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As I write this month, we have just celebrated Harvest Thanksgiving – note the church calls it a thanksgiving rather than a festival.
Harvest is a festival which most people think goes back into the mists of time. We imagine joyful peasants accompanying horse drawn carts full of produce back into barns. We imagine the whole village coming together to celebrate that all has been safely gathered in, and a lot of us, quite probably, think back to harvests that we knew as a child and fondly imagine that it was ever thus.
Not so, of course.
The hymns that people think of as being traditional harvest hymns have relatively modern dates to them, and we find little mention of a harvest festival in Cranmer’s prayer book.
If ever there was a traditional harvest, it was Lammas-time the celebration of the first fruits of the harvest at the start of August. The idea being, and this one does go back into the mists of time, that if you offer God the first bit of the harvest, He will be so pleased and delighted by the offering, that you will get a bumper crop and get to keep the rest all to yourself. Good economics, but bad spirituality.
Perhaps this year more than ever before we should mark harvest thanksgiving, to remember our interdependence and to give thanks for others, not just the NHS but those in our society who have given so muchto ensure that everything keeps happening, whether it is haulage drivers, retail workers, refuse collectors, or any one of the other myriad of people who have gone abut day after day doing their work. We are seeing first hand how important our food production and distribution is. We are unlikely to run out of food but with the exception of the start of the pandemic we are likely to see food shortages on a scale not seen in the memory of those under 50 years old due to various reasons, lack of lorry drivers, lack of CO2 and lack of labour to harvest the crops. We have lived in times when virtually anything we wanted whether in season or not was available in our shops. We are now realising that food stability is fragile even for developed nations and so perhaps we can appreciate that for many people around the world its not just an inconvenience but can be a matter of life and death.
This year at our Harvest Thanksgiving we are supporting Bromley Foodbank which is a reminder that there are local needs to be addressed not just in other parts of the world. There are details elsewhere in the news letter about what specific items they need but they are also asking for monetary donations this year for future financial planning and donations can be made via the just giving link below.