Harvest 2012

 

Dear friends

Have you ever wondered what Harvest is all about and where this service of Thanksgiving comes from? If you have then read on – here’s a little history. If not then feel free to skip the rest of this article!

Harvest Festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the Harvest season on 1 August and was called Lammas, meaning 'loafMass'Farmers made loaves of bread from the new wheat crop and gave them to their local church. They were then used as the Communion breadduring a special mass thanking God for the harvest. The custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, and nowadays we have harvest festivals at the end of the season.

The tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in our churches as we know it today began in 1843 (about the same time that the church was built) when the Revd. Robert Hawker invited his parishioners to a special service of harvest thanksgiving at his church in Morwenstow, Cornwall. Hymns such as we sing today: ‘We plough the fields and scatter’, ‘Come ye thankful people come’ helped to popularise this service and spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for this special occasion.

Harvest is the third great Jewish Festival and is called Sukkot or ‘Feast of Ingathering’ or ‘Feast of Tabernacles’ or Booths. It falls between September and October and required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple and offer sacrifices. It both recalls Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness for forty years following their deliverance from Egypt and celebrates God’s miraculous provision. It is a happy celebration – a time of great joy and rejoicing.

Today we thank God for all the good things he has given to us. We also want to share with others who are not so fortunate as ourselves. We do this through our food gifts but also by bringing a financial offering for the work of TEAR Fund who seek to alleviate poverty in the developing world.                                                                            

We are also thinking this year about how we can serve those in our community with emergency food aid. We will see how the work of the Trussell Trust has benefited countless numbers in dire need throughout our country. Some may think there is no poverty in Britain today, so why do we need a Food bank ministry? It’s true that in comparison to the developing world we do not see children on our streets with bloated stomachs, homeless, without shoes and clothed only in rags. However in comparison to the rest of our society there are families who fall below the recognised poverty line as assessed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which defines a standard of living which is above mere survival, but well below luxury.

The Trussell Trust provides emergency food aid only for those who have been referred by the social services. Perhaps the breadwinner in a family has become unemployed and a large bill has created a financial crisis. Perhaps there is a delay in the benefit system kicking in and there is no money to feed a family. People find themselves in dire straits for all sorts of reasons. Harvest is a good time to give thanks for what we have and share it with those in greater need.

‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you clothed me’ Matthew 25: 35-36.

If you would like to find out more about the Trussell Trust (www,trusselltrust.org) and the Foodbank initiative for Tewkesbury, do come to our open meeting on Thursday 8thNovember 7.30pm in the Hallwhere we will be joined by representatives from the other churches. Mr James Milton who has set up a Foodbank in the Winchcombe area will be coming to speak of his experiences and answer questions.

Please prayerfully consider attending this event and the impact this project might have in bringing God’s love to this community in a practical way.

Wishing you all a rich and full Harvest Thanksgiving, 

 Stephen