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From the Rectory

  October 2017  

Harvest is the time, above all others, when we’re reminded just how fortunate we are. Due to an accident of birth, we live in a time and a place where the harvest is always excellent. The good fortune that stems from being part of one of the richest nations in the world, means that whatever natural disasters may affect the crops in our own country, we have the economic  wherewithal to buy our way out of trouble – by simply importing food from elsewhere.

But not everyone is so lucky – and that includes hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens, who struggle to feed themselves and their families.

Many don’t always manage it – and because of the multiple ways they can easily fall through the safety net of the welfare state – they end up at one of the food banks. And despite tabloid stories of hordes of undeserving people taking regular advantage of these – all the evidence points to the way they are an absolute life-saver for those at the very end of their tether.

The heart of our harvest festivals – is a profound sense of gratitude. Once again the harvest is in – and once again we can look forward to food during the cold winter months. For reasons already given, there’s something anachronistic about this. But there’s something deeply (and primitively) satisfying about having an assured food supply. And so although the world has changed a great deal since Parson Hawker’s invention of the harvest festival at Morwenstow in 1843 – the religious significance of the occasion is identical.

Gratitude in such circumstances involves an awareness of grace – a realisation of the sheer undeservedness of our good fortune. And it’s the springboard and the channel for wanting to share that bounty with others.

It would make no sense at all to give thanks for ‘all good gifts around us’ – and not want to share them. Traditionally this happens when people bring their produce to church for harvest thanksgiving – which is then distributed to the poor and needy in the community.

For a variety of reasons this rarely happens nowadays – although the proceeds of auctioning the produce (as is done in our benefice churches – but which I’d never come across anywhere else) may still find their way to those in need.

Some of the non-perishable items may even end up in local food banks. But just as our sense of gratitude needs to be year-long (and indeed, life-long) – our awareness of the needs of those who are struggling needs to be ongoing as well.

Food banks have been commended by some as fine examples of community spirit, as they show people are willing to give food and to help in its distribution. Like any charity, they obviously depend on the support of others – but there’s something curiously limited about applauding their existence, without also asking some pretty searching questions about a society that thinks it reasonable to outsource welfare provision in this way.

If we really are grateful for our good fortune (and if we’re not, we couldn’t sing any of the harvest hymns with integrity) we are bound to want to express that by doing what we can to alleviate the daily struggle to get by that so many people are faced with.

This is the territory where religion and politics intersect – and the place where some people get cross and defensive. Which is pretty inevitable – given that these are very real issues – that get to the very heart of both the Gospel and our faith.

And that’s because the sort of God we worship simply cannot be separated off from the way we treat our fellow citizens. All the evidence suggests that Jesus had a ‘bias to the poor’ (as Bishop David Sheppard put it, 35 years ago) – which surely means that those of us with any aspirations to be his followers, need ‘to go and do likewise’.

Unless we simply want to see harvest festivals as occasions for indulging in nostalgic bucolic fantasy – we must make connections between them, and the often harsh reality of food production and distribution in the present.

And having done so – to show what the fruits of our faith actually amount to in practice.

Revd Tony

Any enquiries relating to the Week St. Mary Circle of Parishes should be directed to:
Revd Tony Windross, The Rectory, The Glebe, Week St. Mary, Holsworthy, Devon EX22 6UY
Email:  • Telephone: 01288 341600

For local enquiries relating to Week St. Mary Church matters please contact either of the Churchwardens:  Lesley Booker Tel: 01288 341221  or  Richard Sowerby Tel: 01288 341348

For enquiries relating to Week St. Mary Methodist Church please contact
Rev Doreen Sparey-Delacassa • The Manse, Canworthy Water • Telephone: 01566 781854

© All of the content of the Week St. Mary website is the copyright of David Martin & Linda Cobbledick except where stated 2006-2017