Remembering our history

Revisiting New Year's Celebrations

How EFCA churches watched and prayed for the Lord's return.

As we prepare for the end of 2023 and the start of 2024, it is worth a glimpse back at the early years of the EFCA.

Rather than the partying, bowl games and short-lived resolutions typical of much of the secular world, many EFCA churches held watchnight services; a time for the church to come together, typically after a pot-luck meal in the church kitchen, to review and celebrate what God had done in their church during the past year. Often hymns were sung and scriptures read about the passing of time and the glorious hope of the Lord’s coming. 

A cover of an edition of the Evangelical Beacon from 1963 with praying hands over a bible.

There was often a challenging message about the great opportunities the new year would bring. Many would be converted during those services. The highlight was the lengthy season of prayer—often starting by 11:30 p.m. and continuing well after midnight—with confession of sin, prayer for revival and petition for the new year. The service often ended with a time of communion.

In many churches the first week of January was known as Prayer Week, a time when there was concerted prayer in daily services in the church and personal time at home, emphasizing confession and seeking God’s will for the start of the year.

A certificate for completion of reading through the Bible.

For many it was also a time to begin reading the Bible through again. Slogans like “Read it Through in ‘62” and “Once More in ‘64” were used to encourage many in the church to begin another read-through of God’s Word. Some churches gave certificates to those who completed the plan.

As we begin 2024, let’s renew the tradition of our forefathers and bring in the new year with a prayerful spiritual emphasis leading to revival, and a firm “resolution” to read through God’s Word in ‘24.

Tom Cairns

Tom Cairns is the archivist for the EFCA. A physician who worked for 19 years in Congo, Tom later served as director of international ministries for the EFCA mission, now known as ReachGlobal. Since retirement, Tom enjoys sharing stories about the history of the EFCA, answering questions from our churches and helping the churches with their own stories. He also uploads our historical books, photos and documents to our archive website. Tom’s great desire is to bring glory to God as we celebrate the history we have in the EFCA.

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