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The History of Knollwood's Agape Meal

By Jim Broyles, based on remembrances of Chip and Peggy Mims

 

In the beginning there was the Rev. John Totten (Minister of Christian Education, 1968 - 1990), sometimes called St. John the Divine, one of God's most celebrating creatures.

 

John championed Knollwood Baptist Church and did not think the Moravians should have a lock on the Love Feast concept. Thus was born the Knollwood Agape meal on Dec. 16, 1973.

John Totten had no idea of too much celebration. He consistently brought to his bride a BIG Christmas Tree. (Mind you, not necessarily a tree that would fit in their house....) Most would trim the bottom of a tree but not John. He trimmed the top so that the tree appeared to go through the ceiling. He could not abide a tree that seemed to fit -- by most people's standards. What has this to do with our Agape meal?! Well, as the Agape meal began, the height of the Fellowship Hall was something of a challenge to John. He conned unsuspecting men of the church to venture (by invitation) to the Smithdeal's property on the Yadkin River to procure Agape trees. After a few years, however, the reasonably sized trees had been cut so the unreasonable ones became the selected ones. The last tree cut from the Smithdeal farm rose to the ceiling of the Fellowship Hall and was attached by wires to the walls to stabilize it because it was considered a hazard!

One year John hired a minstrel to walk among us serenading us with Elizabethan carols. However, after the first few minutes there were so many people you couldn't move or hear -- so that was a one time thing. One year he decided to hang an advent wreath in the sanctuary. It was hung over the choir area on the piano side by 50 lb test fishing line (nearly invisible) from one of the ceiling light fixtures. This made many people very nervous so that was similarly a one time thing. It was also the origin of the fire extinguisher behind the pulpit. (The wreath did just fine.)

Very early in the celebration's history a tree decorated with ornaments for "children" was added. "Children" of all ages have been collecting the Knollwood decorations for years. Each Christmas they appear on trees in homes all over Winston-Salem.  The Agape meal has been a labor of love for many, many Knollwoodians over the years. As we celebrate the Agape Meal this year, let us honor Dr. Jack's original instruction for the event.  He asked that we take a small bit of sweet food, find someone with whom to share, and place the food in that person's mouth while stating your love for that person.  Let us today remember and honor this practice by sharing the warm, embracing Spirit of our Advent God, always breaking forth into our lives, if we but pay attention.  This is the real meaning of Agape!