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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Gathering the harvest: ideas for a whole-life harvest festival

How our scattered lives work together to feed God’s people.

Summer has well and truly arrived, and the fields are looking browner by the minute. And though it may feel a little unseasonal, if you’re anything like me, that means your inner church leader probably can’t help but look ahead to the autumn – because people in our job are always planning months in advance! 

Sandwiched between the busyness of the summer holidays and the whirlwind of Christmas, it’s easy to skip over harvest festival. But whether it’s a regular fixture in your church’s calendar or something you’ve never marked before, we’d encourage you to take time with your church families to celebrate it this year. 

And it’s an opportunity to recognise the abundant provision of the Lord God, both materially and spiritually, and also the ways in which he’s working through people up and down the country to put food on our plates. An opportunity to highlight the inherent value of human work – and the way God calls us to join his redemptive purposes day by day.

Why celebrate harvest festival?

The Bible is full of images of harvests, planting, and farming. Yet most of us are far from living a life on the land. When harvest comes round many of us – including me – feel underqualified. Though, as a quick aside, note I’m not without green fingers: I try and weave the odd rainbow chard, pot of peas, or colourful nasturtium into my little garden. That said, I’m not reliant on what I grow for my food, and my livelihood isn’t dependent on the weather or the cost of animal feed.

But the Bible isn’t just talking about actual, literal farming. For example, Jesus uses harvest imagery when he sends his disciples into the world to ‘bring in the harvest’ – to sow the seed of the gospel, nurture disciples, and tend to the growing church (Matthew 9:37-38). Likewise, our call is to be disciples who make disciples. The whole of our lives should echo his beautiful, radical love and be focused on the command to bring in a spiritual harvest for the Lord.

So, in our churches, harvest festival can be about both aspects. First, the daily grace we experience as God gives us weather that allows crops to grow, fruits to ripen, and animals to thrive. And second, the God-given skills and calling of people in your church: the part we all play in ‘bringing in the harvest’.

As an aside, whilst not the focus of this article, there are also lots of resources for supporting charities to share God’s harvest provision, from local foodbanks to international aid organisations. Partnering with them is another wonderful way to celebrate the harvest!

Ideas to use in your church

With all that in mind, here are some straightforward ways to use your harvest celebrations to encourage and support whole-life disciples, so they themselves can be fruitful in their everyday lives – just as we celebrate the fruits God has blessed us with.

1. Unpack the food supply chain

Explore how harvest impacts your congregation and encourage them to share their stories, highlighting the value of the work God has given them as they grow, steward resources, and provide for others. In doing so they are joining in God’s creation call to steward the earth and echoing his love and provision for his people. In your church family, who’s involved in the whole process of bringing food to our plates, from seed to fork and field to table? For example:

  • Farmers, growers, and fishers
  • Greengrocers, bakers, and butchers
  • Those who work in supermarkets and corner shops
  • Delivery drivers and shipping company workers
  • Tractor and machinery engineers
  • Bio-scientists and those working on environmentally sustainable crops
  • Those in international food shipments and others who make the whole system more efficient

2. Share your ‘field to fork’ stories 

You may have others in your church who help us enjoy the fruits of harvest, who can share how they join in God’s work by creating wonderful nourishing food for us to enjoy – chefs, cooks, baristas, and restaurant workers, to name just a few examples. They, too, are disciples living out their calling to provide food for others. So, invite them to share what it looks like to ‘bring in the harvest’ in their own particular ways.

You could have a few people share their ‘This time tomorrow’ stories, explaining their daily routines and exploring how can they be salt and light in those places. 

And a week or two before the service, you could invite people to send a photo of themselves on their harvest-related frontline to be shown in the service, or perhaps used as a background to a harvest hymn.

If the concept of God working through our everyday tasks is new to your congregation, check out the 6M framework: six key ways we all bear fruit with him day by day. Why not encourage people to think about how they’re already doing these things – and how they might in future?

3. Pray for your people

Adapt the following prayers to suit your own church context. They are written to help us give thanks for God’s generosity, recognise the people involved in food production, and to ask for God’s guiding hand in our work.

God of creation, thank you for your abundance in the food you have provided for us. We confess we haven’t always shared what we have with others. Please make us generous. Where there isn’t enough to go around, please provide for us. Thank you for all those who you inspire to grow good crops, solve problems, and create new dishes. Thank you for those who work unseen and unpaid, daily, to put food on the tables of our homes, we thank you for their faithfulness.

Lord of the harvest, we thank you for your creativity. 

God of provision, thank you generously provide so much for us. Thank you for those who work hard in distribution –people harvesting food and carefully packing it for transport, those overseeing supply chains and negotiating trade deals, and those driving vehicles that bring it to our villages, towns, and cities. 

Lord of the harvest, we thank you for your provision. 

God of justice, you commanded us to look out for the widow and the orphan, to always make sure they have enough. We pray for those who find themselves without enough food. We pray for those who long to have enough to put on their plates and feed their families. Guide us in how we can work for justice for them. Bless those who make policy decisions with wisdom, so that all can enjoy the fruits of your harvest. (Take our offerings today and use them to bless others).

Lord of the harvest, we thank you for your justice. 

God of hope, we pray for those people and places who do not yet know your love and hope. We pray today that you would send us to be your workers in the harvest field, showing by our lives and words how you long to embrace them in your arms and welcome them at your abundant table. Send more workers into the fields so that we may bring more brothers and sisters home to you. 

Lord of the harvest, we thank you for your hope of salvation.

God of peace, just as seeds germinate quietly under the ground, so you are often at work before we see it. We pray for your unseen work in our world. Let it happen in us and help us to become people who look more and more like you. Mould us as your people so that we bear much fruit. 

Lord of the harvest, we thank you for your peace.

We hope and pray these resources will inspire you. And, in the words of that classic assembly banger ‘Harvest Samba, that we’d use this ‘opportunity to be grateful for the food we eat… and to say thank you to God the Father’ for all the wonderful people who work together to bring us that food.

Rev’d Jo Trickey 
Church Advocate

Jules Gadbsy
Church Engagement Specialist

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