Magazine leader - October 2014

From the Vicar

Sunday 5th October will be our Harvest Festival. Instead of the usual Family Service at 10am, we will be having our first Breakfast Church at 9am, to which we will welcome people of all ages. A 10am Parish Eucharist will follow with ‘Harvest’ the theme for the whole weekend, including the Harvest Supper the night before. Harvest Festivals are a curious thing. At one stage in my career in the wine trade, I considered moving to France to work in a vineyard. It is back breaking work, not least at harvest time. I did experience something similar once in a holiday job I had in Kent, gathering in the hop harvest. I was 18 at the time and I had just passed my driving test. On the first day the tractor driver went off sick and so they asked if anyone had a driving licence. I got the job, which entailed driving the tractor at 5mph with two inches clearance each side. It was hard work. I had to do all the unloading myself at the oast house, but it was fun. At the end of it all there was a party. The harvest had been safely gathered in. I am not sure about hops, but I do know that in European vineyards it can be touch-and-go whether the harvest will be gathered in or not. Do you leave the grapes for a few more days of sunshine, which will produce a better wine? Or do you risk leaving the grapes out when the juice might be diluted by heavy rain, or the whole crop destroyed by hail? The 1964 vintage for claret produced good wine for early pickers, but it was a disaster for those who went late.

In our society, most of us are entirely detached from the harvest. Unlike some parts of the world, in which whole communities hold their breath to see whether there will be any food for the coming year, we take it for granted that our supermarket shelves are always full. Indeed there are people around who have no idea that milk comes from cows. We might sing ‘We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the ground’, but most of us have never done any such thing. It is easy to become detached from the very environment in which we live and that can easily be translated into being disconnected from our planet in a way in which we no longer retain any reverence for creation. We destroy that environment by the way in which we consume the harvest of the Earth at levels that are totally unsustainable. As we do not know how many species share this world with us (we are finding new species all the time), it is hard to know how rapidly we are wiping them out. However it has been estimated that the extinction rate is now anything up to 10,000 times higher than it ought to be.  The worst scenario figure is that there could be as many as 250 species disappearing every day.

If we take seriously our vocation to be carers for God’s creation, we might start by living as though we believe that it does belong to God and not to us. This week I heard the disturbing news that the 5 richest families in our country have as much wealth as 12,000,000 poorest families. Such discrepancies in any given society can never be sustained indefinitely. Neither is it possible for our planet to support everyone in the world at the standard of living that is generally enjoyed by the general population of this country. Harvest Festival may be an attractive event, even if we have not ourselves done any harvesting, but it ought to be deeply challenging. To ‘harvest’ is to gather in the fruits of creation, but some 900,000,000 people go to bed hungry each day. Certainly we must celebrate God’s blessings on us, but we can never so without also having a sense of unease at the injustice of our world and a determination to live in ways which seek to build for a better world. Faith needs to have consequences and our praise of God must flow out into action as we surrender ourselves into the ministry of Christ, who came to transform all creation.

Nigel LLoyd

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