Growing in God – Reaping a Harvest
Harvest Festival, for those who keep a strict observance of the Church Calendar, must only ever be just as children returned to school in September and before autumn settles in. Of course those who work the fields, both in generations past and today, know that this is a fiction in the mind of the Sunday School Superintendent, harvest is an all-year round event. At the end of summer we may find ourselves ‘bringing in the sheaves’ but there is more to farming than wheat. As winter deepens harvest turns to late berries in the hedgerows and nuts on bushes, root vegetables are dug and spring crops sown in the darkest moments of the year and, as spring and early summer arrive soft fruit is here in time for tennis and new potatoes for salad lunches.
Away from farm life the harvest of the seas and the fruits of labour in factories has been a year round endeavour. And, if the truth be told, even the most die-hard of those who believe in a traditional harvest have to own up that hens lay eggs every day of the year and not simply in time for a crêpe paper covered box of goodies (with the inevitable marrow!) to be added to the decorations in the church.
Harvest is an everyday not a once-a-year gift and Christians, farmers in the vineyard of God, are called to bear fruit and provide a year round harvest. Something brought home when Jesus, in his hunger, cursed the barren fig tree outside Jerusalem event though it was ‘not the season for figs’ (Mark 11v13-14). However producing a perpetual harvest is more easily said than done!
Our parish, with other churches in the Diocese is on our second cycle of Growing in God – the Diocesan programme for a year round harvest. The four themes should be familiar to us by now, aiming to grow deeper in our faith, increase our influence on society, increase the number of people attending our churches, and bringing the good news to younger people who are sadly missing from our pews.
Growing in influence,
Growing in number,
Repeat them often enough and they can become an easily ignored mantra. Listen to them deeply and they may become our heartbeat.
It may seem a large challenge to turn the whole of our parish into a harvest for God and to do this every day regardless of season.
However in the last three years or so we have grown deeper with extra services and home groups.
We have grown in influence as we use our churches to host not only concerts and coffee mornings but also the BASIC Life pop-up shop and Pushchair Pitstop.
We are beginning to grow in number through more baptism services and weddings and insisting that our parish is Open to God, Open to All.
And we are growing younger with our now annual holiday club (have you signed up to help out at Landlubbers yet?) and Messy Sunday and Simply Church.
Where do we go from here? The PCC has made some plans for more events and activities but not all of us have the time, the energy, or the skills to commit ourselves further. Many are already busy, many do good work unseen and unspoken about from the pulpit or the pewsheet, many are simply quiet people who find putting themselves forward challenging and unfamiliar.
How are we then, to become a parish wherein every single member is involved in Growing in God and help to reap the harvest of the Kingdom?
At Diocesan Synod earlier this year Bishop Martin spoke about these four areas of the harvest of the church and said these wise words;
“We cannot determine the fruit of growing in number or growing younger. We cannot compel people to have a faith – though we can do many simple things to make that growth possible – planting and watering – clearing the weeds and brambles – sowing seeds – not being fatalistic and believing in God’s providence. But we can determine what we do in seeking to grow in depth, attending to deepening our own faith and Christian practice, and engaging in actions that helps us to grow in inﬂuence.” (Bishop Martin – Diocesan Synod – 24 February 2018)
We can’t all do everything but we can all ‘attend to deepening our own faith and Christian practice and engage in actions that help us grow in influence’. This is normal Christian discipleship and should be as natural to us as breathing.
How can each of us deepen our own faith? How about attending a home group, worshipping in church midweek, spending more time reading the Scriptures?
How will each of us be more of an influence those around us? We could try forgiving more readily, not always insisting on the last word, letting other people go first?
We do this not because we want to blow our own trumpets and, Jack Horner like, are desperate to proclaim ‘What a good Christian am I?’ We do this because we, ourselves part of the harvest of God and desire to share this joy, this free gift with others. And as we do we will find our congregations growing in number and growing younger.
So, as we enter a month when we will stop and say ‘thank you’ for the fruit of God’s good earth may each of us learn to commit ourselves to becoming part of that harvest ourselves.
This blog appeared as an article in the October 2018 edition of the Magazine of the Parish of Felixstowe, St John the Baptis with St Edmund, King & Martyr.
© Andrew Dotchin – September 2018