We have had three proper celebrations of harvest in school over the last two days, and all three have been moving and full of a joyful contentment that life is good, God is good, the world he made is good. The theme has been the refrain from We plough the fields and scatter –
“All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above – so thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love”
Years 1 and 2 started it all off yesterday with a beautiful child-led time of worship. All 104 children took part in either a bible reading, choral speaking of poetry or short prayers, and for the first time at Christ the Sower, I felt “led in worship” by the children. To see the children welcoming their parents with a country dance and “Oats and Beans” gave it a feel of a 19th century Harvest Home, but soon the story of creation and extended prayers of thankfulness took over. Parents commented on how good it was to hear the children singing so well, but also how good it was to see harvest celebrated and the children expressing thankfulness.
This morning, Years 3 to 6 had an extended Harvest Celebration attended by a huge number of parents – truly standing room only! Children brought art work, poetry, prayers and songs, and it was followed by a shorter (but also fantastically attended) Harvest Worship from the Foundation Classes. They had some super songs and a great (and hilarious) presentation of the story of Little Red Hen.
The whole event has left me with a stronger commitment to celebrate events properly, to allow both the action and the heart of annual celebrations to seep into our hearts and to use the residue to provide us with rituals, rouotines and memories that we will be able to reflect on. We can use them to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, in one way, when we keep looking to God’s provision and thanking him for it.
As last year, I had made an effort to produce a display that gave everyone a sense of a big event. This is one of the only times we get to express thankfulness for creation to our creator, and children need to learn to develop those feelings of wonder and deep gratitude for the world around them. As it is a “human” festival that reaches all people, far more than traditional Christian festivals such as Christmas or Easter, it has to be celebrated with an eye to all. All are created, all must give thanks for their createdness and for creation. All must be taught to take care of it, to steward it under God for his glory and the benefit of future generations who will live on it.
Rowan Williams has been speaking recently in the Vatican on the need for the modern world (including children) to embrace contemplation as a means of centering their lives in the “post-Christian” world (was it ever actually Christian?). But harvest is a good place to start, stopping to think on God’s glory revealed through what he has made.