Celebrating Harvest with a Parish Harvest Experience, linking School and Parish.

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St Andrews, Feniton and St Mary the Virgin, Payhembury, two rural parishes in East Devon decided, under the leadership of their Parish Priest the Reverend Cate Edmonds, to celebrate this great annual festival in a different way this year. The parishes wanted to engage their local church schools fully in their celebrations. There would be the traditional school Harvest Festivals, to which all members of the community were to be invited, but more a more inventive approach was undertaken.

Each parish had several interactive, thought provoking displays celebrating Harvest, which all members of the community were encouraged to participate in regardless of age. The displays challenged thought about traditional and modern farming and food processing methods, air miles for food and the unfair distribution of food throughout the world and of course the celebration of the diversity of God’s creation and our duty to care for it. The parishes help coffee mornings and a soup lunch to attract more than the church regulars into the churches for not only physical but some spiritual refreshment and celebration.

Each parish invited the local schools into a special Prayer Spaces Harvest Celebration Day, to give the children an in depth, interactive participation in the season. Members of the church family helped them in their activities as they planted seeds, found messages from God in amongst rubbish, suggested ways of helping those in need, thanked God in different ways (which included sucking a sweet), paused for thought about the wonder of creation and explored some Biblical harvest stories as well as completing, harvest puzzles, quizzes, games and enjoying in the inevitable drink and biscuit. The response from the children was terrifically positive, one group exclaiming to an incoming group, “cor it was great, you’re really going to enjoy it!” ; “ It made me think what Harvest really means” Lydia Yr5; “ Most impressive display, like an Aladdin’s cave of activities” Paul, member of the community.

The traditional Harvest Festival in the churches was not forgotten, in one church the celebration was in Café Style with a mixture of traditional and modern songs and reading, some made by the children in the other an All Ages service had contribution from children and a choir from school to sing their harvest song, both of these events concluded with a bring and share lunch exhibiting the best of food from our area. Again everyone enjoyed the exhibitions and the decorations in church. Offerings over the weekend were taken and will be sent to Water Aid and food collected is given to the needy in the parishes, the local food bank and centre for the homeless. .

The response from all who took part was good and many people commented on how it had made them think more fully about Harvest and appreciate what we have in this part of the world and enjoy a sense of real community. A very worthwhile and enjoyable experience. Reverend Cate Edmonds

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