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Ask the UMC: Are Watch Night services connected to John Wesley?

 

What is the history of Watch Night services? Is there a connection to John Wesley?

Methodism’s founder John Wesley first celebrated a covenant renewal, or Watch Night, service in 1755. Wesley felt strongly that Methodists and all Christians should reaffirm their covenant with God annually.

For this service, he drew on several sources, especially the writings of Richard Alleine, a Puritan, to encourage people to live lives completely dedicated to God. Wesley found it meaningful and "a time of remarkable blessing."

Watch Night services have long been an important part of African-American worship

Covenant services with Watch Nights used to be held at various times of the year. The Watch Night service is today most often held on New Year's Eve, sometimes concluding at midnight. It is sometimes observed on New Year's Day or on the first Sunday in January.

Watch Night: New Year, Renewed Faith

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This content was produced by InfoServ, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.

First published Dec. 19, 2017.