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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Love-Feast

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In the article AGAPE (See AGAPE) (q.v.) the subject has been treated so far as it relates to an institution in the early Church. It remains for us here only to speak of the love-feast as observed in some Protestant churches, especially the Methodist connection. In a strictly primitive form, the love- feast is observed by the Moravian Brethren. They celebrate it on various occasions, "generally in connection with a solemn festival or preparatory to the holy communion. Printed odes are often used, prepared expressly for the occasion. In the course of the service a simple meal of biscuit and coffee or tea is served, of which the congregation partake together. In some churches the love-feast concludes with an address by the minister" (E. de Schweinitz, Moravians Manual [Philad. 1859, 12mo], page 161). From the Moravians Wesley borrowed the practice for his own followers, assigning for its introduction into the Methodist economy the following reasons: "In order to increase in them Lpersonls in bands (q.v.)] a grateful sense of all his [God's] mercies, I desired that one evening in a quarter all the men in band, on a second all the women, would meet, and on a third both men and women together, that we might together 'eat bread,' as the ancient Christians did, 'with gladness and singleness of heart.' At these love-feasts (so we termed them, retaining the name as well as the thing, which was in use from the beginning) our food is only a little plain cake and water; but we seldom return from them without being fed not only with the 'meat which perisheth,' but with 'that which endureth to everlasting life' (Wesley, Works, 5:183). In the Wesleyan Church only members are attendants at love-feasts, and they are appointed by or with the consent of the superintendent (Minutes, 1806). Admission itself is gained only by a ticket; and as it frequently happened that members would lend their tickets to strangers, it was enacted in 1808 that "no person who is unwilling to join our society is allowed to attend a love-feast more than once, nor then without a note from the traveling preacher;".... and "that any person who is proved to have lent a society ticket to another who is not in society, for the purpose of deceiving the door-keepers, shall be suspended for three months" (comp. Grindrod, Laws and Regulations of Wesl. Methodism [Lond. 1842], page 180). In the Methodist Episcopal Church the rule also exists that admission to love-feasts is to be had by tickets only (comp. Discipline, part 2, chapter 2, 17 [2]), but the rule is rarely, if ever observed, and they are frequently attended by members of the congregation as well as by the members of the Church. By established usage, the presiding elder (and in his absence only the minister in charge) is entitled to preside over the love-feasts, and they are therefore held at the time of the Quarterly Conference. (See CONFERENCE, METHODIST).

The manner in which they are now generally observed among Methodists is as follows: They are opened by the reading of the Scriptures, followed by the singing of a hymn, and then by prayer. During and after the dealing out of the bread and water, the different members of the congregation so disposed relate their Christian experience since the last meeting, etc. This is also the occasion for a report of the prosperity of the Church on the part of the pastor and by rule of Discipline (part 2, chapter 2, 17); for the report of the names of those who have been received into the Church or excluded therefrom during the quarter; also the names of those who have been received or dismissed by certificate, and of those who have died or have withdrawn from the Church. Among the Baptists, in their missionary churches abroad, they seem to celebrate the real Agape. At Berlin, Prussia, they are held quarterly, and are made the occasion of a general social gathering, substituting coffee and cake for the Tread and water; but this practice is by no means general among the communicants of that Church. (J.H.W.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Love-Feast'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/l/love-feast.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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