The World’s Largest Moravian Love Feast

Moravian Love Feast at Wake Forest University

Sweet buns. Warm coffee with cream and sugar. Beeswax candles trimmed in red frill. Morning star, O cheering sight; ere thou cam’st, how dark earth’s night. Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to be, and bless these gifts bestowed by Thee.

I just finished watching the live stream of the 50th annual Moravian Christmas Love Feast from my alma mater. Each December, Wake Forest University hosts the world’s largest Moravian Love Feast in Wait Chapel on its Winston-Salem campus. Moravians founded the towns of Bethabara in 1753, Bethania in 1759 and Salem in 1766, all within the tract of land they called Wachovia, and all now part of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

Moravians began the practice of holding love feasts in Germany in 1727. The modern Moravian love feast has evolved somewhat from its earliest forms. Certain liturgical conventions have become fixed in the modern love feast; in the beginning, the meeting was an informal community meal with attendant prayers, testimonies and reports from the dispersed Moravian community.

The first Moravian love feasts in America were conducted in Savannah from 1735 to 1740. As a United Methodist, it is significant to me that John Wesley met some of these Moravians on his voyage to Savannah in the winter of 1735-36. Wesley was terrified on the sea; the Moravians weathered the storms calmly. The more Wesley came to know the Moravians, the more he was impressed by their faith and way of life.

When Wesley returned to London in 1738, he continued to converse with Moravians, especially the great Moravian missionary Peter Boehler. Boehler had a great effect on Wesley’s evangelical experience and theology, as did Wesley’s later visits with the Moravian leader Nicholas von Zinzendorf. And a Wesleyan version of the love feast became part of early Methodist life.

What is a Moravian? What does the Love Feast mean and where did it come from? Read more in Who are the Moravians?