Few things compare to that first sip of sweet, creamy lovefeast coffee on Christmas Eve in a Moravian church. You cradle the warm mug in your hands and admire the golden glow of a Moravian star hung aloft, as beautiful music swells all around you. But in 2020, Christmas felt very different. For some, it was the first time they’d ever been without their traditional in-person lovefeast service. For others, however, lovefeast at home with a webcast service was not new at all.
Long before the pandemic hit, many people were unable to make it to a Moravian church for Christmas Eve, whether because they were homebound, deployed military, relocated to a city without a Moravian congregation, or just out of town for the holidays. It was with these people in mind that the Sisters Fellowship at Calvary Moravian in Winston-Salem, NC, created the Lovefeast in a Box™ program. “It’s a modern way to share a Christmas Eve tradition that has always been so important to my family and me,” says Ginni Baker, who founded the program in 2015.
At that time, Calvary was already streaming its services online. All it would take for the Moravian diaspora to feel more included in Christmas worship would be a trimmed beeswax candle, a service ode, some sweet coffee, and cookies or a bun. With a little creativity and teamwork, the Sisters Fellowship carefully prepared and boxed up these lovefeast essentials and shipped them far and wide. The idea was an instant success. Proceeds from sales were dedicated to funding community care projects, and the program grew with each successive year.
Then came 2020, when the need for lovefeast-at-a-distance became greater than anyone could ever have foreseen. Because the Sisters Fellowship members were already well-versed in the concept of at-home lovefeast, it was a simple matter of scaling up—by a lot. Ginni Baker devised a plan to assist other congregations by taking pre-orders for bulk boxes, which any church could use to supply their own local members.
Orders from around North Carolina and beyond for single, double, or family-size kits added up quickly, and the Sisters got to work, packaging cookies and trimming candles in their own homes. One member reported that she trimmed over 100 candles at home while watching newly released episodes of The Crown on Netflix. Others enlisted their children’s help in packing up individual servings of instant coffee and creamer and sugar packets. Once assembled in homes, the supplies were all transported to a warehouse owned by a church member, where everything was boxed up and sent out. In its inaugural year (2015), the group sold about 25 boxes, but in 2020, the total number of lovefeast servings shipped was 864!
The only hitch came when the US Postal Service ran into a major backlog in 2020 holiday deliveries. Although the Calvary Sisters couldn’t solve the postal crisis, they weren’t about to let that ruin Christmas. For any customers in a drivable distance who hadn’t received their order, the Sisters assembled new boxes and personally delivered them all on Christmas Eve, just in time for worship. “You’re like dieners on wheels!” one customer declared when she answered the door and received her replacement box.
Then, on December 24, 2020, Lovefeast-in-a-Box™ recipients unpacked their kits, prepped their coffee, laid out their cookies and bulletins, went online with countless others around the country, and were reminded that even when cherished traditions are upended, the captivating beauty of sacred worship is still possible. It looked a little different, but the community was still there, as were all of the other essentials: the spirit of God, the story of Christ’s birth, and the Moravian lovefeast, full of light and warmth, wrapped up in centuries-old hymnody, scented with the aroma of handmade beeswax candles, and enriched by the delicious flavors of Moravian coffee and cookies.
The best things never really change. It’s as Bishop Lane Sapp said, “This has been a wonderful outreach ministry for our congregation: sharing the good news of Christmas with neighbors far and wide, sharing the unchanging message of Immanuel, God with us!”
While it is everyone’s hope and prayer that safe, in-person Christmas lovefeasts will be the norm again soon, there will always be some folks who are blessed by the option of an at-home version. If you are interested in ordering a Lovefeast in a Box™ this year, please visit www.lovefeastinabox.com and place your order by November 15. Calvary’s long-distance dieners will be happy to serve you!
Lydia Ingram is a member of Calvary Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. Photos courtesy of Calvary Moravian.