HANCOCK COUNTY — As midnight draws near, the congregation will break from eating pizza or playing games and gather to pray.
“We’ll pray the old year out and the new year in,” said Bishop Joseph Riggs, pastor of Apostolic Pentecostal Church.
The congregation is one of several Hancock County churches with plans for New Year’s Eve, even on a year when Sunday morning follows.
Riggs’ congregation will gather at 9:30 p.m. today for its traditional Watch Night Service. Each year, the teaching focuses on some aspect of Passover and Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples before his crucifixion.
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Then the men head to the older portion of the church building at 1202 E. Fifth St., Greenfield, while the women remain in the current sanctuary. What follows in each room will be foot washing.
“The Lord signified that humbleness in doing that,” Riggs said. “We still do that.”
Afterward, the church comes back together in the fellowship hall for board games and more informal fellowship.
Games and pizza are also in the plans for New Life Christian Fellowship, 1574 W. State Road 234 in Fortville. When New Life welcomed Greenfield First Church of God into its congregation in October 2015, some suggested continuing the New Year’s Eve party that had been a tradition at First Church.
In fact, last year’s gathering was held in the former First Church building at 700 N. Broadway St. before it was sold. An impromptu singalong began not long before midnight, with people calling out favorites, “so we rang in the new year singing a bunch of hymns,” Anderson said.
Today, the united New Life congregation will gather at 7 p.m. in Fortville for a New Year’s Eve party that lasts until midnight — although there’s flexibility in when people come and leave, said Michael Anderson, pastor of worship arts at the church.
“It was very free-flowing,” Anderson said of last year’s gathering. “People came and went as their schedule allowed.”
Those who go bring a board game and a snack or drink. Some play games; some simply enjoy sitting and socializing. There’s no TV on, but a few keep track of the time so as not to miss midnight.
Timing is a little different this year, with New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday and morning church following any New Year’s Eve celebrations.
For that reason, Greenfield Wesleyan Church opted not to have a Watch Night service this year, the Rev. Michael Frausto said.
At Realife Church, youth will gather for a lock-in, but it was scheduled for Saturday instead – in part because the church recently launched a Saturday evening service, and that will be going on at 6 p.m. Sunday.
At New Life, Sunday’s plans have been modified to a single morning service at 11 a.m., Anderson said, so there should be time to get some sleep between pizza, giant Jenga and worship the next morning.
“I personally found it very valuable to be around our church family to enjoy one another’s company,” he said. “Even in the playing of the games, there is a sense of … peace about it.
“For us to have a different way of celebrating brings a sense of peace and a sense of joy that we don’t get” from celebrations on television, he said.
Riggs’ congregation will not meet Sunday morning but will gather for its evening service at 6:30 Sunday. He also feels a rightness about the way his church welcomes the new year. He said it’s a great moment to pray for God’s direction and guidance in the new year and also to thank God for the blessings of the year concluding.
“There’s no party, no anything that can outweigh what God’s able to do,” Riggs said. “So we just spend our time with him.”