On Sunday 8th October we will hold our annual Harvest Festival service at which people are encouraged to bring items to church which are then distributed to charitable organisations to help the homeless and others in need.
Harvest Festival is not exclusively a Christian event, within the Jewish faith it is called ‘Sukkot’ or ‘feast of Tabernacles’.(Exodus 23:16 where its described as ‘the feast of ingathering’) In biblical times it was also customary to give a tenth of the Harvest to God and was one of the special occasions when God’s people were to be reminded that God was the source of all
Harvest Thanksgiving is actually a more modern addition to the Christian church calendar. Its origins are usually traced to the adaptation in 1843 of Lammas Day by the Revd R. S. Hawker, a parish priest in Cornwall.
Lammas or ‘Loaf-mass’ (derived from the Anglo-Saxon Hlafmaesse) is an English feast in origin, held on 1 August as a thanksgiving for the first fruits of the wheat harvest.
Traditionally, a newly baked loaf from the wheat harvest was presented before God within the mass of that day.
The Revd Hawker chose the first Sunday in October as a Christian response to coincide with the traditional but largely secular ‘harvest home’ celebration, but there is some evidence to suggest that a thanksgiving for the harvest was already a relatively widespread practice. An annual church celebration of the harvest certainly established itself rapidly with great popularity and was first recognized officially in the Church of England in 1862.
Although our food today is more likely to come from the supermarket, as Christians is important to remember God as creator and thank God for the good things God provides. The purpose of this festival is not only to thank God for the abundance of food many of us enjoy, but also to raise awareness of the hunger that exists in other parts of the world.
Harvest is a wonderful opportunity to be reminded of the many things we can all to easily take for granted, and to refocus on God who provides us with so much but also has made us stewards of all God has made, with renew or appreciation of responsibility all of us have to care for this world as well as each other.