Most Harvest events take place in a church not a farm; and, everyone sings, 'We plough the fields and
scatter the good seed,' but not many of us do these days! So, Bearwood Methodist Church in rural
Herefordshire, decided to hold their Harvest Gathering in a barn belonging to the family of church
members. All the local farms and neighbours were sent invitations saying, 'come as you are; and stay as long as you want.' Straw bales were moved and on a damp Sunday afternoon people arrived. With a BBQ providing a steady supply of (locally sourced) bacon baps and lots of home-baked cakes on offer, it didn't take long before the conversation was flowing as freely as the steaming mugs of tea on offer!
One central straw bale served as the table for local produce, straight from farm and garden – gifts included apples (many varieties), maize, hops, grass seed, wheat grain, apple & pear juice, potatoes and damsons.
Over fifty people joined in the gathering, many of whom were farmers or directly involved in agricultural businesses. An informal 'Thanksgiving' included stories of this year's harvest (the losses and the gains) as well as remembrances of past harvests, highlighting how much agriculture has changed in recent decades and how farming has become increasingly individual, which brings challenges for those working long hours in isolation. Those who weren't involved in farming asked questions and everyone learnt something of the joys and struggles of food production today. The 'Thanksgiving' was drawn together by the minister, Revd. Paul Arnold, who expressed appreciation to all whose labour often goes unnoticed and under-appreciated, but also the concern we have as Christians for the health and wellbeing of farmers at a time of record numbers of mental health issues and incidents of self-harm. The 'Borderlands Rural Chaplaincy' which is sponsored by the Methodist Circuit, District and Diocese of Hereford, provides practical help, advice and confidential support.
Prayers were offered in praise to God for the wonder of creation; the provision of food; and, concern for all who strive to gather a harvest from field and farm. After the final, 'Amen,' the conversation continued and people lingered to chat, eat and laugh together – a truly Barnstorming occasion down on the Farm!
Revd. Paul Arnold