Moravian Lovefeast

 
On Sunday, December 17 at 6:00pm, St. James UMC will celebrate a traditional Moravian Lovefeast.  This traditional gathering which has its roots in the Moravian Church celebrates special occasions by sharing a simple meal with friends and brings to life the true meaning of unity, liberty and love for all who participate.
 
Year after year we look forward to the moment when the lights are dimmed and the trays of candles are unveiled. Made of pure beeswax – symbolizing purity – for 200 years, the illumination of these candles washes over one like a cleansing wave.
Plan now to celebrate the birth of Christ through this powerful and simple service.

 

 

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A History of the Moravian Lovefeast

December unwraps the spirit of the season in a medley of holiday traditions. For those seeking a diversion from the abundance of common holiday feasts and festivals, North Carolina offers an alternative unique to the southeast – the Moravian Lovefeast. This custom of celebrating special occasions by sharing a simple meal with friends brings to life the true meaning of unity, liberty and love for all who participate. It’s a tradition with beginnings rooted in the Moravian Church and appropriately named for the essence it embodies – Lovefeast literally translates to “agape,” the purest love, spiritual and selfless. The first Lovefeast took place in Germany in 1727 following the renewal of the Moravian Church. November 17, 1753 marks the arrival of the first Moravian colonists to Wachovia, North Carolina – the area known today as Winston-Salem. It was on this evening in the settlement of Bethabara that the Lovefeast tradition was celebrated anew in America.

The Lovefeast has managed to maintain its dignity and grace for 270 years and has been embraced by many denominations to celebrate events appropriate to its original intention – as a symbol of unity, equality and brotherly/sisterly love. Early Moravians adopted the feast as a celebration event, adding prayer, religious conversation and hymn singing. Today, Lovefeasts are song services opened with prayer, where children and members of any denomination are welcome. Over the years, elements such as location, timing and menu have varied depending on the denomination and region of the celebration. One might drink tea in the Caribbean, or eat peanuts in Africa, but in America, the traditional Lovefeast consists of a sweetened bun and coffee. A typical Moravian Lovefeast begins with baskets of Moravian buns, slightly sweetened dinner roles. Take one and pass them along for all to share. Next, cups of coffee laced with sugar and cream are passed down one cup at a time. Whether within the sanctuary walls of a church, in a park, or on an illuminated main street, one will always have the constants – purity, love and togetherness. Oh, and of course, good food and drink.

Once everyone has been served, the Pastor leads the Moravian Blessing. One might enjoy one’s Lovefeast meal with the backdrop of a choir singing hymns and anthems, or speaking quietly with one’s neighbors about spiritual journeys.

Lovefeasts are celebrated for a variety of occasions other than Christmas – Great Sabbath, church anniversaries, Epiphany, Christian Family Sunday – but it is the Christmas Lovefeast that has touched hundreds and thousands. Year after year the worshipping community arrives, eager for the moment when the lights are dimmed and the trays of candles are unveiled. Made of pure beeswax – symbolizing purity – for 200 years, the illumination of these candles washes over one like a cleansing wave.