Harvest Festival Liturgy
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HARVEST FESTIVAL ORDER OF SERVICE
Creator God, breathing your own life into our being, you give us the gift of life. You placed us on this earth with its flowers and fruits, minerals and waters, living creatures of grace and beauty. At harvest time the earth reaches the peak of its fruitfulness. It depends on us to praise you by harvesting its goods in ways which ensure there will be harvests in the future.
You gave us the care of the earth.
Today you ask us: “Where are you? What have you done?”
You crown the year with your goodness,
and your paths overflow with plenty.
May the pastures of the wilderness flow with goodness,
and the hills be girded with joy.
May the meadows be clothed with flocks of sheep;
and the valleys stand so thick with corn
That they shall laugh and sing.
Prayer for Forgiveness
When we are unkind to people,
and forget they are God’s children’
When we are careless with the beasts
and forget they are God’s creation;
When we ill treat the land, –
and forget it is the splendour of God’
Forgive us, O God of love, and reconcile us to yourself,
to one another and to the Creation.
Teach us, that the earth and all its fullness is yours,
the world and those who dwell in it.
Remind us that your Son too
enjoyed the fruits of harvest in Galilee
And joins us now as we celebrate your good gifts together.
Call us yet again to safeguard the gift of life,
now and forever.
OLD TESTAMENT READING
Joel 2:21-28 or Isaiah 35:1-10.
NEW TESTAMENT READING
Luke 12:13-21 or Matthew 13:1-9.
HYMN (during which a presentation of harvest gifts,
or symbols of the earth’s harvest, can take place.)
Prayers and Responses
For rain and sun and insects to pollinate crops; for farmers who work with nature and preserve the beauty and diversity of God’s creation; and for wild creatures which enjoy the harvest of berries, nuts, grains and seeds.
ALL: We give thanks, O God.
For the soil, rich and precious, home to countless living creatures which maintain fertility and give us food and life.
ALL: We give thanks, O God.
For growing awareness that we all depend on the earth for our daily food and fuel; and for the increasing numbers of people who want to eat local food and have closer links with food producers.
ALL: We give thanks, O God.
For wisdom to live in ways that will slow down climate change and keep the rains falling in their due season.
ALL: O Lord hear our prayer.
For caution in manipulating the building blocks of life in transferring genes between species.
ALL: O Lord hear our prayer.
For grace to recognise we are part of God’s creation with responsibilities to care for God’s earth and our fellow creatures, including farm animals both during their lives and in their deaths at abattoirs.
ALL: O Lord hear our prayer.
Bring peace to the killing fields of war, turn scorched earth to green, so that people can sow their seeds and harvest their crops and live in harmony with their neighbours.
ALL: Lord send forth your Spirit.
Bring justice to those crushed by debt, forced to grow cash crops for us to consume, tempted to waste fertile land growing drugs and tobacco and denied access to land for growing their own food.
ALL: Lord, send forth your Spirit.
Send us out into the world, in service to God’s creatures, as disciples of Jesus who blessed bread and wine at the Last Supper – bread which earth has given and human hands have made and wine, fruit of the vine and work of human hands.
ALL: Lord, send forth your Spirit.
HYMN or CHOIR item.
Finally, we offer grateful thanks to our God for the fruits of the earth, the down-coming of the rains, the ripening warmth of the sun and the seeds and fruits of every year.
May we always walk gently upon this earth, in right relationship,
• nurtured by your Love
• taking only what we need
• giving back to the earth in gratitude
• sharing what we have
• honouring all with reverence
• reconciling and healing
• mindful of those who will come after
• recognising our proper place as part of your creation.
Grant us the strength and courage, we pray,
for such radical transformation into your Kingdom.
Then we, too, with the very stones will shout, “HOSANNA”!
May the Father,
who fed his children with bread and honey in the wilderness,
stengthen you in your pilgrimage to the Promised Land. Amen.
May the Son,
who gave his flesh for food and his blood for drink,
keep you in eternal life and raise you up on the last day. Amen.
May the Holy Spirit,
who leads us into all truth,
help you discern the Lord’s body
and empower you to proclaim his death until he comes. Amen.
And the blessing ….
The ‘Thanksgiving’ is from ‘Prayer for Global Restoration’ by Michelle Balek of Pax Christi USA.
The ‘Blessing’ is by Michael Perham in Patterns of Worship , Church House Publishing. (10T29)
Notes and Additional Material and Resources.
Harvest is a time to reflect on and respond to our creative role within God’s creation and our responsibilities, under God, for all God’s creatures. Harvest Festival is still one of the best loved church festivals, although the days when whole village communities worked together to bring in the harvest disappeared with the coming of the combine harvester.
How our food is produced is a hot, topical issue. Even people who have never grown a radish are worrying about pesticide residue on carrots, growth hormones in milk and genetically engineered soya. Many feel that current farming practices are providing cheap harvests today by putting at risk the mechanism God has set in place to ensure there will be harvests ‘tomorrow’. Many farmers are on the margins of economic survival.
Christian Ecology Link’s Harvest Festival Order of Service retains the traditional idea of thanksgiving for a successful harvest safely gathered in, while including current issues of how we are producing our food. You are welcome to photocopy and use the Order of Service or to select part of the Service, or this additional material, for inclusion in your own services of worship and church magazines.
At harvest we thank and praise God for all his gifts of food and weather, especially his plants which mature in autumn and nourish us all year. Harvest is also an opportunity to give thanks and to praise God for all creatures which move in the waters, fly in the sky and live on the land. Harvest reminds us that all earth creatures are a community created to praise and glorify God. Nature matures in autumn even without human help. Wild creatures enjoy the fruits of the season. With human co-operation, however, nature glorifies God through cultivated fields, including grain and grapes which make bread and wine. Human hands and voices represent the whole earth community, in Christ, to God. The transformation of the earth at harvest is a sign, the beginning, of the final transformation of all material creation in the resurrection when God does not make a new thing, but makes ‘ all things new’ .
(Edward P. Echlin, author of Earth Spirituality, Jesus at the Centre, Arthur James, 1999)
While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’ (Gen. 8:22).
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realise that we cannot eat money.
(North American Cree Indian.)
The following collect and affirmation of faith both come from Christian Aid Harvest Anthologies.
God our creator,
you have made us one with this earth,
to tend it and to bring forth fruit;
may we so respect and cherish
all that has life from you,
that we may share in the labour
of all creation
to give birth to your hidden glory,
through Jesus Christ,
(Janet Morley, All Desires Known , 1988,
WIT and MOW.)
Affirmation of Faith
We believe that Creation is a gift of God,
an expression of our Creator’s goodness.
We believe that as human beings we are part of this creation
and that we share in a special way in the creative power of God.
We believe that the resources of our land and waters and air
are precious gifts from our Creator,
to be used and looked after with loving care.
We believe that there is a rhythmn to God’s creation, like a drum beat;
When we lose the beat, or the drum is damaged, the music is out of tune.
(Pacific Women’s ‘Consultations on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation’.)
from Prayers and Poems, Songs and Stories, WCC 1988.
An Alternative Presentation
All too often Harvest Festival becomes an occasion for waste if fruit and vegetable gifts cannot be given away quickly. An alternative is to hold up, or present, examples of signs of ‘Caring for God’s World’ with appropriate words spoken.
The children present their gifts
Minister: We bring these gifts of food, and give thanks to God.
All: O Thou who hast blessed us with abundance of food: we offer thanks for our prosperity, for the skill and perseverance of the farmer, and for thy gifts of fertility and growth. We pray thee so to implant thy word in us, that faith may grow to full maturity, and our lives bring forth much fruit in good works.
The gift of flowers is brought forward.
Minister: We bring this gift of flowers, and give thanks to God.
All: O Thou who are the Creator of all beautiful things: we offer thanks for the beauty of flowers in park and garden and hedgerow. Grant us also so to manifest thy glory that the desert places of life may blossom as the rose.
The gift of water is brought forward.
Minister : We bring this gift of water, and give thanks to God.
All: O Thou whose spirit didst brood over the great deep, and divide the waters from the waters: we thank thee for the gift of water, refreshing, vitalizing, cleansing. Grant that we, who are baptized by water and the spirit, may be so cleansed and renewed as to become a spring of water welling up to salvation.
Other examples of signs of ‘Caring for God’s World’ which could be held up or presented during the Service.
Farming: grain and bread; grapes and wine; or seeds for the future.
Materials: an empty aluminium drink can as an example of a natural resource and an opportunity for recycling; or some object which has been reused.
Energy: an energy saving light bulb.
Transport: wheel in a bicyc le.
A Children’s Talk for Harvest
Seven people hold up a letter each which spells the word ‘HARVEST’. What makes a good harvest?
To answer this question the letters are rearranged to spell ‘HAVE’. List all the many things which we have from God for which we are grateful, including food and clean water; farmers to cultivate land; insects to pollinate plants, rain to help them grow and sun to ripen them.
The letters are then rearranged to spell ‘STARVE’ as we remember the people who do not have the things we have and the birds who starve from lack of food when the insects which they normally eat are poisoned.
The letters are then rearranged to spell ‘SHARE’. We share God’s earth with other people and with all other creatures. When we share what we have with those who starve – that is what makes a good harvest.
A ‘Chain’ Story
• Knotgrass used to be a common farmland weed.
• Weedkillers sprayed on cereal fields have made the knotgrass disappear.
• A leaf beetle called Gastrophysa polygoni only ate knotgrass.
• G. polygoni disappeared when the knotgrass was destroyed.
• Partridge chicks used to eat a great many G. polygoni leaf beetles.
• As G. polygoni disappeared the number of partridges went down.
So the destruction of a weed indirectly affected the bird populations on our farmland
Joel 2:21-28. Joel pictures the fullness of harvest with thanksgiving to God for sweet rains. Joel was familiar to the first Christians and quoted by Peter in his Pentecost sermon (Acts. 2:17). Humans are now interfering with the climate and changing rainfall patterns.
Isaiah 35:1-10. Isaiah pictures the flowering of the desert. Fertility is awaited in God’s earth-inclusive kingdom.
Luke 12:13-21. Even though not the point of this parable, and written for a different world and culture, does it say anything to us today about supporting local small scale food growing?
Matthew 13:1-9. Jesus used the imagery of seeds in his parables. Until recently people saved their own seed to sow the following season. How as Christians can we help preserve local seed diversity in a world of large multinational companies?
We suggest that you use at least
some really traditional harvest hymns:-
Come, ye thankful people come
We plough the fields and scatter.
Other suitable hymns:-
Now thank we all our God
Praise the Lord! Ye heavens adore him
Beauty for brokenness
God in his love for us lent us this planet
Now the green blade rises from the
All creatures of our God and King
Sing with joy to the God of all creation
Let us with a gladsome mind.
Songs for Children.
Who put the colours in the rainbow?
Anthem for Choir.
‘Look at the World’, John Rutter,
(Oxford Easy Anthems, Oxford University Press, £2.00.)
The words of Psalm 65 in the Order of Service are from the Church of England’s draft ‘Psalter 1998’.
Creation Harvest Service Book, produced by ICOREC for WWF, £2.00, including p&p. Available from ICOREC, 3 Wynnstay Grove, Fallowfield, Manchester M14 6XG.
Church Services for the farming year for town and country , John Clarke, editor, The Arthur Rank Centre, 1988, £1.00, including p&p. This has traditional rural orders of service for Plough, Rogation, Lammas and Harvest. Available from the Arthur Rank Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire CV8 2LZ.
Christian Aid has produced several harvest anthologies with useful material in recent years. Christian Aid, PO Box 100, London SE1 7RT.
Arrange a Harvest Supper where all the food and drink is either locally grown, organically produced or fairly traded.
Comments on "Harvest Festival Liturgy"
lord we thank you for the harvest of hope and the bringing together the fruit of the loom teaching us were to plough and sow for those who hunger the poor and weak will receive a portion those who turn to you in times of refuge may they known the strength and fruit of your spirit and celebrate the festival of leven bread and the compassion that you bestow for those who share the gifts sown in heaven and the fruit of the vine as they celebrate the work and blessing of human hands that they may know the grace of your salvation Amen
your liturgy is both traditional and contemporary,
I was read eco-theology book by Celia Deane-drummond, and directed to ask liturgy from ICOREC. So, I got this articel. Thanks for the writing. I'm adopt it for our harvest worship in protestant church in a Village in Indonesia that will be held on 28 April 2013. May our farmers and all people here feel blessed.
I'm looking at this one year later - using it here in NZ for our Harvest Festival service in April 2013. Many thanks for your liturgy and ideas - I've taken some of each (all duly acknowledged, of course) most gratefully.
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