In 1965, Moravian student Jane Sherrill Stroupe (’67) organized the first lovefeast at Wake Forest University with 200 students. For half a century, Wake Forest University has carried forward this rich Moravian service on the first Sunday in December in the University’s Wait Chapel. On Sunday, Dec. 7, Wake Foresters, near and far, will celebrate the 50th Annual Wake Forest Lovefeast, the largest Moravian-style lovefeast in North America and a favorite Wake Forest tradition.
The history of lovefeast
The first Moravian lovefeast was served in Germany on August 13, 1727, but the first lovefeast in North Carolina was held on the evening of the arrival of the Moravians at Bethabara (just a few short miles north of the Reynolda campus) in 1753.
What is a lovefeast?
A lovefeast is a service dedicated to Christian love that seeks to remove social barriers and encourage unity and respect. The service is an opportunity for all ages to come together for fellowship.
The lovefeast meal is meant to be simple and easily distributed. The Wake Forest Lovefeast consists of a sweetened bun and creamed coffee, which are always prepared in advance, so that the feast is served quietly and does not disrupt the singing of hymns.
A slightly sweetened bun, served in baskets, is passed along the pews. Typically men handle the trays of drink, and women the baskets of buns. Children and adults of all denomination are encouraged to partake in this celebration of unity and fellowship.
More than 180 dozen traditional Moravian buns and 90 gallons of Moravian coffee are served to participants by dieners, German for “servers.”
During the meal, the Wake Forest Concert Choir, Flute Choir and the Traditional Moravian Band play music. Handmade beeswax candles, decorated with red paper frill, are distributed to each worshiper, young and old. For the singing of the final hymns, the worship space is darkened except for the large illuminated Moravian Advent Star. Each participant’s candle is lit, one at a time, and the Chapel slowly brightens.
Lovefeast at home
Those who are unable to attend the 50th annual lovefeast can create their own lovefeast at home by following the suggestions below or watching the livestream. Video of the 50th Annual Lovefeast will be streamed live on Sunday, Dec. 7th at 8 p.m. To watch, please visit: go.wfu.edu/lovefeastlive. The video will start promptly at 8 p.m.
All that is required for a lovefeast is a simple meal, family, friends, and a spirit of love and goodwill. It does not matter how you celebrate your homegrown version of the Wake Forest Lovefeast. All that matters is that you celebrate it with someone – or those – you love.
There are no rules as to the food that can be offered, except that the meal be very simple and easily distributed. Contrary to popular belief, sweetened coffee is not the normal beverage at most lovefeasts around the world. Many drink tea, apple juice, lemonade, cocoa or whatever is available. Usually mugs are used, but any cup will do. A slightly sweetened bun is a convenient form of bread, but you can use your imagination here as well. Whatever is available in the kitchen is suitable for a lovefeast.
There is also no set format for the lovefeast, though it usually involves seasonal music and Christmas carols, a simple meal, the reading of scripture, prayers and the lighting of candles. The rest is up to you. The personal love, care and attention you bring to your own version of the lovefeast are the only elements needed to help you appreciate and acknowledge the blessings heaped upon you and your family – free of charge – every day.
Share the love
Take a photo of your family and friends enjoying a lovefeast at home and share it on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook by using the hashtag #WFULovefeast.