The Rev. Mark Whitlock will be donning a tuxedo Monday night for a joyful New Year’s Eve celebration, ringing in 2013 from the pulpit of his Orange County church.
For many African American Christians, such as Whitlock, New Year’s Eve is a time to gather in “Watch Night” services commemorating their ancestors’ vigil150 years ago over whether President Lincoln would sign the Emancipation Proclamation. Because Lincoln did sign it on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring all slaves in confederate states “forever free,” the evening became a time of prayer, song, dance and celebration, Whitlock said.
“For us, it’s about the birth of freedom in 1863,” said Whitlock, pastor of Christ Our Redeemer Church, an African Methodist Episcopal congregation in Irvine. “And in 2013, we shall seek freedom from oppression and inner conflicts.”