When I was a kid, my mum would cover shoeboxes in paper, then stuff them with tissue poaper and an assortment of tins and fresh veg from the allotment. There were always three boxes - for myself, my sister and brother - and woe betide if one of us appeared to have more in their box than anyone else. I remember discussions about whether a bunch of carrots was worth two small tins of sardines, or if a tin of tomatoes was really equivalent to one filled with exotic fruit cocktail.
After the Harvest services, all the produce would be taken to local folk in need, whether it was homebaked cake, jam, potatoes still with the dirt on them from someone's back garden, tinned goods... I always felt sorry for the person who ended up with the ginormous marrow (there always was one, and I've no idea from where it came), as I think I envisaged the poor recipient eating it for a week afterwards. Curried marrow, marrow soup, fried marrow, fricaseed marrow...
|'Traditional' Harvest in the porch|
|'Modern' vs 'Traditional' above the altar|
|Gorgeous autumn colours|
As the years have gone by, our connection with the land and the 'true' Harvest has changed. Many people don't grow their own food, even though there is an upsurge of interest in allotments at the current time. We rely on other people to do the growing for us; we just do the purchasing bit. The gifts offered at church gradually became more tinned than fresh, and home-baked goods gradually disappeared.
Most recently, our church has focused on deliberately collecting dried goods at Harvest which are donated to local charities who offer food parcels to those in need. This year, it's Joseph's Storehouse who will benefit. We also choose not to decorate church with big floral arrangements - instead, we make anywhere up to forty-odd posies, which are taken out to people we know who've had a rough time, as a mark of the church's love for them. I received one myself last year, after my son had a ruptured appendix just before our Flower Festival.
This year was no exception; a team of volunteers made 28 posies.
But there was an additional twist to Harvest this year as we thanked God for his goodness to us.
Look at the next few pictures... there's something in our decorations that puzzled a few of our congregation - at least until the service started.
Did you spot it before you got to third one? I doubt there are many churches that include loo roll in the arrangements...
The reason was that the theme of both morning services was Toilet Twinning.
'Toilet Twinning is raising funds to enable people living in poor communities to have clean water, a decent toilet, and to learn about hygiene – a vital combination that prevents the spread of disease, reduces the number of deaths among children, and brings hope for the future.
As someone who is fortunate to have not one, but two, toilets at home, (and who is currently in the process of refurbishing a bathroom) it made me realise how much I take my loos for granted. What must it be like, to have to brave wild animals and snakes - possibly of the human variety sometimes - if I wanted to go the loo in the dark? How much diarrhoea would my family suffer if we had no access to water to wash our hands? Would either of my children have survived their first five years without? So I'm going to twin both my loos. After all, what's sixty quid when I'm paying out thousands to have a shower room fitted?
And for those who wondered what on earth toilets really had to do with Harvest? You know all that food we eat? Guess what makes it grow? The stuff you flush down your loo.
So maybe out toilets DO have a place in a Harvest celebration after all.