Tuesday, 1 October 2013

We Plough The Fields and Scatter...

We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land;
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.
Chorus All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.
He only is the maker of all things near and far;
He paints the wayside flower, He lights the evening star;
The winds and waves obey Him, by Him the birds are fed;
Much more to us, His children, He gives our daily bread.
Chorus All good gifts around us...
We thank Thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest, our life, our health, and food;
Accept the gifts we offer, for all Thy love imparts,
But what Thou most desirest, our humble, thankful hearts.
Chorus All good gifts around us...

This is one of the most well known Harvest hymns and conjures images of an agricultural landscape in rural chocolate box England.  It's wonderful rousing tune captures the essence of a typical Harvest Festival celebration. Yet as we sing it every year, I am left wondering how much of our contemporary world it really captures?

The farming community in our nation is struggling in many ways to keep the business side of life alive, never mind preserving a way of life that has been the back bone of our national economy for centuries.  With the very real threat of global warming, a global marketplace and countries continually plagued with famine and drought, whilst we should be very thankful for all that God gives to ensure that Creation continues to produce it's goodness, I am regularly struck by the injustice of it all.

This is in part why at Harvest Festival this year, we are particularly supporting those for whom the wayside flower is not brightly painted, and the evening stars light shines ever dimly, thankful that from our abundance we can give generously and thankfully.

There are three parts to our Harvest Appeal:

1.  Perishable produce that is brought to our worship will be mostly given to support our brothers and sisters in faith, living and working at the Catholic Worker Farm.  The work that Scott and Maria and their family do there to be generously hospitable to people (especially women) in very real need is astonishing and a lesson in humility to us. You can find out more of what they do at http://thecatholicworkerfarm.org

2.  Non-perishable produce will be shared between the Farm and the Rickmanasworth Foodbank (http://rickmansworth.foodbank.org.uk) which we helped establish and continue to help run with ecumeical colleagues and others from within the wider community. We're especially after:

UHT milk
Sugar (500 gms)
Cartons of fruit juice
Pasta sauces
Tinned sponge puddings
Tinned tomatoes
Rice pudding (tinned)
Tea bags/instant coffee
Instant mashed potato
Tinned meat/fish
Biscuits/snack bars
Any toiletries will be given to the Foodbank to as one off treats.

3.  We're also asking people to give financially. This year the Bishop's Harvest Appeal is supporting the work that Christian Aid does with honey farmers in Ethiopia setting up co-operatives to improve honey production and share equipment, tools and skills.  The spin off of this work is about sustainable incomes, care for the land, feeding the hungry and about building community. read the information sheets in church or have a look at www.harvestappeal.org to download more information.

These projects are good news to the communities they serve and buy very much into the call in our Diocesan 'Living God's Love' initiative to see communities transformed locally and globally.

Harvest is about being thankful for all that God gives us. I hope and pray that this Harvest we can be thankful together with those who need support through our foodbanks, the family at the Catholic Worker Farm and the farmers and bee keepers of Ethiopia.

Let's together sweeten the lives of many more families, to see communities locally and in Ethiopia transformed this Harvest.