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Depending on exactly when you are reading this, we will either be about to celebrate Harvest Festival, or we will have just done so – on Sunday 27th September.
The Jewish and Christian Scriptures speak eloquently of the creative power of God. Over the centuries, the Christian tradition has developed agricultural festivals with varied emphases in different times and places. Some of you may have celebrated the feast of Lammas Day, which developed from an Anglo-Saxon feast and remains an authorised festival in the Church of England. Where Lammastide, on 1st August, is celebrated a “Lammas loaf” is presented to God during a service of Holy Communion, as a thanksgiving for the “first-fruits” of the harvest. Harvest Thanksgiving is a relatively new addition, usually attributed to an adaptation of Lammas Day by the Rev’d R.S. Hawker, a parish priest in Cornwall, in 1843. An annual church celebration of the harvest established itself rapidly with great popularity and was first recognized officially in the Church of England in 1862.
Living as we do on the edge of a world city in the 21st century, most of us are far removed from the production of food as an essential for living. It is easy to forget that just under half of the world’s population still lives on the land, and is dependant on that land for all their daily needs. In many communities the only food available is that which can be grown, and it is only available when it is in season. When harvesting cannot be spread across a wide time period, people may starve in the lean times. When there is drought or flooding, harvests can be ruined and people will die.
For us in Goodmayes, life is rarely on quite such a knife-edge, although we may know people in great need. As we celebrate Harvest Festival we give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and for the privileged place we occupy in the world. This year, we are using the Festival to begin a focus on our stewardship of all that God has given us: our money, resources, time, gifts and talents. You will hear more about this in the weeks to come.
May I encourage you to be generous in your response to God, and to those in need around us. We have much to be grateful for.