Full disclosure: Many of the words in this column were written by ChatGPT. I was wondering how much this new artificial intelligence chatbot knows about a key Brethren distinctive during Lent—our high holy day, Maundy Thursday, when we gather to observe love feast. What, you might wonder, is love feast? Well, let’s ask.
Me: What is love feast?
ChatGPT: A love feast, or agape feast, is a fellowship meal eaten by early Christians in the early church. It is based on the meals Jesus shared with disciples during his ministry and is a symbol of Christian love and unity. The love feast typically consists of a shared meal, hymns, and a sermon. It is believed to have originated in the first gathering of Christians after Pentecost and serves as an expression of the spiritual bond among believers.
Pretty good! But I should have been more specific.
Me: What is the Brethren love feast?
ChatGPT: The Brethren love feast is a communal meal shared among Christians, typically celebrated by the Church of the Brethren. It is a symbolic meal of a sandwich, pickles, cheese, and grapes, and is meant to represent the love between believers. It is often held at midweek and is seen as a two-day celebration of the events in Jesus’ last supper. It is also a time for members of the group to express their love for one another and to strengthen their spiritual bond.
Pickles? My congregation doesn’t do pickles! (But extra points because it knows I’m Church of the Brethren and not Brethren Church.) Let me try again.
Me: What is the full Church of the Brethren love feast?
ChatGPT: The Church of the Brethren Love Feast is a special service that is held annually to celebrate the love of God and the unity of the Brethren. It is a time for reflection, prayer, meditating on scripture, singing, and sharing a meal together. During the Love Feast, a threefold communion service is held, which includes the washing of feet, the breaking of bread, and the sharing of the cup of blessing. The Love Feast also includes a time of sharing testimonies of faith, a time to give thanks, and a time of sharing a meal together.
Me: Thanks for answering my questions. I’ve enjoyed talking with you. When will I see you again?
ChatGPT: That’s hard to answer! It really depends on when and where you are.
Wendy McFadden is publisher of Brethren Press and Communications for the Church of the Brethren.