Some local churches will look back on 2021 and ring in the new year with a special service Friday evening.
Gary Hathaway, senior pastor at Greater Tucker Missionary Baptist Church, said the special Watch Night service, the final church gathering of 2021, is a chance for people to reflect on what they overcame and the lessons learned from the past 365 days.
"Watch Night, for us, is probably more about praising and thanking the Lord for the current year, more so than the focus on the new year," Hathaway said.
Greater Tucker Missionary Baptist Church, 115 North Moore Road, will begin its service at 6 p.m. Friday. The service will involve testimonies, praise and worship and a guest sermon from Ron Harris, associate minister at Second Missionary Baptist Church.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for more nuanced conversations about mental health, Hathaway said, something he is reflecting on as 2021 ends.
"Historically, I can't speak for the church community, but I know that some of the circles I've been in there's not been a lot of focus openly about good mental health," he said. "You either had good mental health or you had bad mental health. There was not in between. Now we realize you can still function but not be on track where you need to be, mentally."
Olivet Baptist Church will offer two Watch Night services — 7 p.m. at Olivet Nation at 4872 Jersey Pike and 10:45 p.m. at the church's downtown location at 740 East M.L. King Blvd. Food will be served after the late downtown service, which will run until after midnight.
Such New Year's Eve services are a prominent part of Black church history, said Kevin Adams, senior pastor at Olivet Baptist Church, as enslaved Black Americans waited until Jan. 1, 1863, for the Emancipation Proclamation to go into effect.
Adams, who has led more than 30 Watch Night services, said the past two years have been difficult for Chattanooga-area residents with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The services provide an opportunity to encourage one another and remember that God has a purpose for each person's life.
"The mere fact that you made it is a testimony to what is coming next," Adams said.
It is important to be in prayer as the old year passes into the new one, Adams said.
"That's honoring God. It's consecrating oneself and setting yourself apart for God," he said.
Hathaway said the turning of the calendar should remind Christians to trust in God, who has been faithful.
Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.