There’s an old junior school assembly hymn called ‘Thank you Lord for this new day’. It’s a tuneful little ditty which rises higher and higher after each verse. And as you may expect, it says, ‘thank you’ – for the clothes that we wear, the food that we eat and of course, for each new day.
It’s always good to give thanks for things. Whether it’s to the people that we meet each day as we work or shop, our friends and family for a delicious meal or a fabulous birthday present – or to God, who we thank through our prayers and hymns.
Autumn always seems to be a particularly good time to say thank you. Possibly because of all the fruit and vegetables coming into season or the leaves on the trees changing colour, perhaps reminding us that we’ve been enjoying their greenery without realising it.
Maybe that’s what the Rev’d Robert Hawker was thinking about on the 13th of September 1843. He was the Vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall, and he revived a medieval custom by posting a notice announcing a special Sunday of thanksgiving. He wrote: ‘Let us gather together in the chancel of our church, and there receive, in the bread of the new corn, that blessed sacrament which was ordained to strengthen and refresh our souls.’
So were sown the seeds of the modern Harvest Festival tradition. Harvest Thanksgiving was formally adopted by the Church of England in 1862 and remains strong today in both rural and urban communities, even in a society increasingly distanced from the work of the land.
Harvest Thanks-giving. As we celebrate harvest time at St Giles’, we’ll of course be saying thank you for all the good gifts around us. But what better way to properly give thanks than by giving gifts to others – through giving up our time, donating our skills or by offering food and clothes to those less fortunate than ourselves.
We wish you a very happy autumn and harvest-tide.
St Giles’ Harvest Festival took place on Sunday 1st October – thank you so much for all the gifts you donated.