November Magazine leader

From the Vicar

It is interesting to see how festivals and seasons come and go in different generations. In a largely rural society, such occasions as Rogation Sunday (asking God’s blessing on the crops), Lammas Day (marking the start of harvest on 1st August) and Harvest Festival (celebrating the harvest gathered in) were all key moments that the community shared together. Even in a much less rural-centred society, Harvest Festivals retained their nostalgic charm and we still enjoy our annual Harvest Supper, this year to the accompaniment of a marvelous saxophone quartet. There are still communities where celebrating the harvest is a riotous and exuberant occasion. I think, for example, of some of the great vineyards of the world, in which whether or not there will be a good harvest is a pretty hit or miss affair and there is real thanksgiving if a harvest of good fruit is achieved. How much more is harvest celebrated in those parts of the world in which no harvest would mean no food and to be able to gather in the harvest means the chance of life for another year. As we reflect on the sight of so many tens of thousands of refugees seeking a home with us in Europe, at least for some the places from which they flee have become places where no sowing or reaping is possible any more. Their war battered lands are no longer places where life can be sustained.

At the same time, other festivals become more significant. The celebration of All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, is an old one. Some say that it predates Christianity, whilst others say it was born out of the celebration of All Saints, which traditionally is kept on 1st November. Keeping Halloween is an ancient custom, but it seems to have taken on a much more popular and commercialised character in modern times. The shops are full of masks, costumes and other equipment, all designed to accompany the ever popular Halloween parties. Some blame the Americans for such practices as ‘trick or treat’, but there is at least some evidence that such things go back a very long way in time. In popular observance, Halloween seems to have become much more observed than celebrating the harvest. Indeed, for many inner city children celebrating Halloween, the idea that food comes out of the ground and meat comes from animals would come as something of a shock to them. There is a danger if we lose the connection between the food we eat and a reverence for the earth, from which that food came.

Perhaps there is also a danger in the divorce between Halloween and the celebration of All Saints. For most, Halloween will be a time for parties and dressing up with joke costumes that seem to have some connection with rather third-rate horror films. The divorce lies in engaging in such activities without any realisation that there is here a real connection with death. Indeed death itself can be as remote to people’s lives as a sheep might seem to be to shepherd’s pie.

For Christians, All Hallows is the celebration of the Saints in heaven and the joyful perception that, although life must end, something of our existence is lifted up into the very life of God. Death is a reality we can face with sadness, but also with hope. The hope comes from the belief that God does not abandon us to the grave, but life in its fullness transcends death and takes us onwards into eternity. On All Saints Day we celebrate all those heroes of the Christian life who have gone before us and whose prayers continue to sustain us. All Saints Day goes hand in hand with All Souls’ Day, which is a much more personal time of remembering lost loved ones and giving thanks for their lives. This year we will keep All Saints Day on Sunday 1st November, including our usual Breakfast Church at 9.00am. We will continue our custom of keeping All Souls’ Day the day before (31st October) and there will be a special service in church at 10am at which names of the departed will be read out and there will be the opportunity to come up and light a candle in memory of a loved one. That evening there will also be a concert in church, which will include a performance of Fauré’s Requiem. Our remembering will continue the following Sunday, when we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom in the great conflicts of our time. Please remember that our main Sunday service on 8th November will be earlier at 9.30am, so that we can go on to be at the War Memorial at 11am. For those who cannot get up the hill, two minutes silence will also be kept in church at 11am.

Nigel LLoyd


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