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Letter for October/November 2012

posted 5 Dec 2012, 13:41 by St. Thomas' Church Aboyne

Dear Friends,

A Harvest Message

“All things come from you, and of your own do we give you” 
(Scottish Liturgy 1982)

For many years, I have enjoyed the River Cottage series of television programmes created by the chef and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, as he has moved from a busy life in London to the ‘downsized’ lifestyle of a Dorset smallholder.  His programmes are interesting and entertaining, but he is also a man with a message, as these words reveal:

“[In general, there is] a strong awareness that our current food production system leaves a great deal to be desired. Most of the meat we eat comes from industrially farmed animals who lead miserable lives and are fed on inappropriate diets. It is neither as tasty nor as healthy as it should be. Many of the fruits and vegetables we consume are the product of intensive agriculture that pollutes the land we live on and leaves unnecessary residues in and on the produce. I don’t like that, and I know more and more people who feel the same way... I want to encourage you to challenge the most basic assumptions about where your food comes from... Whether we [try to be] conscientious consumers... or whether we simply wheel a trolley up and down the aisles of the nearest supermarket giant... we are all by and large dependent on third-party producers to grow and raise our food, and third-party retailers to sell it to us. It is the biggest of these retailers... who make the biggest profit out of our food, and who exercise the most power. By and large, they tell us what to eat, and they tell our farmers how they should be producing it. Is there anything we can do to change that? ...Amazingly, the answer is yes.”

Fearnley-Whittingstall goes on to suggest that there is a spectrum in relation to food and produce, from total dependence on the industrial food retailers (’the far right’) to total self-sufficiency (‘the far left’), and that we all have the choice to move ourselves along this spectrum, in either direction.  Again, he writes:

“My contention is that any thoughtfully exercised move from right to left, however small, is a move in the right direction. It will bring benefits to the individual, in body and soul, benefits to the community, in spirit and commerce, and benefits to the land and those who farm it, in amore direct and profitable relationship with the end consumer”

(From The River Cottage Cookbook London: HarperCollins, 2001, pp.10-11).

And he recommends certain moves that, with a little thought, are not beyond the ability of any of us, but that will encourage us to be less dependent on industrially produced food, such as:

  • supporting local small-scale producers of quality meat, fruit and vegetables;
  • supporting farmers’ markets and other local food initiatives;
  • dealing directly with farmers and growers; and
  • producing some of our own food.
This struck me as a suitable message for Harvest: of thanking God for all his goodness to us by treating his gifts responsibly and ensuring that we deal justly and fairly with those who produce them, as well as accepting that all who are part of God’s creation have important roles to play and must be treated well. This is to put into practice the conviction that as Christians we repeat week by week, that all things come from [God], and of your own do we give you,” as we acknowledge our ultimate dependence on our loving Creator.

But I also believe that there is a further element that we might include in our Harvest thanksgiving, and that is to thank God for all that we are – for the rich and varied people, with differing skills, abilities, interests and talents, that God has given to us, and to learn to use these in the service of our community, for Christ’s sake. To do this, we will need to take the time to look honestly at ourselves and try not to bemoan the things that we don’t have, but to appreciate and thank god for the things that we do – and then to consciously offer these for use in our shared life together, for our mutual enhancement and growth in love and togetherness. This is, surely, a good thing for all of us to do – even if only once a year!

Our Harvest celebrations give us the opportunity to celebrate our ‘creatureliness’ – our indebtedness to our God, who out of sheer love made us in his image and likeness – and to give God thanks for this. So let us celebrate Harvest – in all its fullness!

‘Lord, your harvest is the harvest of love;
love sown in the hearts of all people;
love that spreads out like the branches of a great tree
covering all who seek to shelter;
love that inspires and recreates;
love that is planted in the weak and the weary,
the sick and the dying.
The harvest of your love is the life that reaches through
the weeds of sin and death to the sunlight of resurrection.
Lord, nurture our days with your love,
nurture our souls with the dew of forgiveness,
that the harvest of our lives might be your joy.’
(Frank Topping)

James Curry, Rector