The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in churches across Suffolk looking for creative ways to keep communities and congregations engaged and supported during Harvest Festival.
The Big Thank You Harvest became Car-vest
This service was led by Bishop Mike and Dean Joe preaching from a combine harvester. The event was organised by Suffolk Young Farmers and the Lightwave Community and took place at Trinity Park on Sunday 4 October.
People sang along to a harvest band from over a hundred cars and they beeped their horns to thank God for the harvest.
A tractor brought harvest produce to be presented at a straw bale altar. The hundreds of pounds of food donations were given to FIND - Families in Need the Ipswich Food Bank.
As well as thanking God, the event focussed on a Big thank you to Suffolk farmers in a difficult year and celebrated their terrific work.
Rain didn’t dampen spirits in Belstead either
The heavens may have opened but the sense of community at a drive-in harvest festival was not washed away. Around 80 people attended the drive-in service, organised by the North Samford Benefice, at Street Farm in Belstead on Sunday.
The Revd Annette Shannon, rector of the North Samford Benefice, said: “I had watched the weather forecast moving from 20% rain to 89% rain through the week as the day of the drive-in harvest arrived. But I accepted it as it was, and we created an unforgettable memory.”
The event was held outside due to problems with hosting the service inside a church because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Canon Dave Gardner, the Diocesan Director of Mission, was a guest speaker and activity packs for children were created with crafts such as making a cow mask and a model sheep.
Revd Shannon added: “We generated a congregational, spiritual resilience in each other on Sunday, cultivating gratitude and counting our blessings. We were thankful for what we had, the harvest, a beautiful venue, a sufficiently powerful sound system, suitable staging, an enthusiastic musician, a cross generational congregation of more than 80, our faith and an opportunity to witness the potential of a new way of worshipping. And we avoided focusing on what we were missing. There were smiles and giggles as we fought back, determined to salvage the service and the opportunity to gather on mass. We were unbeaten by the restrictions arising from the pandemic and the challenges of the weather, building optimism and positivity as we sat in cards, stood under a gazebo or umbrellas, clutching cups of coffee, foil balloons and damp service sheets.”
Although the service was free, donations were made and split between Families in Need, which provides food parcels to help people through a crisis, as well as the ministry and North Samford Benefice.
Meanwhile North Bosmere Benefice celebrated harvest in a field
In Stonham Aspal, 80 vehicles with around 150 people inside them, drove into a field for their first Drive-in Harvest Service. The church band led the singing beautifully from the back of a lorry. The Revd Philip Payne led the service from a trailer decorated with the elements of creation and harvest. The collection raised over £680 for Farming Community Network; and 98 kilos of goods and £40 cash were delivered to the Stowmarket Food Bank, who were delighted.
St Gregory's Primary School shared a Harvest of Hope
In Sudbury, primary school childen looked at Harvest a little differently this year, if they can't share God's gift of food then they can share something else that he gave us instead - hope. Each class discussed what makes them hopeful and the children produced prayers, pictures, poems and posters around those ideas for our 'Harvest of Hope'. They are going to use them to make cards to send out to friends, family and the local community. Please view this video of the school choir singing with particular gusto!
St Peter and St Paul Lavenham hosted a 'Harvest with Tools'
This service supported the charity TWAM, a Christian charity that collects unwanted usable tools, refurbishes them, sorts them into trade tool kits and sends them to the developing world for livelihood creation. This was the first time Lavenham had made TWAM the focus of our church’s Harvest giving and our local primary school, also enthused with the idea, joined in too making this Harvest ‘one with a difference’; it seems to have really caught people’s imagination, especially recalling Jesus himself starting out in his father Joseph’s trade as τεκτον - variously translated as carpenter or builder. TWAM are also happy to receive donations of money to help cover the costs of servicing and shipping. For more information on TWAM please visit here.
Outdoor Harvest Festival in St Mary’s Church Stoke by Nayland was a success
The typical Harvest Festival service - fruit, vegetables and flowers decorating the window ledges, symbolic sheaves of corn and loaves of bread all representing gratitude for the land’s bounty and, in particular, the grain harvest. So how could this take place in this year of restriction? The answer in Stoke was to take the service outside so everyone could celebrate together safely (though suitably distanced!) A straw-bale altar was constructed beneath the east window and a convenient gravestone made a lectern. Though singing is still not allowed, the familiar hymns were played on a keyboard so that everyone could be singing them in their heads. A wheelbarrow stood in for the font, with donations for Revd Mark’s free Community Pantry which he operates from the Vicarage in Nayland. As well as fruit and vegetables, the more everyday items such as long life milk, kitchen towels, pet food, disposable nappies and cleaning products were donated too, as requested.
Finally, St Mary’s Church in Kersey celebrated harvest with a family service in the parish church. The church was beautifully decorated, and families sat in socially distanced groups to fill the church. Families donated food and goodies which will be delivered to the Ipswich Food Bank.