October brings us to our Harvest Celebrations. Our Harvest Supper will take place at the Village Hall on the evening of Friday 4th October, please do come along. Tickets are available from Hazel Offord on 01223 844762 or Liz Neville on 07889 501920 firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Harvest service, for all ages, will take place on Sunday 13th October at 10.30am. All are welcome.
Harvest is always an interesting festival as it varies from church to church across the country. Rather like Grantchester, in my five rural Cotswold parishes, harvest seemed close and real and it was easy to gather together to celebrate and give thanks for our farmers and the produce that we had seen planted and grown during the preceding months in the farmland nearby. In my curacy church in Cheltenham, we were much more removed from the land and so our harvest celebrations had a different feel, often taking us away from our urban setting to the countryside or abroad, being challenged on issues such as Fairtrade or the environment.
But the harvest celebration that will forever stand out for me is the one I attended ten years ago, not in the UK, but on the central Californian coast! The Diocese of Gloucester, of which I was a part, had a three-way link with a diocese in Tanzania and a diocese in California. Representatives from Gloucester and Tanzania, myself included, were invited to California for a week to see the life of the diocese. The diocese of El Camino Real is a fascinating place, encompassing Silicon Valley in the north, the city of San Jose where the cathedral is, a number of seaside towns and large areas of agricultural communities. It is diverse and interesting and the people who live there come from many different parts of the world.
As part of the visit, we were invited to celebrate the grape harvest at a vineyard at the southern end of the Salinas Valley. And what a celebration it was.
We were welcomed into a beautiful area of garden at the owner’s home, looking out over the vineyard and the Santa Lucia Mountains. In blistering midday heat we were invited to sample some of their wines – big, flavoursome reds which, while being delicious, did not quite fit with the glorious sunshine, 100 degree plus temperatures and clear blue skies. So much so in fact, that this clergy person felt a little wobbly but was rescued by kind Californians and a large glass of Gatorade!
After the wines came the largest pan of paella I had ever seen, made by a group of women from local produce. Beautifully cooked and presented, we feasted – on chicken, peppers, local wild boar sausages, lots of salad and spicy homemade salsa and tortilla chips.
We then moved into the vineyard for a bilingual, outdoor communion service and blessing of the grape harvest! Three bishops, Bishop Mary from California, Bishop Michael from Gloucester and Bishop Gerard from Tanzania, led the service. It was a wonderful mix of traditional Anglican liturgy, unaccompanied folk singing, Spanish and English prayers and the sight of huge shire horses pulling trailers full of newly picked grapes into our gathering while the bishops flicked holy water and prayed for the blessing of God on the harvest.
And then, as we queued to receive communion, the men who had been picking the grapes paused from their toil to join us. Hot and sweaty, dusty and tired, these men, mostly Roman Catholic, Mexican immigrants joined us, to receive their own blessing from the Bishops.
It was profoundly moving as I took my place alongside a whole range of people from a whole range of places and backgrounds and faiths, to join round the makeshift, outdoor communion table, to give thanks, to ask for God’s blessing on us and the harvest and to be joined together in our common humanity.
What a celebration – one I will never forget!
Our harvest service at Grantchester might not quite be like what I have described – it almost certainly won’t be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, there will be no shire horses or freshly picked grapes and the sky may not be dazzling blue. Neither will there be three Bishops!
But I do hope there will be a range of people from a range of backgrounds and places. I do hope we will gather in thanksgiving and gratitude for the good things we enjoy. I know that God will be present as we seek his blessing and I rejoice in the fact that we are all welcome around his table, joined together in our common humanity. I hope to see you there.
Rev Rachel Rosborough