Downtown Murfreesboro is literally ringing in the New Year with its first-ever New Year’s Eve celebration.
Night Watch: A Night of Praise and Prayer, organized by downtown business owners and churches, is a family friendly New Year’s Eve celebration and a way to start 2009 out on a positive note, said Gloria Christy, organizer and co-owner of Shacklett’s Photography.
At the stroke of midnight, the bells in the historic courthouse and St. Paul’s Episcopal, First Presbyterian and First Baptist churches will ring.
“I think there is a lot of positive energy in corporate gathers like this,” Christy said. “If we start a community gathering, it would create a positive message of hope (for the new year). I think a lot of people are discouraged right now and don’t think there is much to celebrate.
“I hope this starts a tradition,” she said later.
A concert led by Belle Air Baptist Church’s praise and worship band, Blue Chips, will begin at 10:30 p.m. Dec. 31 on the east side of the Public Square.
Mike Courtney, director of Branches Recovery Center, will deliver a message of recovering hope in 2009.
“We feel everybody is in recovery one way or the other (right now),” he said, whether it is due to the state of the economy, the war in Iraq or other uncertainties of the future.
“God gives us hope we will make it in 2009,” Courtney added.
Inspiration for the New Year’s Eve celebration came from prayer and worship services many African American churches hold on Dec. 31. The day has special meaning for many in the African American community because Dec. 31, 1862 was the evening the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, freeing slaves in the Confederate states.
John Hinkle, senior pastor of First Presbyterian, said these services sparked hope and promise for the New Year.
At least one of the bells that will ring downtown this New Year dates back before the Civil War.
First Presbyterian’s bell was saved just prior to the Union occupation of Murfreesboro and according to local legend was buried under a store on the downtown Square. The remainder of the church was destroyed.
The bell was reinstalled following the tornado of 1912, Hinkle said.
New Year’s Eve spectators are encouraged to bring a blanket, flashlight and a bell for ringing in the New Year.
“It will be a very uplifting, encouraging and hopefully fun way to end the year,” Courtney said.