What a lovely Harvest Festival we had today. It was an informal, family friendly service with a lot of children taking part, including helping the curate to make beans on toast. The point of this is that lots of different people brought things (somebody just happened to come to church with a toaster, somebody else with a tin of beans, etc) and more people helped, which was a lot of fun. The point is, of course, that we are not meant to isolate ourselves. We are meant to live in community. The rector got the job of opening the beans, and the sight of a left handed rector with a right handed tin opener was quite endearing.
I'm not sure if anyone ate the beans on toast. I was glad the curate didn't because he was wearing his cassock alb, as white as an angel's tablecloth. And we didn't sing the trad Harvest hymns, which didn't bother me, but there are sure to be complaints.
Not long ago, Harvest Festival produce was largely fruit and veg and was taken to the old and infirm. This meant giving apples to old ladies without teeth and cabbage to old men with creaky digestions. By the time the fruit met the frail and infirm it had fallen off the altar steps twice and been juggled with by a choirboy. If you weren't frail and infirm to begin with...
This morning people brought fruit and veg, but mostly I think it was pasta, soup, biscuits, tea, things like that, piled up at the front of the church. They were to go to a food bank. The churches in the UK are doing a great job with food banks, providing food to people who are hard up and also offering friendship, support, a listening ear, guidance to the agencies who can help them. Great things are being done through food banks. But in the 21st century, in the UK, it's a scandal that they have to exist.
I was talking recently to a friend who lives in Sheffield. (That's a big city that thinks it's in the north, but it's as far south as you can go without nudging the Midlands.) I asked her if there was a food bank in Sheffield.
'There are seventeen' she said.