Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Background to our Harvest Festival

August 2012

Harvest Festival

The modern British tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches began in 1843. Hymns such as “We plough the fields and scatter”, “Come, ye thankful people, come”, “All things bright and beautiful” and also Dutch and German harvest hymns helped popularize the festival idea and spread the custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the Harvest Festival service.

Harvest is from the Anglo-Saxon word haverfest, “Autumn”. It then came to refer to the season for reaping and gathering grain and other grown products. An early Harvest Festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the Harvest season on 1 August and was called Lammas meaning ‘loaf Mass’. Farmers made loaves of bread from the fresh wheat crop. These were given to the local church as the Communion bread during a special service thanking God for the harvest.

In the northern hemisphere, Autumn and August are closely aligned while for us here at this time of year, Spring is on its way and the crops of grain are only part way through their growth cycle with harvest being months away. Despite this, it was felt the essence of giving thanks for the productivity of the land and for all that we have would be a most appropriate theme for this year’s Anniversary service of Thanksgiving. It is also a significant way to mark the beginning of our twelve months of special activities leading up to celebrating the 150th anniversary of the congregation on 18th August 2013.

So to keep these customs alive, and also in recognition of 2012 being designated the ‘Year of the Farmer’, St Paul’s will be adorned with displays of fresh produce – fruit, vegetables, herbs, grains, bread, preserves, flowers – as well as pantry items and staples. The congregation is invited to also engage with this spirit of giving as there will be opportunity during the service to bring forward their own similar contributions.    

Now here’s the challenge! Families, couples, individuals are invited to create their own small display for the church – perhaps in a basket, a box, a vase, a sack, a wheelbarrow, a watering can, on a tiered plant stand, an old boot, on a mat or cloth ….. using artificial items, fresh goods, signs, Scripture verses or whatever your imagination takes fancy to. Displays would need to be placed in the church on the Saturday. If you would like to participate in this way, we’d love to hear from you.

If you wish to help, send an email to:

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