Wednesday, 27 September 2017


Harvest Celebrations take many forms, but almost all involve wonderfully decorated churches. In many fruit and veg take center stage (one of my previous churches used to have an amazing display of pumpkins donated by a local allotment holder). But if donations of fresh fruit and veg are brought in, there is the problem of what to do with it all. Elderly church members can only eat so much!
Bishop's Stortford church was far more pragmatic in terms of gifts- tinned and dry goods were requested to be split between Whitechapel Mission and the local food bank that meets on our premises. Flowers went to cheer those who were sick or lonely, and knitted blankets to elderly patients in our local hospital.
As someone new to Bishop's Stortford I admit that I was surprised that a foodbank was necessary in what seems a very affluent area. I was even more surprised when at the local clergy meeting I was told about the cold winter night shelter run by a church a few hundred yards away, with help from all the local churches. But first appearances can be deceptive, and cutting through a local park on my bike, I found myself in the area of the town that you don't normally drive through, which is apparently one of the most socially deprived housing estates in Hertfordshire.Yet less than a mile away the pretty high street is full of coffee shops, restaurants and expensive boutique shops.
And I started to wonder, how do we celebrate harvest and all the good things around us, which includes creativity, science, innovation as well as the food we eat, when so many of our neighbours are struggling to get through to the next benefit payment, and having to rely on charity.
Perhaps our harvest celebrations should include giving thanks for those who challenge the injustices, as well as those who help in direct ways by volunteering in Food Banks and CABs. I believe that as Christians we need not just to be thankful, to be generous with what we have been given both in terms of time, talents and money, but we also need to campaign to bring about a more just world, where food banks are no longer necessary, and where the world's resources are shared equitably. Its a tall order - but Jesus didn't say it would be easy, but rather that His Spirit would give us the strength to carry on.

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