Stanwick Group of Churches

October 2018 letter

This month’s ‘Rectory Letter’ comes from Ian Walton, Forcett Churchwarden. It is part of Revd Camilla’s remit to share out more of the work of the Benefice to other people.

Harvest Thanksgiving

It is with some trepidation I am reflecting to a community of farming professionals at a time of Harvest Thanksgiving. This task seemed impossible but then I considered the old advice of teachers to read the question or in this case the title.

Harvest: the gathering of crops, the season of gathering, the yield, the result or consequence of any act, process or event.

For most of the general population, food comes from the supermarket or shop. The British Nutrition Foundation surveyed 27,000 children: 1 in 3 thought cheese came from plants, 1 in 10 thought tomatoes grew underground and nearly 1 in 5 thought that fish fingers were made out of chicken.

I find it sometimes helpful to consider a difficult concept with one I find easier to comprehend.

What does it take?

Most farmers would laugh at the idea of a specified “working week”, or trying to define what were or were not unsociable hours, especially with regard to animals. So although there might be less-busy times, the farm never stops: neither does spiritual growth. There are times when growth be it spiritual or to provide a harvest, appears to be quicker than other times or not at all. The direction can vary, and we don’t know what is around the corner. The growth may be unseen, underground or inside. We can be choked with cares and worries as if with thorns and thistles. We can be troubled by weariness as the soil which is not “fed” and nurtured with fertiliser and nutrient prior to seeding, and we might feel we have lost touch spiritually. Missing a vital ingredient or mistiming for example with rainfall, or the weather, may lead to stunting. So also spiritually we can be stunted, if we are not nurtured with whatever we need as God’s special individuals: no two are alike. As with planning in agriculture, spiritual growth is long term, occurring over a lifetime: starting with planting, nurturing, feeding, bringing to maturity, and finally returning to the soil: out of dust are we made and unto dust we will return. After the harvest, there might be a time to lay farrow; similarly, sometimes taking time out to consider spiritual growth, which might give the biggest yield of all, is lost in the hectic lifestyles we lead.

Thanksgiving is the second word. In all the processes throughout the year there are reasons to be thankful: getting up at 2 o’clock in the morning does not feature so much in my life for which I am thankful, but for example for others there is the stark fact that cows do not calf  “9 to 5 by appointment”. The world at large often seems to think of the things that have come to fruition in the short term; in the case of the harvest, we can be thankful for every part of the process as it happens, the end of year result, and the long term planning for many years to come. So also we can be thankful for our own spiritual growth: very personal, very private and very precious in our own unique relationship with God.

It is easy to take things for granted but this is a time to specifically give a thought and thanks for not only those “good gifts around us” but also to those who those who directly have a hand in the harvest, to those who support them, and remembering to render the thanks unto God that are due to God as  well. 

“Bless these gifts to our use, and ourselves to thy service, and give us thankful hearts for Christ’s sake”. (My favourite mealtime Grace first heard in Scotland.)

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” 1 Corinthians: Chap 3, v 6

Ian Walton


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