Late September to early October is the time where lots of churches and schools in Britain celebrate the end of harvest and give thanks to God for the food that has been provided. My local church and local school celebrate in October.
At church, for the thanksgiving service a table is set out. People bring produce and it is all set out on the table. After the thanksgiving service, the food is then boxed up and donated to a local cause which helps people who are in need of food. I like this tradition in our churches. Firstly, it gives us time to really stop and count our blessings, and to spend time thanking and glorifying God for His love and care. Secondly, the food donated is then distributed to people in our local communities who need extra help. Sometimes it is just too easy to carry on with life and forget that there are others around us who are not so fortunate. The Harvest Thanksgiving services actually make us stop and take time out to consider others.
A lot of schools do the same thing and have a harvest table at their special harvest assemblies, which quite often parents are invited to and children take an active part in. Our local school for the past few years though has taken a slightly different approach. We still have the harvest assembly, and the harvest table where staff donate the food, so we still have the thanksgiving for the food we have, but the children are involved in a different way. The school chooses a project in a third world country to support. Then the children learn all about that community, the hardships they have with planting and growing food and the hunger that is very real to them. They also learn about the project and how it helps the community in particular ways. A collection is then gathered and the money raised goes to that project to help out that particular community. I think this is a lovely way for children to get involved with helping others.
Of course, being thankful for our daily food is something we should never take for granted, and saying Thank You to God before we eat should be an occurrence at every meal. One of my favourite harvest hymns is We Plough the Fields and Scatter. You can hear the version which is sung and with written lyrics here. Or you can listen to the instrumental version, with written lyrics, and watch a combine harvester at work here. (Or enjoy both!) While the hymn itself is one I only usually sing at harvest time, the chorus is a different matter! When I was a teenager attending a Christian Youth Camp during the summers, more often than not we would all sing together the chorus of this hymn as our Grace. It was a nice way to join together in thanksgiving, but also served to make mealtimes a little less rigid and stuffy for those teenagers not used to prayers being said at every meal time, and to show them how approachable God can be for them.
Have you stopped to say Thank You today?
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalm 100:4 NKJV
~ Wendy Sparkes ~