Friday Challenge: Watch Night Memories

It’s New Year’s Eve and time again for fundy churches to uphold their long-standing traditions of watch night services.

Today’s challenge is to share a memory from one of these preacher-boy-infested, film-watching, never-ending church services.

45 thoughts on “Friday Challenge: Watch Night Memories”

    1. I remember flame in the wind! We watched it for history class one day at school. Scared me so much, I remember that one guy being choked after he recanted. Still gives me shudders. Since they scared me so much, I avoided the Christian persecution movies and played games with everyone else.

      1. Growing up as MK’s in a spanish-speaking country that shall not be named, my brother and I watched Flame In The Wind so many times in Spanish that we could recite the script word-for-word. We even got Dr. Bob Jr’s ridiculous laugh down pat…

  1. When I was little Watch Night services/”praying in the new year” with family was fun – we never got to stay up that late otherwise. Once I hit high school and certainly by college, they were just deadly boring. All of my friends were doing fun things on New Year’s Eve, and I was stuck praying for hours, making stuff up about what I wanted God to do in the next year. Not. fun.

  2. I don’t remember movies at watch night. Maybe when I was really young, but when we attended GLBC, it was just A LOT of preaching.

    But, my parents still have this movie at home, I think. I’m sure they’ve forgotten that they have it as we watched it about 2 times and its been in the cabinet since.

  3. Ah yes, we watched Flame in the Wind, except we watched it backwards. 🙂 We rented the reel-to-reel from BJU and whoever was in charge that night put reel #2 in first.

    We watched almost all of the other movies that BJU put out at other NYE services as well as one on Davy Crockett, Jan Hus, and Luther. We were given a disclaimer before we watched Luther because he was Lutheran (think about it; it’ll come to ya).

    One year “Preacher” and his staff dressed up as the Pope and Bishops/Cardinals.

    And one year the staff acted like they were in a rock band. The guy who played the drummer really used to be a drummer in a rock band. He played a drum move that all the older folks recognized as real, and that got them to buzzing during the service and left all us poor, innocent kids asking, WHAT?!?!?

    Oh, and our “ball drop” was a staff member standing on a ladder lowering a ball with a rope. Classic.

    Fun times. :mrgreen:

    1. OMG, and here I’d almost forgotten that old chestnut! It was good enough in its cheesy way 🙄 but at first I thought meant you played the entire thing backwards, with the victims being restored to life by the fire, people spitting food back onto plates, horses running the wrong way, etc. Now THAT would have been fun! 😆
      As it was, it still must have been interesting to see the people who got killed and burned then walking around just fine a few minutes later. 😀

  4. One time they let the kids watch “The Rescuers”. That was the only watch night I remember fondly. Somebody must have found something to complain about, because we only watched it one year.

    The rest is a blur of fear that everyone else would be raptured while I would be left, mixed with scenes from “Sheffy” and “Flame in the Wind.”

  5. At the NYE services at my church we just hang around and chat with each other. There’s a talent/skit show and a couple “contests”. It can be quite fun, actually. And then once the clock hits midnight, all hell breaks loose lol: confetti and silly string are EVERYWHERE; people gather up confetti and throw it at each other along with the silly string. The auditorium gets completely trashed lol

  6. Our youth group always went sledding on NYE, so we missed the whole Watch Night thing. My last church had “watch care” groups – one deacon + 20 or so scattered church members who got together three or four times a year and were supposed to be best buds. We usually had a watch care gathering on NYE. I usually didn’t go.

  7. I haven’t attended many watchnight services in my lifetime, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on much.

    Speaking of various Christian films, when I was about 7, the church we were attending showed the film “Flame in the Wind”, over a series of a few Wednesday nights, and boy did that movie give me nightmares! My parents also thought it was a good idea to let me see “Thief in the Night” close to the same time. I seriously thought we were coming close to having persecution like that show up any day. I was scared to death by those movies. 15 years later, and we’re still here, and no guillotines or weird torture is happening to Christians in America….

  8. 01/01/1978ish:

    The assistant pastor, who a week earlier had been given a three-piece suit by the congregation for his birthday, gets up about 11:30 to preach and says, “I’m so blessed to preach to you this evening in my birthday suit.”

    1. Scary. I was teaching in a school that year where three-piece suits were THE thing and they gave the principal of the school one. Is this custom more wide spread than I knew or were we in the same place? I was actually a member of another church so I wasn’t at the Watch Night Service to witness the man in his birthday suit.

  9. My home church had NYE services sporadically, and most of those were highlighted by preacher boy contests, and that kind of thing. I remember one movie we watched about Fanny Crosby. She got a lot of amens when she said something about Christian music shouldn’t sound like music from a saloon. It wasn’t until later that I learned that she actually tried to find music from popular writers upon which to place her hymns. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just so not what Fundys would do today.

  10. Never cared for NYE services. We used to have them, mostly just preaching, singing, and more preaching with a film some years. After people stopped showing up for that because they didn’t want to contend with the drunks on the roads, the church moved to having all the deacons host families for evening fellowships. Of course, being good baptists, there was still preaching, only it was more awkward and harder to get out of. The worst one I went to, I was the only person under 30 there (I was 16 or 17 at the time). BORING night as everyone just talked about stupid stuff for four hours and then went home. This year I think it’s just the family at home, which is fine. Little dull but it’s family, right?

  11. Ah the Watch Night Service… dragging 5 little kids out at 9:00 pm to go and eat, sing, pray, and watch a film or two. I remember my poor kids falling asleep in a pile of coats somewhere on a back pew. One year I think we watched “Hells, Bells” a film against rock music. One year we were kicking off the then “new” Focus on the Family film series… it was a series of 7 or 8 reels that they sent to your church one at a time… there had been lots of promotion and imagine everyones surprise when the reel they sent us wasn’t the intro film instead it began with a discussion about masturbation. The old people flipped out! By midnight the pastor was praying he would keep his job! Yes, the good old watch night service!

  12. Ours always consisted of a Christian “film” along the lines of “Sheffy”, the “Thief in the Night Series”, etc. . .pretty much all the ones mentioned here. Along with some other really low-budget “Christian” films.

    Memories?? Hmmm. . .maybe being scared out of my mind for years after seeing “Thief in the Night” at age 6.

    Focus on the Family films would have probably been considered “too liberal” where I came from, at least during the late 80’s and early 90’s.

    1. I was forced to watch ‘A Thief in the night’ and the rest of the series at a very young age and I had nightmares for YEARS. Really had a negative impact on my life in terms of planning for the future because I didn’t think I’d be here for it. Fortunately, I snapped out of it though I am still unnerved by end-of-the-world doom and gloom. I left the church and severed ties with my family over their obsession with the negative because as far as I am concerned, focusing on things that may never happen only holds one back from doing positive things that may help others. I also think that forcing kids to watch these movies is a form of child abuse.

  13. We didn’t have the preacher-boy feature but did have the big old 16 mm “films”. Unfortunately, the pastor tended to realize about noon on Dec. 30 that he didn’t have a film ready and would go to the rental/distributor place and take whatever was left. My brother and I started to call them the “scare-your-pants-off movies”. There were some very strange ones. That, and the emphasis on praying in the New Year, during which undoubtedly several people would mention the certainty of the Rapture happening in the new year. We don’t get wild and crazy now but at least nobody ends up with nightmares.

  14. Watch night services were very common where I am from, and if you were on the “inside circle”, you were expected to attend. We never watched movies that I recall but I do remember loads of extended “cowbell” services (where young preacher boys get to jump and holler for more than their normally allotted 15 minutes). Everyone thought those nodding really were backslidden (even though they did it themselves). Tons of shallow preaching and shallow singing ended in praying in the new year. I recall them signaling one preacher to stop when he was preaching too close to midnight. To not pray when the clock struck twelve must have been the unpardonable sin I guess. When my family and I started to come out of the fundyism, we started board game nights with other coming-out-of-the-box families. We were sure to stop playing and pray in the new year, though, but I think it was more so we could excuse ourselves for skipping out on the services.

    I wonder what they would all say if they knew my husband and I toasted in the New Year last night with a bottle of bubbly (gasp!)while watching the ball drop, instead of praying?

    1. This year we were free. I took my family out to a remote spot and I blew up a few hundred dollars worth of fireworks! I never even thought of the BORING watchnight services I endured for almost 20 yrs. 😀

    2. “Everyone thought those nodding really were backslidden.”

      How do people raised in this mindset not crack under the strain? You can’t simply be tired; you’re a backslider. Your baby isn’t crying simply because he needs the comfort of your presence; he’s trying to undermine your God-given authority (and make you look bad). You weren’t cut off in traffic because somebody else was in too much of a hurry to pay attention; it must be Satan! And let’s not forget that every single headline is a sign that people are about to get raptured–and never mind the actual problem or catastrophe that the headline is about.

  15. To me, they were always super boring, except for some of the movies…and the fact we were allowed to stay up until midnight. Usually, we didn’t make it to 12, but the thought was there. I remember watching “Where the Red Fern Grows”, “Thief in the Night”, etc. The Fanny Crosby one rings a bell too.

  16. I actually have a friend, an uber-fundy, who proposed to his girlfriend at a watch-night service, immediately following “Sheffy”. That’s a little weird, even for me. I never finished that movie, it was just so boring.

  17. I recall one time my church’s assistant pastor was preaching at one, and he preached a message about ants and kept intending to talk about their “tentacles” (ants have tentacles?) However, he kept saying a very similar sounding word that has to do with a male’s “private area” without realizing it. Needless to say, some people at the service were not too happy. We, on the other hand, were cracking up. Made the night a bit more interesting!

  18. Yeah I remember watching the Thief in the Night, A Distant Thunder and it scared me to death as well. Although the dispensational chart that the liberal-turned-crazy-fundy-preacher revealed aroused my curiousity for months causing me to read and reread the book of Revelation. When I got older I made the connection that the “Thief in the Night” and Monty Python’s Holy Grail shared certain songs from their respective soundtracks 😆

  19. I liked Sheffey – I was young. And I loved the book. I watched it a couple years ago and realized it was pretty hokey. The movie about the Bible printers was done at our college while I was there.

  20. Watching “If Footmen tire you, What will Horsemen do”? (An Estus Pirkle classic) and then a film version of R.G. Lee preaching “Payday Someday”.

    Years later discovering the origin of the Watchnight service and realizing that virtually no one in the subtly racist Fundie church I grew up in could possibly ever have realized where the name came from or we would have called it something else

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