It seems an unusual time of year – between Easter and Pentecost – to be publishing an article about Harvest, but in ancient Israel, harvest time ran from February to September, as follows:
|Feb/ Mar||Spring rains||Almond in bloom / flax harvest|
|Mar/Apr||Barley harvest begins|
|Apr/May||Barley harvest completed|
|May/Jun||Dry season||Wheat harvest begins|
|Jun/Jul||Wheat harvest completed / first figs|
|Jul/Aug||Summer heat||Vintage (grape harvest) begins|
|Aug/Sep||Date harvest / summer figs|
And, although Christians in the Northern Hemisphere celebrate Harvest in late September or early October, and link giving thanks for the annual food harvest, with God’s ongoing Harvest of Souls, we should be thinking of the Lord’s continuing work in the hearts and lives of men and women, boys and girls, all the year around.
This article, written by Andy Dalton at Morley Community Church, relates the church’s last Harvest Festival Service, and is published now:
(i) to remind us that God’s Harvest of Souls is an ongoing work, and
(ii) to prompt us to plan contemporary Harvest Thanksgiving events in 2015 and beyond.
What can we do to make our next harvest festival service interesting to draw visitors and yet effective in presenting the gospel? This is the question considered by Morley Community Church each year.
Church members came up with an original idea and decided to make coal mining the subject of a unique harvest festival.
Morley Community Church is a small EFCC church in the town of Morley, West Yorkshire. The town is still a close knit community. There is little evangelical witness. The last coal mine closed in 1968. The church finds evangelism hard going – apathy, disinterest and a preoccupation with materialism are characteristic of so many residents in the town. However, church members noted that there is always great interest in the town’s history.
This became the key for a novel idea for outreach. They decided to run their harvest festival on Morley’s mining heritage. It proved to be their major evangelistic outreach of the year.
Several months in advance they contacted a number of organizations. First port of call was International Miners Mission who agreed to send a power point presentation on the work of the Mission.
The Morley Local History Society provided information and pictures of Morley coal mines. Church members were amazed to discover that the area once boasted 20 operating pits.
A local Elderly Craft Group were contacted. The volunteer pensioners agreed to knit jumpers, scarves, gloves, woolly hats to be used by the International Miners Mission amongst orphan children from mining families in the Ukraine. Their hard labours eventually saw six boxes of beautiful clothing produced and despatched.
They also embroidered a Morley Mines Tapestry recording the 20 working pits which once employed hundreds of men in Morley. They carefully embroidered this over the summer at their weekly meetings. A local shop framed it for permanent display. It was later erected in the Town Hall
The North of England Mining Museum at nearby Wakefield provided historical artefacts for display on the day. The local newspaper published an article in advance of the harvest festival and also ran a mining photographic quiz. The prize was a box of harvest produce and Christian literature which was delivered to the winners by the church pastor.
Attractive publicity was prepared and distributed – with a particular emphasis on inviting those who had played a part in assisting in preparation for the event.
Everyone was thrilled when a capacity congregation gathered on the Sunday evening for the Harvest Out Of The Ground harvest festival and supper. As they entered the church they were greeted by welcoming stewards dressed up as colliers. Guests saw a display of coal surrounded by mining memorabilia which contrasted with the traditional harvest display of fruit and vegetables. The knitted items and Morley Mines Tapestry were also put on display.
Church organisers were left in the embarrassing position of running of out of chairs to seat the number of people attending. The church was packed to capacity with 46 adult visitors plus another 20 teenagers and children. Church members were outnumbered by 4 to 1!
Retired miner Geoff Robinson told his story about working down the pit at Wheldale and Allerton Bywater mines near Castleford and how he found Christ to be a living Saviour. An evangelistic harvest message concluded the service.
A delicious miners supper of Cornish pasties, mushy peas and chips concluded the service. It was served by young people from the church.
Church Secretary Andy Dalton said the service and supper had proved to be a great occasion, had evoked many memories and provoked tremendous interest. He said “This harvest festival was certainly very different and thoroughly enjoyable. It proved to be an effective key for evangelism amongst a community which is traditionally hardened to conventional methods of outreach”.
He said he was sure that the idea could be adapted and used by other churches. He went on to thank the IMM for all their support. The church were able to forward a harvest collection of £100 to the work of the IMM.