Trumpeting our traditions (6)
“The tea came round after the first hymn served in antique cups without handles ….”; this was written by a Guardian reporter after his visit to Fulneck Moravian Church in early 1982.
About four years ago we started attending the Moravian Church at Fulneck. This church usually holds its Lovefeast service on a Sunday afternoon once a month, followed by the Communion Service. We went along to our first Lovefeast not knowing what to expect.
The first thing we noticed was that the central door was not open, we had to enter by one of the two side doors. This was because the Bell Room is used to prepare the tea, and the buns are laid out in baskets down the central aisle. Each alternate row is left empty so that the tea and bun can be served to us during the service. For us, this all felt quite interesting and raised our curiosity as to what would happen next. And yes, the tea is still served in those antique blue and white cups with saucers but no handles. They are beautiful and holding one feels like a real connection to history and all those who have held that cup before.
Throughout the service there are many hymns sung, especially while food is being served and cups then collected in. As at the communion service, I quickly learned to follow the Minister in when to stand up and sit down on the basis he knows what to do.
While we eat and drink, the Minister reviews the previous month and the coming month – services, social events and all other church activities. It is good to be reminded of what has been going on and to look forward to what is to come. Also included may be a short address and the daily readings from the Watchword.
My description has told you what happens but not the history or meaning.
What is a Moravian Lovefeast?
As the early Christians met and broke bread together in token of their fellowship and love, so the members of the Moravian Church family have made it their custom to celebrate special occasions by sharing with friends a simple meal, a “lovefeast.” The name of the service is a literal translation of the New Testament word “agape.” A Lovefeast (not to be confused with Holy Communion) seeks to remove social barriers and strengthen the spirit of unity and goodwill among all people. A Lovefeast, in fact, is a Singstunde which incorporates a simple meal.
Lovefeasts can be traced back to the early Apostolic Church; they originated in the first gathering of Christians after Pentecost; their aim was to signify union and equality. They stopped about the end of the fourth century. It was then started again by the Moravian Church in 1727. The idea was fostered and the practice introduced in new settlements, such as Fulneck. Many Churches have, and still do, include special music, choirs and bands (brass and trombone) at these services.
Buns, buns, buns …
At every Lovefeast service, everyone present gets a bun, plus those unable to attend will often be pleased to receive a bun. So, LOTS of buns. This Fulneck story starts in the 1970’s …
At Fulneck we are very fortunate that a Church member was, before his retirement, a master baker in Pudsey, step forward Ron. Now enter two friends who were Moravians living at Fulneck, Pat Balmforth and Eunice Harrison. Pat worked for Ron, and Eunice was really interested in Moravian history. She found an original recipe for Lovefeast buns and shared it with Pat, who in turn shared it with Ron. They made some at the bakery and took them to church; apart from the spice and dried fruit they were very popular. The recipe was adapted and, to this day, remains Ron’s secret.
Back in the 1970’s they made 150 buns for each Lovefeast service; over the years this number has decreased. By our last service, earlier this year, Ron produced about 40 buns.
I estimate that over the years he has baked nearly 5,000 buns.
How to close today ….
I hope that you have enjoyed reading about the Lovefeast service; I am sure many of you are looking forward to when we can safely return to this great Moravian tradition. If you have never been to a Lovefeat service, please come along; you will be very welcome and, I am sure, you will enjoy the bun.
How to close …. something different today. When the Lovefeast services resume Ron will be the proud owner of a card from Buckingham Palace celebrating the Diamond wedding of him and Ros.
I could also mention his BIG upcoming birthday but I will just say he has been retired quite a few years and still bakes fine buns.
Let’s all say a HUGE congratulations to Ron on his wedding anniversary, his achievement of so many buns and his forthcoming birthday. And that brings me to the fact that there are other BIG birthdays in the Fulneck community this year; I am sure when we can, we will celebrate in true Moravian style. Let us all look forward to that.
As always, stay safe. Mary