Many of you have asked for guidance around communion during this time. If John Wesley were with us today, I am confident he would say: use this time to offer your congregation a resource from the early Christian Church - the Love Feast, also known as the Agape Meal.
This ancient Christian practice is well-suited for use with online worship. It unites Christians in table fellowship using bread, cup, scripture, and prayer for encouragement and support—the very things we need most right now. It recalls the meals Jesus shared with the disciples during his ministry.
The New Testament letter of Jude, verse 12, contains a reference to the early Christian practice of a love feast. And who can read Acts 2:42, 46-47 without longing to experience this kind of connectedness among believers?
The Moravians, a group of German Christians, introduced the Love Feast/Agape Meal to John Wesley in Savannah, Georgia in 1737. Under Wesley’s influence it became a significant part of early Methodism. His diary notes state: “After evening prayers, we joined with the Germans in one of their love–feasts. It was begun and ended with thanksgiving and prayer, and celebrated in so decent and solemn a manner as a Christian of the apostolic age would have allowed to be worthy of Christ.”
The Love Feast can be celebrated during online worship. It does not require an ordained person to officiate; any Christian may conduct it. Historically it has often been used in situations where a service of Holy Communion was not feasible. Although its origins in the early church are closely interconnected with the origins of the Lord's Supper, the two services became quite distinct and should not be confused with each other. The Love Feast has its own uniqueness and can be a “fresh expression” of the Christian faith for our church members.
In addition to the order for a Love Feast found in The Book of Worship, here are links to two additional services that are well-adapted for use in online worship. These services are not lengthy and can follow the sermon as a response to the Word.
Link: A Liturgy for When We Cannot Meet
Link: Comfort Food: A Feast of Love
At a time when we are looking for ways to remain connected to each other, let us use this powerful resource from our own history. South Georgia is where John Wesley first experienced the Love Feast. In lieu of Communion, let us enthusiastically offer this to our congregation during this season in which we are not having in-person worship.