Psalm 104: 27-34

27 All of them depend on you to give them food when they need it. 28 You give it to them, and they eat it; you provide food, and they are satisfied. 29 When you turn away, they are afraid; when you take away your breath, they die and go back to the dust from which they came. 30 But when you give them breath, they are created; you give new life to the earth.
31 May the glory of the LORD last for ever! May the LORD be happy with what he has made! 32 He looks at the earth, and it trembles; he touches the mountains, and they pour out smoke. 33 I will sing to the LORD all my life; as long as I live I will sing praises to my God. 34 May he be pleased with my song, for my gladness comes from him.

Dear Friends,

I don't know about you, but I have found that Harvest this year has crept up on us with all that has gone on, particularly with Covid 19 and having to find new ways to be church! We find ourselves in the Harvest season.

Even though the Harvest festival can trace its history back to the Ancient Greeks, the Romans, and the Old Testament, and the Jews and even the pagan Britons, as a Christian festival it is comparatively a new festival (Compared to others.)

Morwenstow is a village on the north coast of Cornwall. In 1843, its vicar was the Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker, in that September, he announced, 'God has been very merciful to us this year, He hath filled our garners with increase, and satisfied our poor with bread ... Let us offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving.' So was initiated what we now think of as the traditional English harvest festival.

Victorian hymns such as 'We plough the fields and scatter', 'Come, ye thankful people, come' and 'All things bright and beautiful' helped popularize his idea of harvest thanksgiving, and the custom of decorating churches with local produce became widespread.

Church goers often spend a great deal of time decorating their church. Apples are arranged along windowsills, bunches of grapes are hung from unlikely places and vegetables arranged along steps, while bunches of wheat or barley are placed around the Church.

Displays of specially made loaves, trays of eggs and bunches flowers - even, these days, tinned food adorn churches. In seaside churches the fishermen would bring part of there catch. Today the Harvest Festival could take a more modern form, focusing on new jobs such as working with computers, the idea being to thank God for all the Good Gifts He has given us.

This year our Harvest festival will seem much different we will not be able to sing the Harvest hymns we will not be able to decorate our churches in the way we would wish, not be able to have fresh produce, all because of the Covid restrictions. Despite this many churches will still be collecting tinned and dried produce for local food banks.

But despite the restrictions we can still celebrate harvest and give thanks to God.

Yours,

Rev'd Robert Sheard

United Reformed Church Minister of Stowmarket, Debenham, Stowupland, Mendlesham & Haughley

October 2020