Seeing the Love Feast Anew

Christians regularly met “on a stated day” in the early morning to “address a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity” and later in the day would “reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal”.
—Pliny the Younger

This week, we hold our last chapel service of the 2009-2010 academic year. Traditionally, that service has been a Love Feast. Retaining that tradition, we will gather in the college restaurant on Wednesday at 7pm to share in a Love Feast. Everyone is welcome to this meal of prayer, praise, reflection, and remembrance. Below, I have included an excerpt from The United Methodist Book of Worship detailing the history and elements of the service. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP. We need to know how much food to provide. I look forward to seeing you this week.

I pray you find peace during a busy season!

The Love Feast

The Love Feast, or Agape Meal, is a Christian fellowship meal recalling the meals Jesus shared with disciples during his ministry and expressing the koinonia (community, sharing, fellowship) enjoyed by the family of Christ.

Although its origins in the early church are closely interconnected with the origins of the Lord’s Supper, the two services became quite distinct and should not be confused with each other. While the Lord’s Supper has been practically universal among Christians throughout church history, the Love Feast has appeared only at certain times and among certain denominations.

The modern history of the Love Feast began when Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians in Germany introduced a service of sharing food, prayer, religious conversation, and hymns in 1727. John Wesley first experienced it among the Moravians in Savannah, Georgia, ten years later. His diary notes: “After evening prayer, we joined the Germans in one of their love-feast. It was begun and ended with thanksgivings and prayer, and celebrations in so decent and solemn a manner as a Christian of the apostolic age would have allowed to be worth of Christ.”

It quickly became a feature of the Evangelical Revival and a regular part of Methodist society meetings in Great Britain and throughout the English-speaking world. As Methodist immigrated to North America they made Love Feasts an important part of early American Methodism.

While Love Feasts became less frequent in the years that followed, they continued to be held in some places; and in recent years the Love Feast has been revived. Love Feasts have often been held at Annual Conferences and Charge Conferences, where persons may report on what God has been doing in their lives and on the hope and trust they place in God of the future. . . .

The Love Feast has often been held on occasions when the celebration of the Lord’s Supper would be inappropriate—where there is no one present authorized to administer the Sacrament, when persons of different denominations are present who do not feel free to take Holy Communion together, when there is a desire for a service more informal and spontaneous than the communion ritual, or at a full meal or some other setting to which it would be difficult to adapt the Lord’s Supper.

The Love Feast is most naturally held around a table or with persons seated in a circle; but it is possible to hold it with persons seated in rows. A church sanctuary, fellowship hall, or home is an appropriate location.

One of the advantages of the Love Feast is that any Christian may conduct it. Congregational participation and leadership are usually extensive and important, especially involving children.

Testimonies and praise are the focal point in most Love Feasts. Testimonies may include personal witness to God’s grace or accounts of what God has been doing in the lives of others. Praise may take the forms of hymns, songs, choruses, or spoken exclamations and may vary from the relative formality of an opening and closing hymn to spontaneous calling out of requests and singing as the Spirit moves. Sometimes the leader guides those present alternating spontaneous singing and sharing in free and familiar conversation for as long as the Spirit moves. Wesley counseled that all the above be done decently and in order.

Prayer is vital to a Love Feast. A fixed form of prayer may be used, especially something like the Lord’s Prayer or Be Present at Our Table, Lord, that is familiar to the people. Spontaneous prayer requests and prayers may come from the people.

Scripture is also important. There may be scripture readings, or persons may quote Scripture spontaneously as the Spirit moves. There may be a sermon, an exhortation, or an address, but it should be informal and consist of the leader’s adding personal witness to what spontaneously comes from the congregations.

Most Love Feasts include the sharing of food. It is customary not to use communion bread, wine, or grape juice because to do so might confuse the Love Feast with the Lord’s Supper. The bread may be a loaf of ordinary bread, crackers, rolls, or a sweet bread baked especially for this service. . . . The beverage has usually been water, but other beverages such as lemonade, tea, or coffee have been used. Early Methodists commonly passed a loving cup with two handles form persons to person, but later the water was served in individual glasses. The food is served quietly without interrupting the service.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: