ALBANY -- Israel African Methodist Episcopal Church will hold a Watch Night service on New Year's Eve, much like its congregation did 154 years ago.
The Watch Night service's importance in the African-American community is linked to Dec. 31, 1862, or "Freedom's Eve," the day before the Emancipation Proclamation took effect on Jan. 1, 1863.
"People gathered in homes and churches in anticipation of this great day, falling to their knees and shouting for joy, even though their future was still uncertain," said the Rev. Edward B. Smart, Israel AME's pastor since November 2004.
"We continue to gather on this day and give thanks to God for that new beginning."
Founded in 1828, Israel AME Church is the oldest black church in upstate New York and has been at 381 Hamilton St. since 1854. The church was a stop on the Underground Railroad, and as the Civil War started, it was a place where black recruits for the Union Army drilled before going off to war.