It was sometime during the 1950s, and I was probably around eight years old. My father, Glen Segraves, was pastoring a church in Rector, Arkansas, and he had taken my mother and me to the Watch Night Service at the Bible Hour Tabernacle in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where the pastor was T. Richard Reed.
I had never before attended such a service. My concept of time was just forming in regard to the passing of years. I had nothing with which to compare a “Watch Night Service.” All I knew was what I heard the adults say.
For some reason, I thought when a new year began at midnight, there would be a visible manifestation of the change.
Nothing happened, except I vaguely remember hearing the church bell ring.
At some point after that, my father thought he would have a Watch Night Service in Rector. It was his first time to do so. As I remember, the service began at 8:00 p.m. and lasted, of course, until after midnight.
Dad was never what has been called a “long-winded” preacher. His theory was that if a preacher couldn’t say everything he had to say in twenty minutes, he was preaching too long.
Maybe he didn’t stop to figure out how many times he would have to preach during that four hour service. When a church has a small membership, it doesn’t take long for everyone to sing every song they know, to testify about every blessing they can remember, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and to wash one another’s feet.
I don’t remember whether he ever held another Watch Night Service.
But since I am now seventy-three years old, I have gained a keen appreciation for the passing of years. Of particular interest to me are the words of Moses in the oldest psalm in the Psalter: “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. . . . So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:10, 12, NKJV).[archive]