In many Moravian churches, one Sunday in October is chosen to recognize and pray for children. The Southern Province got a head start this year by celebrating the first annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast: A Day of Covenanting and Prayer for Children on Sunday, August 17, 2014, at Bethabara Moravian Church.
It was a wonderful day for children and families to come together to play, to learn about Moravian history and to worship in a lovefeast designed especially for them. It truly warmed the hearts of many people.
The Children’s Festival and Lovefeast is just one example of how a Regional Conference of Churches (RCC) can work with the Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM) to carry out a vision of ministry. The idea was a year in the making, initiated by the Salem Creek RCC including Home, Messiah, St. Philips and Trinity congregations and the children and family team from the BCM. Each congregation sent a representative to the planning team.
We decided early on that this would be an annual event on the date closest to August 17, which commemorates the spiritual awakening that touched many children in Herrnhut on August 17, 1727. Since the events are designed to teach Moravian heritage, the first one was appropriately held at Bethabara, which was the first Moravian settlement in North Carolina. Next year, it will move to the second settlement, Bethania, and then on to Salem.
The day started after morning worship with an opportunity to share a picnic lunch. Afternoon activities centered on Moravian history and the early days at Bethabara. There were colonial crafts, games and costumes for play. Each participant signed a commemorative scroll with a quill pen; the scroll was then given to the Southern Province Archives to mark the day.
All four bishops of the Southern Province helped children customize a special scripture bookmark. The children drew a bookmark with a text on it much like the Daily Texts are drawn each year in Herrnhut. Each child then personalized their bookmark with their name and received a blessing by a bishop.
Storytellers shared Moravian classics such as “Susanna and Mary” from Tell Me A Story, “The Story of August 13” from The Moravian Godly Play Stories, and Emma’s Secret: A Bethabara Tale. Music and mission stories from our Moravian mission fields were also shared. The grounds of historic Bethabara Park were open for tours to help teach even more about local Moravian history. Participants walked to commemorate the journey made from Bethlehem to Bethabara by 17 early settlers; a highlight of the day was a visit to the Gemeinhaus where those first settlers worshiped.
Later in the afternoon, the bells at the Gemeinhaus and Bethabara Church began ringing simultaneously to call families to the lovefeast. A band prelude of familiar Moravian music welcomed the families in front of the sanctuary.
The lovefeast itself was filled with song and more storytelling about the children’s experience in 1727 and the significance of this renewal for the Moravian church today. Puppets joined the storytelling to share more about that holy experience.
Youth from various churches served as dieners, many of whom had never served a lovefeast before (but hopefully will again as they get older!). The children were wide-eyed and excited as the trays of mini mugs and buns wrapped in specially stamped linen napkins were passed. They were invited to take the mug and napkin home to remember the day.
It was truly a memorable day spent honoring the children of the Moravian Church. You couldn’t help remembering Jesus saying, “Let the children come to me…”
For more ideas about celebrating children in your congregation go to www.moravianbcm.org.
Beth Hayes is director of congregational ministries and resources for the Board of Cooperative Ministries in the Southern Province. Photos by Katie Boyles Martin.
From the October 2014 Moravian Magazine