On cold, bleak, tired days, most people seek warmth, community and comfort.
For the past 56 years, Wake Forest’s annual Lovefeast has served as exactly that — as a beloved tradition to remember the Moravian roots of the community and to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season in unity.
The first celebration was held at Wake Forest in 1965 with only 200 students joining to partake the feast.
This year, over 2,000 members of the Winston-Salem community joined together to celebrate the annual Lovefeast.
For the first time, two services were held in order to accommodate schedules and capacity of Wait Chapel.
Services were also recorded for those who could not physically attend the cherished event.
Lovefeast offers all members of the congregation an opportunity to reflect upon biblical readings, listen to a relevant sermon and worship as a community.
This year, the speakers at the event did not ignore the overwhelming pessimism and societal divisions that occurred in 2016.
“As we gather this evening, we do not gather in ignorance,” said Timothy Auman, the university chaplain as he began the service. “We know there are people in our community that are genuinely and realistically fearful for their jobs, for the future of the planet and the way we are inclined to treat it, and we often have trouble comprehending how 95 percent of the world lives.”
Reverend Amy Rio, the chaplain at Salem College, presented the main sermon. Her message focused on the theme of loving one another, regardless of current challenges.
“It’s been a little more challenging than normal to come up with advent and Christmas messages with the difficulties and challenges that our society is facing these days,” Rio said. “As all of us know here, our country is extremely divided. Hate incidents and crime have spiked dramatically in recent weeks. What is supposed to be a time of great joy is instead, for many, a time of pain, fear, anger and sadness.”
Yet, despite the overwhelming challenges felt locally and around the nation, the Lovefeast was still, at heart, a celebration. It is a celebration of traditions, of community and of the holiday season.
“We are always meant to reach out and love others, no matter what their response is, especially when that response is not what we want,” said Rio . “Loving one another can be tough. It takes a generosity of spirit. So I say to you today, go forth and love each other.”
Following the message on loving all members of a community, the traditional Lovefeast was served. The meal is originally intended to be simple and easily distributed, consisting of a sweetened bun and creamed coffee.
While the feast was served, traditional Christmas hymns were sung in worship and fellow community members blessed the congregation. In the final moments of the celebration, Wait Chapel darkened except for the illuminated Moravian Advent star.
One by one, each member’s handmade beeswax candle was lighted. While the Chapel eventually brightens, the community again joined to sing hymns. The space that was dark only moments before slowly became a bright, intimate space for all to reflect on during the holiday season.
“Lovefeast is so important to me because it brings the community together for a short time to help us remember that loving others is the real idea behind Christmas spirit,” said sophomore Mary Kate Gregor.