Harvest is from the Anglo-Saxon word hærfest, “Autumn”. It then came to refer to the season for reaping and gathering grain and other grown products. The full moon nearest the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon. So in ancient traditions Harvest Festivals were traditionally held on or near the Sunday of the Harvest Moon. This moon is the full moon which falls in the month of September. An early Harvest Festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the Harvest season on 1 August and was called Lammas, meaning ‘loaf Mass’. Farmers made loaves of bread from the fresh wheat crop. These were given to the local church as the Communion bread during a special service thanking God for the harvest. Nowadays the festival is held at the end of harvest, which varies in different parts of Britain. Sometimes neighbouring churches will set the Harvest Festival on different Sundays so that people can attend each other’s thanksgivings. Farmers celebrated the end of the harvest with a big meal called a harvest supper. The modern British tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall. Victorian hymns such as “We plough the fields and scatter”, “Come ye thankful people, come” and “All things bright and beautiful” but also Dutch and German harvest hymns in translation helped popularise his idea of harvest festival and spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the Harvest Festival service.
Prayers for Harvest Thanksgiving
Creator God, forgive our moments of ingratitude, the spiritual blindness that prevents us from appreciating the wonder that is this world, the endless cycle of nature, of life and death and rebirth. Forgive us for taking without giving reaping without sowing. Open our eyes to see our lips to praise our hands to share May our feet tread lightly on the path we tread and our footsteps be worthy of following for they lead to you.
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We bless you, God of Seed and Harvest And we bless each other That the beauty of this world And the love that created it Might be expressed though our lives And be a blessing to others Now and always Amen
Video below – click to view
Taken from Tansley ( Near Matlock, Derbyshire) Methodist Church, with permission