Rector’s Letter October 1916

Come ye thankful people come…

Harvest Thanksgiving is one of the most popular celebrations in the life of most Anglican parishes. What may be surprising to us is that Harvest services as we know them are relatively modern, only dating back to the Victorian period. Of course, the safe gathering in of the crops has been celebrated in rural communities from time immemorial, but it seems to have been nineteenth century urbanization that really stimulated the growth of the modern church harvest festival. It was perhaps a way for many who lived in towns to be reminded of their connection with the land and the world of nature.

In the twenty-first century Harvest Thanksgiving remains a favourite service in both town and country. Nostalgia for rural life is undoubtedly still a factor in this, but there are many other reasons for this popularity. The most obvious is that attending a Harvest Service is a very enjoyable experience: we all love to sing those great Harvest hymns and to experience the wonderful sight (and smell!) of a church festooned with fruit, vegetables and harvest flowers.

Going a bit deeper – the popularity of the Harvest Festival Service is surely due to the deep need we have as human beings to give thanks to God for all that sustains our lives, especially for our food. Food is important to us not just as a means to keep alive but also for the enjoyment that preparing and eating it provides – the huge growth of ‘foodie’, cooking and baking programmes on TV is a powerful witness to that! Harvest Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to acknowledge the true source of all that both sustains and enhances our lives.

But Harvest Thanksgiving is important for an even deeper reason than our need to be thankful for our food. In the traditional Christian Year there is hardly any provision for the celebration of God as Creator and little opportunity for us to reflect upon our connection with all of God’s creation. Of course, the fact that the universe was created by God has always been a fundamental Christian doctrine. Despite this, the Church has often given the impression that it is mainly concerned with our redemption in Christ and that the Creation and the world of nature are only a background to this main theme.

There have been exceptions to this – the Celtic saints seem to have had a deep connection with the natural world (some of us were reminded of this when we visited St. Melangell’s shrine at Pennant Melangell recently) – and we mustn’t forget St. Francis of Assisi and his sense of brotherhood with all God’s creatures. But on the whole the Church has down played the notion that we can find God in His creation and that we are responsible for the welfare of the planet on which we dwell.

Harvest Thanksgiving can help to redress the balance so that as well as thanking God for our food and for all that sustains our lives, we can also rejoice in the universe a part as the expression of God’s creative love. As we do this, our attention is inevitably drawn to the need to care for our world and not to exploit it and to address issues such as the possible results of climate change. As we thank Go for our food we cannot forget the terrible inequality in our world which means while some enjoy prosperity so many others go hungry.

We have two opportunities to enjoy Harvest Thanksgiving this month – at Holy Trinity on Sunday 2nd there will be a Family Eucharist at 10.30 am and on the following Sunday (9th) St. Tudno’s will celebrate Harvest at 4.00 pm. Do join us for either or both of these! Enjoy the hymns, enjoy the smells, give thanks to God for food and for those who produce it, rejoice in God’s creation, and think of how we can more effectively help those who do not enjoy their share of the good things of the earth.

Fr. John

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