Bishop’s Letter: We plough the fields and scatter
The season of harvest is upon us and over the next few weeks schools and parishes across the diocese will be giving thanks to God for our food and farmers. The origins of our modern harvest festivals are to be found in the first books of the bible:
The Lord said: When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall raise the sheaf before the Lord, that you may find acceptance; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall raise it (Leviticus 23. 9-11).
However, even at this early stage, it was stressed that a fundamental aspect of harvest thanksgiving was to have a special concern for those who had no food:
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 23.22).
We are fortunate to live in a part of the world where the soil, the climate and our excellent farmers are able to produce great food at relatively cheap prices. We are also able to import all sorts of exotic food throughout the year to provide us with a diet of which our ancestors would have been amazed. It is all the more ironic, therefore, that there are people in our country who struggle to buy enough food to feed themselves and their families.
It is depressing that in today’s world we have at least eighteen foodbanks operating in different parts of the diocese, working out of 49 distribution centres. More than 17,000 three-day emergency food supplies were distributed to people in our diocese this past year. Many of you will be involved in this important work which offers a safety net when people find themselves in a crisis.
One of the concerns that is sometimes expressed is that food banks are creating and sustaining a group of people who will always be dependent on others. However, one of the encouraging stories that I heard recently was of someone who came to their local food bank to donate a large bag of provisions. They explained that they had received help in the previous year but now they were back on their own feet again, they wanted to make a contribution to help others who were in difficulty.
It is fitting that ‘End Hunger UK’ week runs from 13 – 20 October, (with its motto ‘No one should have to go to bed hungry’) during the Harvest season. Not only is it a good opportunity to support food banks but we can sign the petition to express our commitment to ensuring that all people in our nation have sufficient food.
Bishop Alan, St Albans
Sandridge blesses farmers
Farmers and their families will celebrate Harvest Festival at St Leonard’s Church, Sandridge on Sunday October 7th. The church, will host the special service for the Hertfordshire branch of the National Farmers’ Union, during the St Leonard’s community Flower Festival.
Rev Em Coley, Vicar of St Leonard’s, will lead the farmers’ service. She said: “We are delighted to be holding this service for the farming community in the county. Farmers and their families perform a vital role for society and are under great pressure. As well as giving thanks to God for the harvest, we also want to acknowledge the hard work, all through the year in all weathers, that farmers undertake to help feed us all.”
NFU Hertfordshire County Chairman Jamie Burrows said: “We’re grateful to St Leonard’s Church for hosting this service, which comes after an extremely challenging year, weather-wise, for farmers. Farmers often work in isolation so this is a welcome opportunity to join forces, with the local community, to celebrate the harvest and the very best of food and farming in Hertfordshire.”
In a message to be read at the service, Bishop Alan says: “As you worship and give thanks for this year’s harvest, I am eager to assure you of the support of the Church of England in Hertfordshire. You undertake a vital job in providing food for our country, as well as caring for the countryside and providing employment. At this time of uncertainly, with Brexit looming, we want to work with you to ensure that we maintain the highest levels of food security, food quality and animal welfare possible. Thank you for all you are doing for the flourishing and thriving of our nation.”