It has been the tradition in most cultures and faiths to give thanks for a harvest safely gathered in to provide food for the community during the lean months of the winter.
In this country, traditions have varied throughout time. Lammas, which means ‘loaf mass’ for example, is celebrated around 1st August, when the first wheat of the year is gathered. The Chellington Benefice, of which Turvey Parish is a part, still has an outdoor Lammas service. The principal celebration, however, usually happens when all the crops are gathered, towards the end of September or early October – originally near to the date of what is called the Harvest Moon – the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox.
However, the custom of decorating the church with flowers and produce is not as old as the tradition itself. It is thought to have begun in 1843, when the Revd Robert Hawker organised a special Thanksgiving Service at his church in Cornwall. At time of writing, it has not been possible to establish the date of the first formal Harvest Thanksgiving in All Saints church but there have been services each year within living memory and beyond.
The photographs that follow show the church decorated for the Festival in Autumn, 2011.
The flowers in the church porch welcome people in
Local produce from village gardens decorates the base of the font – 2011 was obviously a good year for apples!
Harvest is an important time for children to learn about where their food comes from – and about the importance of sustainability and sharing.
From front to back the church is full of flowers for Harvest with pillars, pew ends and even the lectern decorated.
The altar is the focus of the celebration and is decorated with cereal crops as a reminder that Turvey is still a rural community; the black grain in the bag is from maize.
The harvest loaf is particularly important and is baked in the shape of an old-fashioned sheaf of corn – note the harvest mice! The grapes on the altar, and on the shelf behind the altar, are grown in the village – they are a reminder of the wine taken at the Holy Communion service. Together the bread and wine represent the body and blood of Christ.
And finally – is the apple there to sustain the vicar during the service or as a reminder of man’s disobedience to God…?