|Minister's Letter - October 2018|
The churches I went to as a child didn’t celebrate harvest with the amazing displays of flowers, fruit and produce that I’ve learnt of in later years. So, my first memory of harvests were in my early 20s when I’d begun attending a Methodist Church. And then I found the celebrations quite difficult. The issue I had with them was that they tended to focus on our thanksgiving for what God had given to us – us in the British Isles – with only a glance towards the rest of the world.
At the time, I was studying geography, and was becoming interested in world development issues. I found the disparity between our harvest thanksgiving and the food insecurity of millions of God’s people in other parts of the world challenging, and I am now unable to separate the two. More recently, we’ve become increasingly aware of the impact human beings are having on the world’s climate, and how that also affects the most vulnerable people. Not just around the world, but also in this country as rising prices of fruit and vegetables caused by this summer’s heatwave, limit people’s access to what should be the most basic foods in our diet.
Two years ago, I spent part of my sabbatical exploring the spirituality of St Francis of Assisi – on a pilgrimage in Italy, in a retreat house in Derbyshire and reading. St Francis is often thought of as the saint who talked with the animals and birds, but his vision of creation as our brothers and sisters has a more contemporary ring than these quite sentimental pictures of him. So it’s probably not surprising that he’s become the patron saint of an environmental movement that embraces people of all religions and none. Pope John Paul II said he “offers Christians an example of genuine and deep respect for the integrity of creation”. In his encyclical letter ‘Laudato Si’ (which means “Praise be” – my Lord – and comes from St Francis’ most famous prayer), Pope Francis reflects on the cry of the earth. “Sister earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, cries out pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.” (Laudato Si #53)
The planet that God gave us, is intended to provide for all its inhabitants, insects, plants, birds, fish and animals as well as human beings. We’re involved in maintaining the balance of the earth’s ecosystems. And the harvest they produce is for us all. There’s a hymn by Fred Pratt Green that I love. These are some of its words:
God in his love for us lent us this planet…
Thanks be to God for its bounty and beauty…
…long have we wasted what others have needed…
From its pollution, misuse and destruction,
good Lord, deliver us, world without end! (Singing the Faith 727)
The last two verses that I’ve quoted are my prayer for the human race. Deliver us from our own actions, so that all creation might enjoy the abundant harvests celebrated in years gone past, knowing that vulnerable people and environments are sharing in them too.
Enjoy this harvest season!
With good wishes, Sue