Watch Night service goes virtual at historic Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church in Spring Lake

SPRING LAKE, N.C. (WTVD) -- The historic Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church is ending 2020 with a virtual Watch Night service in a continuing effort to keep its congregation safe from COVID-19.

Watch Night, also known as "Freedom's Eve," dates to New Year's Eve of 1862, when Black slaves gathered in churches to celebrate President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation becoming law.

On January 1, 1863, millions of slaves in Confederate States were free for the first time.

Many African-American families mark the occasion on New Year's Eve with special church services.

Pastor Vincent Long's message from Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church at the end of 2020 is focused on hope and positivity, reminding his congregation during an online streaming service that God is with them, wherever they are.

"We don't want to put anyone in harm's way when we can avoid it," Long told ABC11. "So we've been utilizing technology, we've been utilizing Zoom, we've been using Facebook, YouTube, conference calls, everything we can to stay connected but to stay wise at the same time."

Long has not held in-person church services since mid-March.

His Watch Night service is schedule to stream at 11:15 p.m.
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