On August 16, the Southern Province celebrated its second annual Children’s Festival and Lovefeast at Bethania Moravian Church, a day of prayer and covenanting for children commemorating the children’s spiritual renewal in Herrnhut on August 17, 1727.
The annual celebration has two key components: a festival filled with fellowship, fun and learning and a lovefeast celebrating and lifting up the children of our churches. Learning was tucked in and around the activities of the festival and within the lovefeast.
On that Sunday afternoon following their morning services, families picnicked at Bethania prior to the festival. As the festival began, children enjoyed an array of activities including learning “Jesus Makes My Heart Rejoice” and receiving a blessing with the bishops; trimming two lovefeast candles (one to take home and one to share during the lovefeast); playing colonial games and dressing as early Moravians; touring historic Bethania on a shuttle; making two quilt squares for quilts that will go to the Archives and to King Outreach Ministry; enjoying pony rides; choosing a favorite Moravian design to be painted on their faces; taking a hayride to God’s Acre to learn about Moravian burial customs; hearing the story of Bethania and learning about the settling the of Bethania with a special guest, Bishop Spangenberg (played by (whom?).
At 3:45, a provincial band called all to worship. About 250 Moravians from 27 congregations (infants to great-grandparents) filled Bethania’s sanctuary. The service, designed for children and the young in spirit, lifted all our hearts. The hymns and songs were chosen so all could join in heartily: “I Love to Tell the Story,” “Jesus makes My Heart Rejoice,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “Pass It On,” “They Will Know We are Christians by Our Love,” “Morning Star,” “Jude Benediction” and many more. An interactive Creation story scripture, puppets sharing the message of “Growing up, Growing Old Together,” lemonade and little lovefeast buns, an offering for King Outreach Ministry, beeswax candles and provincial youth leading our singing filled our worship time.
Opportunity to serve youth and families
Two years ago, the Children and Family Ministry Team under the Board of Cooperative Ministries envisioned opportunities to serve children and their families. Team members sought fresh ideas that were authentic to our Moravian faith. The team’s purpose gave us direction: to celebrate and encourage children in the life of the church and support faith communities as we strive to fulfill the promise congregations make at baptism to “love and nurture the child in Christ.” Renewing the celebration of August 17, 1727, on a provincial scale fit our vision well.
Churches host the celebration each year in the order of their founding, and the activities reflect the unique heritage and gifts of that church. Bethania is the second settlement in North Carolina, and churches in the North Branch Regional Conference of Churches (Bethania, King, Olivet, Rural Hall and Mizpah) formed a willing, creative and enthusiastic team to plan and present the event.
Yes, we lifted up our children and, in so doing, we lifted up all, for our children are our here and now!
Peggy Dodson is a member of Home Moravian Church and a member of the Children and Family Ministry team of the BCM. Photos by David Holsten and Paula Hall.