Perhaps your memories of attending a church Harvest Festival is one of wheat sheaves, fruit and veg on windows amongst autumn coloured flowers and the freshly baked harvest loaf complete with a cooked dough mouse. To this harvest array you may have brought your cauliflower, tins and boxes as a thank offering for God's Creation and all who work on the land and at sea to gather the harvest. Then of course, there was the singing of traditional harvest hymns before tucking into a Harvest Supper in the Church Hall.
Yes it still happens, although less people attend now. Perhaps this is indicative of people's loss of interest in Christianity, or more likely, the disconnect there here is between farming and our plates. Many of us get our vegetables, bread and milk from the supermarket, although there has been a rise in the buying of meat and other locally produced items from farm shops and Farmers Markets, which is keeping the link, supporting the local and answering concerns about where does our food come from?
Why though do we need to go to Church anymore to appreciate the harvest? It all seems archaic and remote from the reality of an all year round harvest and everyone knows that it comes from Bakewell Market, Aldi, Sainsburys (and all other good Supermarkets, Greengrocers and corner shops). Harvest Festivals and taking the time and effort to hold and attend them is important for re-connecting ourselves with the natural order of things, for remembering not to take for granted the earth and sea supplying our needs and for the skill and work of those who supply our needs.
Farming can be very stressful as well as rewarding. Farmers are out in all weathers as well as coping with taxes and subsidies, trying to meet exacting standards from the food industry, not to mention wondering what a post Brexit Agricultural Industry will look and feel like. Farming is challenging and more and more farmers are turning for help with stress or looking for life beyond the farm.
Christians believe that God is the source of all that we know and share in the natural world and from the beginning of time people have harnessed this to sustain their family and community, to survive and thrive. Always they had respect and never took for granted anything. A Harvest Festival reminds us of this and enables our appreciation to be expressed for God and all who harvest.
Find out where there is a Harvest Festival near you and join in!
With love and prayers