Photo by Phil Grout
When the small New Covenant Church of the Brethren in Gotha, Fla., gathers to observe the Love Feast, its numbers are increased and the fellowship enriched by the inclusion of members of the Chain of Love congregation.
Both congregations meet in the chapel at Camp Ithiel. New Covenant’s Sunday school and worship services are held on Sunday mornings. When members leave the chapel after noon, they greet the Chain of Love members who are arriving for their afternoon service.
In recent years the New Covenant congregation has invited the African-American Chain of Love congregation to join them in the Love Feast. At first it was a new experience for the Chain of Love folk to include footwashing and a simple meal as part of the observance of communion. It has been a positive experience for everyone to be a part of the inter-racial, multi-generational worship.
The Love Feast service is led by pastor Stephen Horrell or one of the other ordained ministers in the New Covenant congregation. Pastor Larry McCurdy, the Chain of Love pastor, leads part of the worship. Members of both congregations are asked to read scriptures. The singing during the footwashing part of the service includes music from the faith background of both groups.
Leader for the Love Feast on Nov. 4 was Nancy Knepper, an ordained minister who is moderator of the New Covenant congregation. She reminded those who were gathered that there are varied meanings of the words “feet” and “feast.”
The rich fellowship of the Love Feast made it a memorable experience. The fellowship continued after the service ended, as members of both congregations cleared the tables and folded them up so that the chapel chairs could be set up in the arrangement that is familiar to both groups.
— Berwyn L. Oltman is an ordained minister and a former district executive for Atlantic Southeast District.