A characteristic feature of Methodism in its first century was the Love-Feast - a development of the Agape of the early Christian days which had developed into a mere Charity supper by the 3rd Century and then fallen into disrepute (though traces may be said to exist in the Maundy Thursday service). A form of this meal, with its emphasis on 'brotherly love' was re-introduced by the Moravians in 1727 and witnessed by John Wesley on his American visit in 1737. He then adopted it as part of the Methodist worship. Wesley had introduced Love-Feasts on a monthly basis but as Crowther states they then became quarterly features. By the mid-19th century they had become annual features and by the end of the 19th century were regarded as quaint relics of earlier days. As Baker points out the Love-Feast was a product of revivalism (and a mechanism for keeping such sentiments alive) - as the 19th century developed Methodism (especially Wesleyan Methodism) slipped into its comfortable middle class existence, chapels became churches and the 'embarrassment' of revivalism put away.
The Primitive Methodists hung onto the Love-Feast for somewhat longer - however it is missing from the 1932 Deed of Union.
[extract from Crowther Portraiture of Methodism, 2nd Ed 1815 pp280/282]
In the principal societies, there is a love-feast ever quarter. In many smaller places it is not more than twice, or perhaps only once a year; and in many little places not at all. To get admission into a love-feast, the different persons must shew the last ticket they received to the person or persons standing at the door, and the ticket must not have been received above three month before. Without this, the door-keepers are not to admit any person. Only, should they have lost or forgotten their tickets, the preacher, upon being applied to, may give them a note of admittance, which they deliver up to the door-keeper.
The preachers also frequently give notes of admittance to some persons who are not members of society, but who may come recommended by a leader, or some other well known and respectable member. We have a positive rule, that no person, not a member of the society shall be admitted more than once to a love-feast.
Love-feasts were of apostolic institution, and they are still preserved by the St. Thomass Christians in India. The late Dr. Buchanan had an opportunity of being present at one of these meetings, which was held in the church yard. These festivals are mentioned in the 12th verse of the epistle of Jude, where the apostle is under stood to say of certain gnostics,. "These are spots in your feasts of love," or love-feasts. Some think that the true reading of 2 Pet, ii. 13. is, " Sporting themselves in their love-feasts." In modern times, the Moravians and Methodists are the only Christians, at least in this part of the globe, who hold love-feasts. Among the Moravians, the general refreshment made use of by them, at love-feasts, is tea. And upon these occasions they read the accounts of the success of their missions in the different parts of the world. The Methodists, at these meetings, take only bread and water. The love-feast is both begun and ended by singing and prayer; a travelling preacher presiding. The time is chiefly taken up in relating Christian. experience. Any person may speak who chooses. They are generally very agreeable, edifying, and refreshing seasons. They tend to promote piety, mutual affection, and zeal. A collection is made, the first object of which is, to pay for the bread used on the occasion; and the surplus is divided among the poor members of the society where the love-feast is held.
Frank Baker Methodism and the Love-Feast London:Epworth Press 1957
Johnathan Crowther A Portraiture of Methodism or a History of Wesleyan Methodists (2nd Ed) 1815 London