Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Moravian Lovefeast



This past Sunday evening Barbara and I, along with another couple, attended the Lovefeast and Candle Service at the Moravian church in Lititz. This beautiful old church was built in 1787. Music has always been important to the Moravian congregation; in colonial America the best place to hear Bach, Mozart and Haydn was not New York or Philadelphia, but at a Moravian church. The musical tradition continues today.
The Lovefeast follows the practice of the early Christians, who shared a meal together whenever they gathered for worship. In the modern version, the meal consists of a sweet bun and decaffeinated coffee or chocolate milk. As the bulletin described it, "The lovefeast is an opportunity to signify our unity in the love of Christ as a family of sisters and brothers in the Lord."
A small but excellent Chamber Orchestra and a fine chancel choir performed classical selections as a prelude to the service.
A large, unlighted Moravian Star was suspended from the ceiling over the altar. During the Prelude, the sanctuary lights were dimmed, and the interior lighting of the star was gradually increased so that the congregation was illuminated by a soft glow. It was beautiful.
The prelude was followed by the reading of the Christmas story as recorded in Luke 2.
Then it was the congregation's turn to perform several unfamiliar (at least to us) carols, although they were very easy to follow. Interspersed among the carols were a few selections performed by the Junior Choir, and the taking of the offering was accompanied by more orchestral selections.
After a brief homily, the congregation sang a few more carols, and then the rolls and drinks were served. Simultaneously balancing a roll and a cup of coffee turned out to be quite a feat for me.
Following this the handmade beeswax candles were passed out, and since the congregation numbered around 600 people, it was quite an impressive sight. Barbara was sure I was going to set the music on fire, but all's well that ends well!
As we left, a Trombone Choir of approximately 12 members was performing in the churchyard.
It was a beautiful service; the music was wonderful and the sweet buns were delicious! The Moravian ladies are great bakers.

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