Celebrating 250 Years of Moravian History

History of the Moravian Lovefeast and Candle Service

The Lovefeast:  As the early Christians met and broke bread together in token of their

fellowship and love, so the members of the Moravian Church family make it a custom to

celebrate spiritual occasions by sharing with friends a simple meal called a Lovefeast.

Food and drink for the Lovefeast vary with the nationality and location of the congregation.

The first Moravian Lovefeast occurred in Bertheisdorf, Germany in 1727.

The Lovefeast is a translation of the Greek word “Agape”, given by Christians after

Pentecost to similar gatherings. The Lovefeast, where the symbolism is that of Christians

sharing with one another, is not a substitute for the Holy Communion, where the teaching is

that God shares with man. The Lovefeast strengthens the spirit of unity and good will among

people. It removes, at least for an hour, all social barriers and distinctions. In the service is

joy, dignified by reverence. You are asked to partake of the lovefeast in the belief that Christ

is now beside you and your neighbor. Covenant with Him and receive a new Christ, who is

the light of the world, the bright and morning star, and resolve to hold aloft your own light,

given to God, and carry that light into the world.

The Coffee and Lovefeast Bun:  The Lovefeast Buns are made from a traditional recipe

which includes citron and orange peel for flavoring. The slash marks on the top of the bun

are often mistaken by many to be a “M” for Moravian, but they are actually a “W”, which

was the mark of Winkler Bakery, the original bakery in Salem NC, still in operation today

and where our buns today were baked.

The coffee is decaffeinated and is pre-mixed with sugar and cream. It is served in

the simple, white, porcelain mugs that have been used in almost all Moravian Churches as

long as we can remember.

The Candle: The candles traditionally are hand-poured beeswax from tin molds that have

been handed down through the generations. They are then hand-wrapped (trimmed) in

flame-proof crepe paper to prevent hot wax from dripping onto the holder’s hands. Please

handle the candles with caution and hold them vertically so that wax does not drip onto the

floor. Candles are not collected for re-use and are yours to take home.

The Moravian custom of distributing lighted candles during a church service was

actually begun at an informal children’s service in Marienborn, Wetteravia (Germany) in

1747. The children were publicly examined on their knowledge of the Christmas story and

their original poems were read.

The wax:  made from a mixture of beeswax and tallow are products of the created

flesh, and a symbol of Jesus’ humanity. The lighted wick burning with the wax stands for

His divinity. The red paper reminds us of the Saviour’s passion and death for our sins. The

lighted candle represents the sacrifice of Christ for humanity and the flame of love which He

came to kindle in our hearts. The message of the candle is that this flame of love will burn

forever to His joy and our salvation. “Let your light so shine before men (to lead others to

Him) that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

The Love Feast service comes from the tradition of the Moravian Church to gather

and break bread to celebrate and affirm the unity of Christians as brothers and sisters in

Christ. The Moravian Church is a Protestant denomination almost all but wiped out by

persecution during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) in the area now known as Czech

Republic. They immigrated to America in the 1740’s and settled in Bethlehem, PA and

Wachovia, NC. Today you can still visit Old Salem, a working historical settlement village

located in Winston-Salem, NC, to experience what their early lives in America were like.

The new colonists celebrated love feasts to celebrate their arrival to their new towns and

continued to celebrate them at other times of the year as well. During the love feast a small

meal of a bun and mug of coffee is served. The Christmas Love Feast is the most special

with the addition of candles, lit at the end of the service as a reminder of the light of Christ’s love.

The Methodists actually have ties with the Moravians. John Wesley made an

Atlantic crossing with the Moravians and was very impressed by the strong faith they

displayed when their ship almost sank in a particularly bad storm. It was Peter Boehler,

leader of that Moravian group, who told Wesley he must preach faith until he got faith.

Wesley took part in a Moravian Love Feast in 1783 and introduced it to his fellow

Methodists the following year.

© 2008 Saint Paul  United Methodist Church


Videos of The Lovefeast

 Bethania Moravian Church and Bethabara Moravian Church, North Carolina

Lovefeast at Wake Forest University 2015