Loudon County churches are approaching the new year from different perspectives.
Historically, Christians have observed the week following the birth of Christ in terms of early and significant events in the life of infant Jesus. In other churches, New Year’s Day is a time for reflection on the past and a renewed focus on the future.
The Rev. Jon Henson, pastor at Blairland Baptist Church in Loudon, said the new year always brings the opportunity for a new beginning.
“I try to plant the thought in people’s minds to understand the importance of time,” Henson said. “Time is life. Your time equals your life and to make the best of each day.”
Henson said the single most important focus in the new year is to serve the Lord and love him with all your heart.
“The very moment we are living in is the moment we need to focus on,” he said. “Every day is a gift from God.”
The Rev. Woody Martin, who founded Victory Temple Church in Lenoir City in June 1974, said the new year has been celebrated in his church for the past 20 years with seven days of fasting and prayer know as “The First Fruit Revival.”
“We dedicate the first seven days of the new year to the Lord,” he said. “We fast and pray hoping for good things to come to us in the new year.”
Martin said the act of sacrifice and devotion represents giving our best to God and sets a tone for the year. Members of the congregation join in the effort, taking turns fasting and praying around the world via his television ministry.
“We invite all of our followers on television and social media to join us in our fast,” he said.
The fast and worship began during “Watch Night” Dec. 31 and will finish at noon Saturday.
The Rev. Scott Layer, senior pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Lenoir City, said the new year is a time to get closer to God. The sermon during the New Year’s Day service was delivered by the Rev. Audrey Madigan, associate pastor, who spoke about specific ways members of the congregation can accomplish such a task in the coming year.
The new year is a time for personal resolutions, Layer said. He said one of his primary personal goals for the new year is to start pushing himself to memorize more of the Bible.
Layer said he will present the congregation a chance to participate in a project he calls “five ways people can engage Scripture in the new year.” The group will use email to distribute verses and have a Zoom meeting once a month to discuss what they have learned and any tips that could help others remember and learn more Scripture.
In the Episcopal Church, Jan. 1 is traditionally celebrated as the “Feast of the Holy Name,” the Rev. Amy Morehous, rector of the Church of the Resurrection in Loudon, said. When the angel appeared to Joseph before the child’s birth, he said, “you will call him Jesus.”
The feast, which is sometimes celebrated with a mass, marks the day Joseph took baby Jesus to the synagogue to be named.
“Traditionally, in the Jewish faith, this is done seven days after the child is born,” Morehous said.
Since New Year’s Day doesn’t always fall on a Sunday, Morehous said she was looking forward to the service.
“I think it’s pretty terrific,” she said.
The Rev. Don Hawkins, pastor of the Crossroads Church of the Nazarene in Lenoir City, said the church has experienced a good year. The congregation was able to put greater emphasis on children with the addition of Maddison Lopez, children’s pastor.
For 2023, Hawkins said his personal theme, and hopefully the theme of the church, is “attempting the hard and achieving the great.”
“Always there are certain expectations from sermons around say Christmastime, or anytime of the year, maybe Easter could be involved, too,” Hawkins said.
“But I think the new year is a little tricky because I think people expect you to say certain things. I think sometimes they get used to those certain things so you just really want to bear down. You want to make it important. You want to make it just almost something they don’t forget easily.”
He said the church believes the coming of the Lord is near and members want to do everything they can to serve him better.
Hawkins said the theme is a challenge that their goal is always to be better than last year.
“I think it’s time for all disciples of all churches of all denominations, not just ours, I think it’s a time to be serious disciples,” he said. “We can be disciples, but sometimes I’m not quite sure if we’re serious as we need to be — I’m including myself in that. It’s time for any church to have serious disciples who take this to heart, who know what they ought to do and then get out there and do it and be servants, true servants.”
Hawkins said the theme is not meant to make those within the church feel bad but is a challenge to become everything they can be.
Being a serious disciple is following closely the teachings of the Lord and connecting with him in the Scriptures, he said, emphasizing the importance of building relationships in the community that become stronger.
The church will start a six-week “Soup, Sharing and Study” at 5:15 p.m. Jan. 11.
Attending members will enjoy soup before breaking up into groups of children, youth and adults to have sharing and study time.