Tomorrow night, April 9, our New Church is holding an Agape Feast at the Hampton Inn at Lino Lakes, 579 Apollo Drive at 7:00 p.m. The Hampton Inn is easy to find—just take exist #36 off from I-35W, go a very short distance north on Highway #23 and then a left on Apollo. We have quality child care lined up.
I have never led an Agape Feast before. I’ve always known about Agape (or Love—Agape is the Greek word for love) Feasts, but I had to spend some time over the last month learning about them. Some of the non-clergy reading this might wonder, “Don’t you learn about that stuff in seminary?” I didn’t. The way I learn about new things now is through observing what other churches do, reading books, talking to colleagues, going to conferences, and surfing the Internet.
The Internet is a fabulous tool for researching new ideas. Do a Google search on “Maundy Thursday” and a person could find churches doing many different types of worship services. I tried that and in five minutes of searching I came across a Tenebrae service, Communion service, vigil of the final hours, and a foot washing service. And that was only five minutes.
I remember trying to design church programs in the pre-Internet era. When I first came to the Plainview church I had two days to come up with a Lent mid-week series. I work best when I have a number of ideas in which to choose. So I drove to a local college library (60 miles away) to immerse myself in possibilities.
If I had tried to design an Agape Feast before the Internet, I would have first read through the books in my personal library, and then driven to a local library. Now through the Internet I can do all of that research and much more.
The idea for doing an Agape Feast came when I was browsing through a dictionary on Spiritual Formation that I own. The following statement grabbed me:
“Essential to the love feast is the balanced combination of three essential elements: a token meal, a measure of spontaneity in sharing spiritual matters with one another, and a liturgical pattern that links the participant to the past but adapts to the changing needs of the present.” (Page 176 from “Upper Room of Christian Spiritual Formation," Keith Beasley-Topliffe, editor)
In my research on an Agape Feast I came to learn that Agape Feasts were commonly held during the first two hundred years after Jesus’ resurrection. The practice fell out of favor, but was revived by us snarly Protestants. During the Reformation some Protestants were looking to drop some worship practices of the Catholic Church and re-discovered the Agape feast.
In the late 1600s a German historian named Gottfried Arnold rediscovered the Agape Feast and wrote about it. In the early 1700’s some Protestants came across Arnold’s writings and began holding Agape or Love feasts. The first one was served in Germany on August 13, 1727. The Agape Feast has become a tradition of the Moravian Church. Moravians have made it their custom to celebrate special occasions by sharing an “Agape Feast.”
Our Agape Feast tomorrow night will be simple, but will incorporate the three elements I mentioned--especially adapting to the changing needs of the present. I wonder if an Agape Feast has been held in a Hampton Inn before.
Everyone is welcome to tomorrow night's Agape Feast. This Agape Feast will probably look far different than what a Moravian would expect, but I’m guessing all who come will experience a connection to God and the world!