This Sunday is the Harvest Festival at St. Anselm’s. The Harvest festival has links to many different cultures and faiths for the obvious reason that being thankful to God for the food we produce and eat comes naturally to those who have experienced hunger. Historically a good harvest was the difference between life and death, sickness and health for communities. One only need consider the suffering of the Irish during the potato famine or think of the harrowing images on our televison screens whenever famine strikes. How easy it is to take for granted the ability to put food on our table.
Within the Catholic church there is no official harvest feast but accommodation is made for this celebration via additional texts at the back of the Missal. In the Ordinariate we delight in keeping harvest for it is an obvious part of our Anglican patrimony. There really is something quintessentially English about singing about ploughed fields and scattered seeds having walked to church on an Autumnal Sunday with golden leaves crunching underfoot. We are fortunate on these isles to have clearly defined seasons of the year to celebrate.
The feast as we celebrate it today, with processions of offerings and hymns such as ‘all good gifts around us’ came into being in Victorian times. This was a time when, despite the industrial revolution, many people in the parishes still earned their crust from the land. Today fewer people farm the land, most of our food comes from abroad, but we do still owe a debt of thanks to God for what we eat and for those who help produce it.
Harvest also helps us to consider the needs of others especially those less fortunate than ourselves. We live at a time when food poverty is on the rise in Britain. Many households are suffering today due to inadequate wages compared to the high cost of living and the result has been the emergence of food banks. I find this scandalous and governments and business need to be challenged. Nobody working full time should struggle to provide a home for their family and food for the table.
The food we gather at Mass this Sunday will be sent to the Pembury food bank and distributed to local families. Please bring non-perishable goods to church with you for the procession and blessing of gifts.