Before we even started the new school year my brain was re-engaging with the tune for the Paintbox Song, in which broad beans can be found sleeping in their blankety beds. For most families Harvest Festival consists of scrabbling to find a tin or packet from the foodbank list (ensuring that it’s still in date) and listening their little darlings tell the story of Little Red Hen, or something more poignant about sharing using the letters H A R V E S T.
For church families, there may be a Sunday morning when a whole basket of goods is brought to the altar, alongside windfalls from the garden and that overgrown marrow that nobody knows what to do with. The church looks stunning decorated with autumn colours and wheat sheaves. Perhaps there’s a harvest meal to attend, with copious quantities of apple pie to share.
For a clergy mummy, harvest can seem a bit like that episode from the Vicar of Dibley when Geraldine eats several Christmas dinners, only with apple pie; and instead of attending 1 service, perhaps 2 including school, we can be going into double figures here.
I live and serve in rural parishes: there are more tractors on our “High Street” than any other vehicle, but still I wonder if we are missing the point. Harvest is a time to give thanks for the fruit of our toils, and to God for blessing the land, and keeping our farmers safe. Does the gift of a tin of baked beans really do this? What about those who work in banks and offices, schools and hospitals? What about those of us who have no gift of gardening let alone farming? How are we to truly give thanks to God at this harvest time?
Vanessa is an ordained priest in the Church of England, serving in a team of seven churches in rural Hampshire. She currently shares the rectory with her husband, two daughters and two cats. The menagerie is due to acquire more chickens in the spring and possibly a dog later in the year. Vanessa blogs at www.nothinglikeadane.wordpress.com and you can follow her at www.facebook.com/thewallopingvicar or @wallopingvicar