Watch Night Service
from December 31, 2019 9:00 pm     .     January 1, 2020 12:00 am


The Pastoral staff cordially invites any and all to our annual New Year’s Eve service here at TRC.  Pastors Dale & Patti Downs will once again be hosting this year-end event as we usher in the New Year. 

Don’t miss Dean Jones as John the Beloved!  It’s a wonderful full length presentation by one of Hollywood’s all time favorite actors. 

Last year at our Watch Night Service we were all blessed by Karen Heimbuck and her dramatic reciting of the Book of Revelation accompanied by the London Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. 

Don’t miss this years presentation on the big screen in the The River Community Church Conference Center beginning at 9:00 PM on New Years Eve.  We will also have food, beverages and deserts to help us welcome in the New Year. 

It is the story of the Apostle John who was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos near the end of his life.  He proceeds by recounting his personal stories about Jesus and the other disciples.  This is a must see film adaptation as it was recorded live at The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California.


Watch Night, which takes places on the night of New Year’s Eve, is a church service and is a time of deep reflection and introspection. It provides Christians the opportunity look back over the year that has passed, make confession and prepare for the year ahead.

These services originated through John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church. They were also referred to as Covenant Renewal Services. Watch Night services gave Methodist Christians a godly alternative to the drunken madness that occurred in the secular community on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. According to Rev. J. Edgard Boyd , senior minister of First AME Church, at the first watch night service, “The people met at half-past eight. The house was filled from end to end, and we concluded the year wrestling with God in prayer.”

These services now include singing, prayers and testimonies, along with scriptures read silently and out loud. Those who attend this service have the opportunity to reflect on their relationship with Christ throughout the year, share their testimonies with others and look inwardly in anticipation of the year ahead.

While the Watch Night service has its roots in the Methodist church, these services have a particular significance in the African-American community and black churches. For African-Americans, it a celebration of Emancipation. Many slaves gathered in churches on New Year’s on Dec. 31 1862 1862 to await confirmation of their freedom through the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Lincoln. On that first Watch Night, abolitionists and others waited for word via telegraph, newspaper or word of mouth that freedom had been issued.

Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History explained Watch night in this way: "A lot of it, at least the initial Watch Night, was really many of the free black community. Yet for a people largely held in bondage, freedom is a powerful idea — and that's what the Watch Night tradition embodies.” After that night, people talked about how they were going to stay up for the New Year because they were celebrating the freedom of African-Americans. The night symbolizes not only freedom, but also real hope and change.

More than one hundred and fifty years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, thousands of Christians will join family and church members to pray and thank God for another year. In the past, it was traditional to hear an anthem, a spiritual or a gospel at these services. It has now become a tradition for men, women and children to spend five minutes before midnight kneeling, holding hands and praying to God not only for the present but also for the New Year. They will pray away the old, and bring in the new. The Watch Night service is particularly relevant now for people in the black community because of the stuggles they still face and endure. This service allows reflection and release. 

The significance of Watch Night for people of faith, particularly African-American people of faith cannot be denied. What’s so beautiful about the Watch Night tradition is what it embodies. For a group that was previously in bondage and is largely marginalized, the idea of freedom is powerful.

This night provides a space for many to be reminded of their freedom and the significance behind it. It also serves as a reminder that there is still a long for us to go to get where we need to be. But on this night, we are reminded, there is hope.

Register Online Now:
Registration for "Watch Night Service"

Event Contact Info:
Name: TRC Office Staff
Title: TRC Staff
Phone: (805) 648-7955
Fax: (805) 648-7744
Email: info@TheRiverCommunity.org
Location: TRC Conference Center
Address:   859 E. Santa CLara St, Ventura, CA 93001
click here for map/directions