In a climate longing for tradition, routine and normalcy—Moravian Christmas Eve Lovefeasts are no exception. Church members, community members, and participants yearn for that tradition of attending services, singing Christmas hymns, enjoying a piping-hot cup of coffee, and partaking in a lovefeast bun while hearing the Christmas message.
Moravians are a domination that represents a large portion of our community. All year long there are special services that are important to Moravians, and Christmas is one of those seasons.
Prior to the service this year, the sky was spectacular shades of red, white and blues, as if signifying that this year we had made it and all would be well. At Fries Memorial, where I personally attended with my family—the pandemic and precautions were on our minds. Families sat together by pews, and vacant pews were open in front and behind us. Participants wore masks inside and singing was only by the choir. It was a beautiful, musical service that Michael Westmoreland, organist and choir director, organized along with his talented choir and musicians.
After the inside service we proceeded outside to an unseasonably warm evening under and around a large tent to sing and share in the candlelight service. Afterwards, lovefeast buns were individually wrapped and coffee was made in a to-go cup. Although there were alterations, it was progress from last year when we watched a taped livestream of the service in our homes.
Another local church, Olivet Moravian, made provisions to accommodate members and guests this season as well. Lifetime member, Tonya Beroth Craver, shared her experience saying, “last year we watched a re-broadcasting of a previous years’ Lovefeast, so it felt very special to be back inside the church for this annual tradition. Since I have attended Lovefeasts my whole life, sung a Morning Star verse as a child and listened proudly as both my children sang verses in the past, when I heard that song by candlelight at the Lovefeast it truly felt like Christmas.” Tonya said that they, too, were given a bag full of the needed supplies—an ode, bun, candle, and napkin to help complete the long-awaited service. Coffee was placed at the front of the church for participants to receive and take back to the pew. At Olivet, passing the flame from candle to candle remained the same as years past. It was a nice way to unite the sanctuary, with nightfall outside and dim lights in the church. Tonya says, “It’s a special tradition—even with the changes, the meaning for the celebration remained the same—the birth of Jesus.”
Another local Church, Calvary Moravian, made some adjustments as well in order to provide members and participants the much-needed Christmas Eve experience. This year Calvary went from three services to one, which was held on the front lawn at Calvary Moravian. As guests arrived, they were greeted by members and served an individually wrapped bun, cup of coffee, and a traditional beeswax candle trimmed in red.
According to tradition, this simple meal comes in the middle of the service, but this year the meal was blessed first and then participants ate and drank through the message and sermon. Melanie Nance, longtime member said, “We, of course, stuck to our tradition of singing Morning Star, but this year all the Calvary kids and youth came forward in their super-cute toboggans to lead the hymn with their parents. There were no soloists, just all of us coming together with one voice. Looking out at the enormous crowd was so fulfilling. I think the coolest part for me revolved around the “light” that was shared. The idea was to pass the light among us with our lit candles. The wind had other plans and lighting the candle was not an option out on the lawn. As we concluded the service many in the congregation (of an estimated 1200 people) turned on cell phone flashlights and lifted them high. As a lifelong Moravian, I couldn’t help but be disappointed about not seeing and smelling those beautiful beeswax candles. But then, the true meaning of the message about light hit home.” The spectacular sky was seen all around the city Christmas Eve, and Melanie reflected on it, saying, “As the crowds left and went their separate ways, the buildings surrounding the church were literally illuminated by a bright shade of orange in the sky. While the candles might not have been lit, the individuals there were filled with the light, and to see that light fill the city of Winston-Salem around us was simply breathtaking. This is a service I will not soon forget.”