“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Come, ye thankful people, come!

Today I went for a walk in the fields around our village with a friend. All the wheat had been harvested, and the fields were looking bleached and untidy. It made me appreciate anew the miracle of the cycle of the seasons, which it is so easy to forget if the eyes of your mind are closed to the changes around you. And it made me think ...

Harvest Festival at Dudley Old Meeting House

I think it is a shame that Western society has grown so far away from the rhythm of the seasons, and the agricultural cycle. Even when I was a child, which I know my children think was in the Dark Ages, but really isn’t so long ago, harvest still meant something, at least to a child brought up in the countryside.

But now, ask anyone where their food comes from, and they are likely to reply "from the supermarket". You can buy pretty much anything all the year round - strawberries in December, parsnips in June. but this universal bounty has its downside. We have lost contact with the changing order of the season - and I think it is a loss. The Western demand for all kinds of everything all the year round has had far-reaching effects all over the world. Farmers in developing countries now grow "cash crops" such as coffee and bananas, instead of food to feed themselves and their families.

So why do we in our modern industrialised society still celebrate Harvest Festival? Is it out of a feeling of nostalgia for a more structured past, one in which the seasons followed each other in order, and still meant something? I think it is significant that it is the only pre-Christian festival still widely celebrated in Christian churches. I believe that in spite of our outward severance from the cycle of the season, our innermost selves still believe in its importance, and like to mark it in this way.

A prayer for Harvest time:
Creator of all, we thank you for once again bringing the annual miracle of growth to fruition.
We thank you for the sunshine and the rain, combining to nurture the plants and help them to grow.
We thank you for the good soil of the earth, which feeds the seeds and enables them to burgeon and bear fruit.
Make us aware that we are the guardians of the earth; that it is the only one we have; and that it is our duty to preserve it for future generations.
Help us to make wise choices, so that we can save what we still have; and try to put back something of what we and past generations have squandered.
Remind us that we are the lucky ones, with full bellies, clean water and full store cupboards; help us to remember that for the vast majority of the world’s people, such things are a luxury beyond imagining.
Help us to turn our prayers into action; to put our money where our mouth is; and to strive for a fairer world.
Creator of all, hear our prayer. Amen

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