LETTER FROM THE VICARAGE
On this page we reproduce the monthly letter from our Vicar as it appears in our parish magazine, the Parish News.
Letter from the vicarage
FROM THE VICARAGE - SEPTEMBER 2017
There's been a joyous rumble around our village lanes these past few weeks – the rumble of tractors bringing the harvest and the straw bales in. And what a joy it is to see all the fruit of the farmer's hard labour being gathered in.
It's not been an easy harvest for the famers this year. Not that I'm an expert, but I watch 'Country File'! They were saying how the dry spring was a cause for concern, but then the warm sunny months of June and July produced a bumper crop, only for the heavy rains of August to make harvesting difficult. Somehow though, I doubt any year passes when the vagaries of our great British weather doesn't cause our famers to have concerns over their crops.
I love all the activity around harvest time; it's something we grew up with. We lived on the western edge of Bognor, in Rose Green, so were surrounded by arable fields. We would see the first green shoots of spring sprout out of the ploughed earth, and watched as the crops grew before the combine harvesters came to gather them all in. As children we often made dens out of the straw bales – no doubt to the annoyance of the farmer!
I missed seeing the harvest when we lived in Seaford. The farming around there is mainly downland sheep farming. The lambs in springtime were a joy to watch as the pranced around on their wobbly legs, and everywhere you walked you were accompanied by the sound of lambs and sheep bleating to one another.
It's amazing how close we all are to farming in one form or another so it saddens me to hear people say that our Harvest Festivals don't mean the same these days; we're so disconnected from the land. How sad that is. Partly I think this is because we no longer eat fruit and vegetables in season. Strawberries on Christmas Day, who would have thought! But just because we can purchase all manner of fruit and veg all year round shouldn't allow us to forget that behind all these fruit and veg, meat, eggs and milk, are farmers working hard to produce them. So perhaps Harvest should be even more significant as we give thanks to God, not just for our local farmers and harvest, but for all the farmers around the globe who supply our tables with food.
This year we are celebrating Harvest with a Barn Dance on the 23rd September at Kelsey Hall, the evening before our Harvest Festival service at St John the Baptist, Kirdford at 10.00 am. I love Barn Dances, they are always such fun. Though I must confess some of my enjoyment is watching Stephen getting in a muddle – for a guitarist he has a surprising lack of rhythm when it comes to dancing! But then, that's all part of the fun of throwing ourselves into an evening of joyous – yet chaotic - celebration.
Our Harvest collection and gifts will be donated to Family Support Work. Thank you for the excellent collections we made before the Summer Holidays of 'snack' type foods to make up packed lunches for the children who would normally benefit from free school meals, they were greatly appreciated. So please be generous with your Harvest Gifts. Yes I know some of us hark back to a time when our gifts were all produce from our gardens, but for practical reasons and so that they can benefit those who need support, tins and non-perishables would be appreciated. We should not forget that just because the food comes in a tin or a packet doesn't mean the food has not been grown and harvested!
Harvest celebrates the bringing in of this year's crops, and we rightly give thanks to God at this time. But just as the food we eat becomes more and more 'all year round', so should our thanks. How many of us still begin each meal by saying Grace? If we bemoan the fact that we feel less connected to the land, we could perhaps actively counter this by reminding ourselves of God's abundant gift of food each time we sit to eat.
September of course sees that other great event in the rhythm of village life – the start of the new school year! As a Mum I can recall greeting the new school year with a mixture of relief and sadness. A little sad that each new school year marked a milestone in the children's life, a mark of how quickly they were growing up. But also with a little sigh of relief that we had survived the summer holidays and life would return to normal! And also a little anxiety, something I'm sure many parents share as we wave our little ones off on that first day. Will they settle? Will they like their new teacher, or school? Will they be happy? So please remember to hold the children and their families in your prayers, and to give thanks for our school and all the staff who work so hard to make school a good place to be.
One Saturday morning after our Parish Prayer Service at Holy Trinity, one of our number quite rightly observed that our prayers tend to be more focused on our needs, what we ask of and from God, for the needs of our community, the world and those who we hold before the Lord for comfort and healing, rather than giving Him thanks for all those blessings He pours out on us. This was a good reminder to all of us, and much appreciated by myself. It is all too easy to seek guidance and help and not to give thanks in our prayers. Thank you for that reminder.
Falling into unhelpful or even 'bad' habits in our personal faith journeys is something which the main speaker at New Wine spoke to us about over the six mornings during the worship; he encouraged us to think about our Spiritual Disciplines, about what is helpful and what is not. And you may recall that last month I wrote about the need to find 'time-out' with God to recharge our Spiritual Batteries - all these things together lead me to ponder that God is prompting me to reflect deeper on these things! But not just for myself, I feel this is something we could do as a church family. So I will reflect on this some more and write about it next month. In the mean time I have ordered the DVDs of John Mark Comer's talks from New Wine and will look to organise some Homegroups so we can watch them together and discuss these things further. Personally I find these promptings helpful and encouraging, I hope and pray you do too. I look forward to exploring them together, and as we sit and chat, to also encouraging one another as we journey with Jesus.
So thank you Lord for this prompting and encouragement. Thank you for the food we eat and the community you have called me to live and serve in. And as I write these things, thank you for the prayer given to us by St Richard, who so beautifully expresses these things better than I.
Prayer of St Richard of Chichester.
Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.