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Candlelit ceremony celebrates Christmas

Candle light and Christmas carols will fill the First United Methodist Church on Sunday evening during its 26th annual Christmas Lovefeast.
The Moravian ceremony will feature dieners, or servers, in traditional dress handing out creamy coffee and lovefeast buns. Prayer, singing and the passing of lighted candles complete the evening.
“It’s so simple and honest,” said Mickie Stevens, a diener. “It’s just pure.”
The event, which is free to the public, takes place at 7 p.m. Sunday. The church is located on Main Street in downtown Lincolnton.
The ceremony dates back hundreds of years and little has remained the same since the first time it was performed at the Methodist Church.
“We thought maybe we should change it, and everybody had a fit,” said Pat Rudisill, coordinator of the Lovefeast.
The first ceremony at the church was researched by long-time member Jane Wilson who went to and from Old Salem for a year.
“It’s just like the Moravians do it,” said Pat Rudisill. “This is an old, old Christian tradition, and it’s becoming a tradition in Lincolnton now that we’ve been doing it so long.”
The historical town still plays a part in the preparation of the Lovefeast. Each of the hundreds of people who attend receives a lovefeast bun straight from the ovens of Old Salem.
“It’s supposed to be a simple, don’t-starve-to-death bun,” said Donald Rudisill, a member of the church.
The dieners, dressed in Moravian servant clothes, also hand out creamy coffee. The attire is meant to signify servitude to Christ. The lighting of candles symbolizes the light Christ brought into the world.
“It’s just a true love show of Christ and your fellow Christians,” said Ron Ballard, head of communications at the church.
During the event, donations will be taken up for Christian Ministry of Lincoln County. The event will be finished with the lifting of lighted candles and singing of “Go Tell it to the Mountain.”
“It’s just aglow,” said Pat Rudisill.
Churchgoers then carry the candles with them outside into the cold night air.
“We take the light with us back into our lives,” said Ballard.
Along with coffee, buns and worship, the event will include children and adult choirs as well as the North Lincoln High School brass ensemble.

History of the Moravian Lovefeast
The Moravian Church is recognized today as the oldest Protestant denomination. The church originated in Moravia during the beginnings of the Reformation and was formally organized in 1457.
After centuries of persecution, the Moravians traveled to America for freedom.
The early Moravians began a practice of meeting and breaking bread together to signify their union, fellowship and love.
By 1727 the Moravian Church had established a custom of celebrating special church occasions by sharing together a simple meal of sweet bread and coffee. This service became known as the “lovefeast.”
On Christmas Eve, the Moravians held a special lovefeast for their children that included a candlelight service to symbolize the birth of Jesus. A traditional part of this service included the singing of hymns accompanied by a brass and reed band.
The first lovefeasts in America were held in Savannah, Georgia in 1735.
John Wesley was invited to share a lovefeast with the Moravians in Savannah in 1737 and noted in his diary, “We joined with the Germans in one of their lovefeasts. It was begun and ended with a 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.”
As a result of this experience lovefeasts became a part of early Methodism.

Lovefeast Coffee
1 ј cups regular grind coffee
3 quarts water
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
Place coffee grounds in cheesecloth bag: tightly secure top of bag. Place coffee bag and water in a small Dutch oven; bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir well. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Remove coffee bag and discard. Add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add milk, stirring well. Serve immediately. Makes about 12 cups.

Lovefeast Buns
1 package dry yeast
1 cup sugar, divided
ј cup warm water
1 egg beaten
ј cup butter or margarine, softened
ј cup cooked, mashed potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups warm water
7 to 8 cups sifted all-purpose flour
ј cup butter or margarine melted
Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and ј cup warm water, stir well and let stand five minutes or until bubbly.
Combine egg, remaining sugar, softened butter, potatoes and salt in a large mixing bowl; beat at medium speed of electric mixer five minutes or until smooth. Stir in yeast mixture. Add two cups warm water alternately with enough flour to make a soft dough, beginning and ending with flour.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts, one hour or until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down; shape dough into three and a half inch balls and place two inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and repeat rising procedure one hour or until doubled in bulk.
Using a sharp knife, cut a shallow “M” on top of each bun. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Brush tops with melted butter. Makes about two dozen.

by Sarah Grano

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