Lovefeast

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For other uses, see Love feast (disambiguation).

A Lovefeast service is a service dedicated to Christian love and is most famously practiced by the Moravians. It is also practiced by groups descending from the Schwarzenau Brethren. The term was used by the Primitive Methodists.

A Lovefeast seeks to strengthen the bonds and the spirit of harmony, goodwill, and congeniality, as well as to forgive past disputes and instead love one another.

The Moravian Lovefeast is based on the Agape feast and the meals of the early churches described in the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles, which were partaken in unity and love. Traditionally for European, Canadian, and American Lovefeasts, a sweetened bun and coffee (sweetened milky tea in Germany, Holland and England) is served to the congregation in the pews by dieners (from the German for servers); before partaking, a simple table grace is said. The foods and drinks consumed from congregation may vary tremendously at the Lovefeast and are usually adapted from what the congregations have available. Services in some Colonial-era Lovefeasts, for example, used plain bread and water; some in Salem were known to have served beer.

The Moravian Lovefeast also concentrates on the singing of hymns and listening to music which may come from the organ or choir. The songs and hymns chosen usually describe love and harmony. The congregation can talk quietly with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ about their spiritual walk with God. Christmas Eve Lovefeasts can become particularly spectacular in the congregation's choice of music and instrumentation. Many churches have trombone choirs or church bands play before a Lovefeast as a call to service.

A Moravian congregation may hold a Lovefeast on any special occasion, such as the date their church was founded, but there are certain established dates that Lovefeasts are regularly observed. Some of these notable dates include Watch Night, Good Friday, the Festival of August 13th (the 1727 date on which the Moravian Church was renewed or reborn), and Christmas Eve, where each member of the congregation receives a lighted candle at the end of the service in addition to the bun and coffee.

Groups that descend from the Schwarzenau Brethren such as the Church of the Brethren, Brethren Church, Old German Baptist Brethren, and Dunkard Brethren regularly practice a Lovefeast based on New Testament descriptions of the Last Supper of Christ. The Brethren combine the Agape meal (often consisting of lamb or beef and a bowl of sop) with a service of feetwashing before the meal and communion afterward. The term "Lovefeast" in this case generally refers to all three ordinances, not just the meal. Influenced by German Pietists during the early 18th century, the Lovefeast was instituted among Brethren before Moravians adopted the practice.

The official United Methodist Book of Worship includes as the first worship aid under Occasional Services: The Love Feast. It includes background notes, observance notes, and suggested order or pattern for observing The Love Feast.

Another group that participates in this tradition is the Primitive Methodists. Some congregations also hold large potluck-style meals that are called Lovefeasts.

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