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The United Benefice of Withington, Sevenhampton with Charlton Abbots, Hawling, Whittington, Dowdeswell and Andoversford, Shipton and Cold Salperton

This month's letter from the clergy

Harvest hymns

Dear friends,
By the time this magazine comes out some of our Churches will have had their Harvest celebrations and others will be about to have them. A Harvest Festival is one of our most popular services. There are many dimensions to the service. The most traditional one is that of thanksgiving. It is a reminder that, as one hymn says,

    all good gifts around us, are sent from heaven above,
    so thank the Lord, yes, the thank for the Lord, for all his love.

Ultimately, we thank God, as the source of the wonderful creation that is all around us. Of course, we also thank those who ‘plough the fields and scatter the good seed’. These are difficult times for the farming community and farmers need our gratitude, understanding and support.

Other dimensions of Harvest have also come in over the last forty years. A right concern for those around the world, for whom there is no harvest. The importance of those of us who ‘have’ sharing with those who ‘have not’. The work of Christian Aid, Tear Fund and other relief organisations is rightly highlighted at Harvest time.

As another hymn puts it:
    In our world-wide task of caring, For the hungry and despairing,
    In the harvests we are sharing, God's will is done.

Over the last ten years there has been an increasing concern over looking after God’s world. We are to be good stewards of God’s creation. Concerns about climate change are now rightly included in our services.

To quote another hymn:
    Creation speaks a message true, reminds us we are creatures, too;
    to serve as stewards is our role, despite our dreams of full control

A final dimension of Harvest is to remind us of the spiritual harvest. Many of Jesus sayings used the image of harvest to refer to our spiritual lives. We ourselves, can be part of God’s harvest. A perennially popular hymn ends:

    Even so, Lord, quickly come - bring your final harvest home!
    gather all thy people in, free from sorrow, free from sin;
    there together purified, ever thankful at thy side
    Come, with all thine angels come, Bid us sing thy harvest-home.

Whatever you sing this harvest, let’s all be aware of these rich different dimensions.
            Yours,    Colin