Wendy Shipperlee writes:
As the cycle of the year continues to spin around, we can come together to celebrate Harvest. Not only a time to enjoy the fruits of the season, which many more of us have been able to produce for ourselves this year with more time at home to get closer to the natural world, but to take stock of God’s goodness and provision for us in challenging times.
This has not been an easy year for many of us, but we can still be thankful for what we have and also, hopefully, have been able to give something to our local Food Bank too. During our Harvest Service we were able to find out a bit more about how this year’s harvest provision, in many countries around the world, has been impacted by the devastating effects of Climate Change, the Covid -19 pandemic and also war and political instability, which has hampered aid reaching those in outlying areas. We were also encouraged to hear how our missions, Tearfund, BMS and Open Doors, fuelled by our prayers and giving, have been working on the front-line in these situations, bringing much needed help and support, with practical assistance. Of course, many of these needs are on-going and not just confined to the harvest season, as this time of plenty should give provision for the following year.
With God’s help, we can look forward to the year ahead, using our skills and abilities to provide for our families and in building up and contributing to our community too. We had the opportunity to demonstrate this after the service, as we could sit down after coffee time, to enjoy a Bring-and-Share buffet laid out for us in the Gathering Area. There was a selection of both hot and cold dishes to tempt us, after John had given thanks, and I had the pleasure of chatting to, and getting to know, a young lady and her children who were joining us for the first time. After the temptation of a small refill from the savoury goodies, came the announcement of dessert! Always a popular point in the proceedings. I was delighted to enjoy a dish of blackberry and apple crumble, with, of course, custard. The apples came from the cook’s garden and the blackberries from a local hedgerow. The perfect conclusion to my Harvest Celebration!
As we go into the colder months now and make our plans for Christmas, let us not forget the lesson of Harvest and sharing God’s goodness to us with others – both those we know personally, and those we don’t.
Tim Kingston-Hepner writes:
It was a glorious morning: the air crisp, the sun bright. That enchanting time of year when summer makes its tantalising farewells before autumn’s wistful promise of changing colours and ever snugger clothes has whispered its gentle arrival. It was Harvest Sunday and for the first time in 1092 days – that’s two years, eleven months, three weeks and five days – Bishop’s Stortford Baptist Church was going to have a Harvest Lunch! Of course, those thousand days have not been easy. Far from it, as we all know. So this Harvest had to be something a little special. A chance to bond anew, to relax with one another, to revel in the blessings of fellowship that we have missed, to be more than community again, but a family again.
This year the Harvest Lunch would not be a formal affair: no banquet style seating; no armies of servers bringing out steaming hot plates of the finest roast beef money can buy; no military exercise of shifting one hundred chairs from one room to the next while gently urging those who could not stay, kindly to make their way home; no teams of people to put out tables, lay them, serve food, collect plates, and of course, cook it all. This time it would be a “bring and share”, an informal, simple affair. Everyone was asked to bring something, a little more than they would need for themselves, and out of the extra we would feed those who, for whatever reason, had been unable to bring anything or enough. If you could not make it, you can be forgiven for imagining that we awkwardly gorged on a mountain of quiches and a tanker-full of trifle. After all, it has been said that you cannot have a Christian event without quiche and trifle! To be honest, both of those things made an ironic appearance but it was only a token gesture.
So how was this meal? A flavourless failure? A dreary disaster? To coin a word, no.
The menu was wonderful! Sandwiches, crisps, olive loaf, homemade sausage rolls, chicken pieces, tapas, ratatouille, chilli con carne, chicken curry, cake, about four types of crumble, tray bake, lemon tart – and more! What an array, what variety! Over fifty people stayed for the meal – not everyone had been able to bring something, but they still ate their fill and that is good. It was the first Harvest Lunch when I had seen so many children – I would say one in five of everyone there was under 18.
They revelled in the freedom of filling their own plates, sitting together and then running off to play in the sports hall and youth room upstairs. Once the sweet dishes came out, imagine the rush of feet as chocolate tray bake, fairy cakes and trifle (yes, even trifle!) disappeared! The children were excited about dessert too. The meal also had a spirit of camaraderie, of fraternity and a family looking after each other. Different people chipped in to help clear up, to wash up, to get food onto the table from where we all lined up together to feast. People ate what they had not brought; we shared. There was always the buzz of conversation as we caught up with one another, and mingled! You might sit with one group of friends for your first helping, and chat with another group during your second, and yet another during dessert. And yes – there was enough food to have more than one helping!
For my money it was a great success, a great time of fellowship, a great time of sharing together in the blessings which God has rained down on us, as individuals. I, for one, am thoroughly looking forward to the next “bring and share” – and maybe, by then, quiche and trifle won’t even make an ironic appearance!