Message from our Minister John Downing
The prospect of traditional autumn celebrations looks remote at present. No singing of harvest hymns, or indeed any other kind of hymn, by worshippers gathered together. Suppers and lunches for more than single households or ‘bubbles’ remain off the menu. Collections of fresh produce for distribution are likely to break every rule in the Covid prevention book.
So what will there be, and what can we do? What, indeed, will this year’s harvest be?
Perhaps it is time to update the festival. It’s one thing for an agricultural community, perhaps at subsistence level, to celebrate their gathered crops. It’s another matter entirely for people living urban lives, whose contribution to agriculture is to have a pot of herbs growing on a windowsill, and who buy stuff flown in from all around the world at their local supermarket.
This is not a new argument. But perhaps our lockdown experiences put it into fresh perspective. It’s true that some will have found respite during this episode by cultivating more of their gardens than ever before. Nevertheless, our society depends on harvests that go beyond lettuce and radishes, and this year we have found it out.
Harvests of scientific and medical skill. Harvests of good governance (although many may feel that this year’s crop is a decidedly poor one.) Harvests of colour-blind and postcode-blind justice for all. Harvests of domestic harmony (I leave you to make up your own mind how that has gone.) Harvests of care and support for those who cannot work.
These are things that don’t just grow on trees or frolic freely in the fields. They demand time, effort, nurture, and perseverance, as much as any field of wheat.
And if you were to argue that these are all human-made things, and that we should be celebrating God’s bounty in nature, I leave you with the story of the visitor to a country village, who gushed to an old man leaning on his garden gate, ‘What a beautiful display of flowers. Doesn’t it make you appreciate how wonderfully the Almighty made things?’
The old gaffer took a pull on his pipe and reflected a moment. ‘I dunno. The Almighty had let it go to dreadful rack and ruin before I moved in.’