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Watch Night services provide a spiritual celebration for New Year’s Eve

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(photo by Aq279 - Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64075158)

On the last day of 1862, enslaved Africans throughout the country awaited a day that would grant them a new perspective on life, greater opportunities and most importantly, freedom.

They gathered in churches, houses and any safe space they could find to pray and celebrate the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. To the millions of blacks in the country it meant a permanent release from their enslavement.

Now, as people prepare for the coming of a new year with traditional celebrations such as parties, fireworks or spending time at home with family, many African Americans continue to celebrate their emancipation in churches everywhere with a Watch Night service. 

At these services people from all backgrounds are invited to come out and celebrate their accomplishments of the past year and thank God in advance for their success in the coming year.

Choirs and soloists sing gospel songs, pastors often preach a short sermon, testimonies are given and people reunite with their church family until the new year arrives.

Though Watch Night services have a tie to African American history, they also have a history in the Methodist and Catholic churches, among others, and even link to the Bible.

“If you look at Isaiah 9:2, it talks about how the people were celebrating triumph, and they were being redeemed, and at this particular time, they celebrated how they had been brought out of slavery and into the light,” said Pastor Henry Taylor of Mt. Alban Missionary Baptist Church. “It was also customary for our ancestors to celebrate Watch Night services. Someone did it in their house to usher the old year out and the new year in, and they were asking our ancestors for direction.”

The primary purpose of a Watch Night service, to celebrate the past and bring in the new, has not changed much. Most people that gather at these services are well aware of the meaning.

“The elders, or the people that have been around for a long time, I think they come out for the true meaning of a Watch Night service of knowing what it means to be set free,” he said. “For instance, it’s like voting. Some people don’t understand the importance of voting but once they do they can appreciate it better.”

Though many people have other New Year’s Eve traditions, Watch Night services provide an alternative to drinking or partying.

“I think it’s important to come out to these services because the Lord has brought us all from a mighty long way,” Taylor said. “When you think back over your life about the things that God has brought you through down through the years, I think it’s very important to, at Watch Night service, thank God for what has happened and praise Him for what is about to take place in your life.”


A few of the Watch Night services taking place in Vicksburg are listed below. 

Mt. Alban Missionary Baptist Church
Starts at: 7 p.m. Dec. 31
Located at: 2385 Mt. Alban Rd.

Unity Temple Full Gospel Church
Starts at: 10 p.m. Dec. 31
Located at: 2372 Grove St.

Living Word Baptist Church
Starts at: 10 p.m. Dec. 31
Located at: 1401 Farmer St.

 

Events

COVID claims Jamming for the Kids concert but the needs will be met

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Image by candice_rose from Pixabay

2020 would be the 23rd year for the Jamming for the Kids concert. Unfortunately, organizers feel that the risk is too great to hold the event this year.

“I can’t in good conscience go forward with the event, so many of our regular attendees are in the age group that puts them most at risk,” event organizer Kemper Ehrhardt said on Friday. “We had the largest event in our history last year and planned on moving from the Country Club to Levee Street Warehouse because we had outgrown that venue.”

But Ehrhardt went on to say the need in our community still exists and many longtime supporters have already committed to supporting the cause. The event was created to bring Christmas to children whose parents are incarcerated as well as those in the custody of Children’s Protective Services.

Ernie Hall, who serves as director of River City Rescue Mission, has also been chaplain at the Warren County Jail for the past 17 years. Hall says that there are also children that his group services throughout the year that “fall through the cracks” of other agencies and programs. Hall and his agency act as stewards of the money collected.

Most years, around 350 children from infants to age 18 benefit from the program. The coronavirus pandemic that has impacted so many families this years means that needs could even greater this holiday season.

Sheriff Martin Pace and his team of elves go shopping for many of the children and deliver the presents. Hall sees that the remaining children receive age appropriate gifts. Ehrhardt said that arrangements are being made to have drop off locations for those who wish to donate new unwrapped toys.

If you would like to contribute financially you can do so by visiting RiverCityRescueMission.org or you can drop off your toys or donations at the River City Rescue Mission at 3705 Washington St.

For more information contact Ernie at (601) 636-6602.

Also, please remember that River City Rescue Mission needs the community’s support for both feeding the less fortunate during both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Donations of turkeys and fixings for both meals and food boxes would be greatly appreciated.

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Events

Annual Reindeer Run scheduled for Dec. 5

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Vicksburg’s second annual Reindeer Run is once again raising money for Paws Rescue, a no-kill animal shelter in the city.

The Reindeer Run 5K run or walk takes place in historic downtown Vicksburg Dec. 5, starting at 8 a.m.

Virginia Campbell and a couple of fur babies enjoyed the day at the first Reindeer run in 2019 with event mascots. (photo courtesy Debbie Haworth)

But even those not running will have a good time attending. The event includes reindeer games and face painting for the kids, a Christmas Pet parade for the fur babies, bloody maries and beer for the adults, plus delicious food from LD’s Kitchen for everyone and a DJ playing your favorite tunes.

Each runner and walker will receive a long sleeve technical T-shirt and swag bag.

To register online, click here. The registration fee is $30 until Dec. 1, and $35 after that.

Runner’s packet pickup is at LD’s Kitchen Friday, Dec. 4, from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 5 from 7:15 a.m. until 7:45 a.m.

If you’re interested in sponsoring this year’s event, please email Cynthia Freeny at [email protected]

Reindeer Run 2020 Sponsors:

Gold
LD’s Kitchen
601 Sports
City of Vicksburg

Silver
Ameristar
ASC

Bronze
Trustmark National Bank
Flower Center
Curb Appeals
Levee Street Marketplace
Vicksburg Main Street
Woodland Animal Clinic
Southern Beverage
Mutual Credit Union

Friends of Paws
Wayne Pratt – Edward Jones
Hennessy, Thames and Leavitt
Magnolia Jewelers
Super Jr
Fit Chef
61 North Mini Storage
61 North Super Lube
61 North Storage #2
Robyn Lea State Farm
Koestler Pallet Sales
Vicksburg Amateaur Radio Club
Bo Eaton
Helping Hands Pharmacy
Danna and Jaa Allen
Paul Ingram

Support
River Hills Bank
Cannon Motors

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Events

Happening now: Fundraising benefit for Keeley Ramshur

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Visitors look over auction items at the benefit. (photo by David Day)

A benefit for Keeley Ramshur is in full swing at the Elks Lodge Saturday.

Ramshur, daughter of Toni Buell Ramshur and Joey Ramshur, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer and is undergoing treatment at St. Jude. All proceeds will go toward her medical care.

Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The benefit features live music, pulled pork lunch plates for $10 served until 1 p.m., silent and live auctions and more. You can also enter a raffle for a custom 10/22 Ruger Carbine.

The Elks Lodge is located at 1366 U.S. Highway 61 South.

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