In her “Washington Post” “On Faith” column, Valerie Elverton Dixon reveals that the New Year’s Eve “Watch Night” tradition in African American faith communities arose when African Americans gathered in expectation of Abraham Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation.”
At Watch Night services worshippers gather “to share testimonies about the goodness of God….personal stories with praise and thanksgiving….remember those who have died…[and] pray God’s blessings on the coming year.”
It is a time, Dixon writes, “when memory becomes hope” as the memories of past injustices corrected become occasion for the hope and commitment to correct present injustices.
While there continue to be injustice in our world and we continue to struggle with issues of human equality, Dixon suggests that Watch Night gatherings grant participants an opportunity to be “grateful for the blessings of the past” and to “look forward to the continuing work of human moral evolution.”
Faith communities from all traditions should reflect on this Watch Night concept of “moments when memory become hope” that could serve as a paradigm for understanding their weekly worship gatherings.
Each time a faith community gathers it has a chance to remember (with thanksgiving) the past injustices that have been overturned, and to look forward (with hope) that present injustices that will be overturned in days to come.
It has a chance to remember with hope that men and women and children found courage and inspiration to speak and act prophetically to move humanity toward a more just and peace-filled world.
The full-text of Dixon’s article can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/watch-night-the-moment-when-memory-becomes-hope/2012/12/31/9c965996-536e-11e2-bf3e-76c0a789346f_blog.html