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Mack Williams: Love Feast

I recently performed “O Holy Night” during a Moravian-style Love Feast held at a Methodist church here in Danville.

I heard about the Love Feast many years ago at Granite Quarry School when we studied the Moravians and visited Old Salem; where among many marvelous things, I saw a colonial kraut chopper ( surely dear to Lutherans and others of German background as well!).

One time, I heard “Love Feast” mistakenly referred to as “Love Fest;” but that was “Woodstock” in 1969, of which I was not an attendee. But one of the past editors of Yanceyville’s “Caswell Messenger” newspaper was, proudly publishing his then “hirsute” picture in a Woodstock “reminisce.” If I had been him, I wouldn’t have done it, for I seem to remember more than one “Yanceyvillian” then saying in reference to that current bald-headed “veteran” of Woodstock : “Yep, just what I thought he was, a d–n hippie!”

While at “word play,” let’s continue on a gradient from “Love Feast” to “Love Fest” to “LoveFast.” “Love Fast” might sound strange, but not so when considering the evidence that mankind’s over-all love for his fellow man these days sometimes seems to be dwindling, as evidenced by the sort of back-and-forth “snarkdom” in newspapers’ on-line comments sections.

While at Appalachian, I attended the moving Easter Sunrise Service at “God’s Acre,” Old Salem’s Moravian cemetery. Typing “God’s Acre” just now, I thought about a Danville food-help organization called “God’s Storehouse.” Those resting in God’s Acre need not the provisions of God’s Storehouse (“nor lamp, nor sun”), since like Mozart’s Don Giovanni’s “Il Commendatore,” they “dine on celestial food” (as his statue stated, or rather, sang).

At that recent Love Feast, the sight of men dressed in white shirts administering the coffee, and women in white blouses administering the bread made me think back to Old Salem’s Single Brothers’ and Single Sisters’ Houses.

At the risk of sounding like Goldilocks (though I didn’t steal, it was offered me) I must say the love Feast’s coffee was brewed “just right.” The basketed rolls were each wrapped in a white paper napkin sealed with a white, blank, gummed label. Since the time of “LoveFeasting” came before my singing of “O Holy Night,” I pocketed my roll for later consumption, not wanting to “gum up the pipes” (horrible thought: imagine pocketing the Communion’s Host to partake of later).

During the time of fellowship, I talked with a retired principal whom I sometimes encounter while mall-walking in the winter. From our conversation, I concluded that his yearning for his previous line of work is decreasing exponentially over time.

The music for the service (primarily a service of song) was made up of hymns and anthems, with solos being performed by those ranging in age from late teens all the way up to an old man singing “O Holy Night.”

The service’s finale was, of course, the heartfelt, candlelight singing of “Silent Night” by all. The beeswax candles made me think of the Old Stone House and the fact that advisors from Old Salem had originally helped guide its restoration.

Beeswax also brought something else to mind ( but not the phrase: “None of your beeswax!”). This component of the walls of “bee nurseries” made me also think of heavenly manna, since manna was supposed to be honey-like and sweet.

The minister thanked everyone for participating in the Love Feast (what I consider to be a sort of “communion-lite” service with “coffee and roll”, instead of the more sacred, more grave one with “blood and body.”

The next morning, I stopped in at a local Danville Food Lion for my usual cup of coffee (to me, about as good as the “fancy stuff “at a downtown coffee shop).

Back in my car, I realized the Moravian Love Feast roll was still in my jacket pocket from the night before; so I unwrapped it and enjoyed its light, sugar-sprinkled sweetness with my java.

Sitting there, I suddenly had a greater realization of the Biblical quote:”Where two or three are gathered together;” because that prior “element” of the previous evening’s Love Feastwas now just a sweet roll being enjoyed with coffee by an old man sitting alone in his car.

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