for a potluck. Around 11 p.m. they make their way upstairs for worship that includes remembering why they celebrate Watch Night (see sidebar). Worshipers also celebrate the last day of Kwanzaa and communion. It's a multigenerational service, though Powell said the elderly members don't make it out as they used to.


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