Sunday, September 24, 2006


In Jamaica Harvest is celebrated in February. As you arrive at church there are maize stalks and yams and more familiar produce ready to be blessed. We were on the hills up above Kingston where the land falls away precipitously towards the city. Away from the city smog, just a few miles inland, life is lived at a much more tranquil pace and the air is cooler. The villagers gather with what they themselves have grown, ready to share it, ready to celebrate another year.

It seems a very different world to the way we celebrate Harvest in Dudley. But then our ancestors would have known much more readily how to grow and harvest. And even those who grew up in the Black Country, may well have gone hop picking in the season out towards Tenbury. So you don’t have to live in the countryside to recognise the harvest. The truth is aspects of rural life and harvest are all around us. And on allotments, old and young together have been involved in planting, tending, feeding and yes, harvesting.

Much of this country is given over to agricultural land. But increasingly farming is becoming an automated and factory driven process. Tomatoes ripening just south of here in the Vale of Evesham are no longer grown. They are manufactured as precise quantities of nutrients and water are fed into the roots every hour, minutely controlled so that plants can grow healthily. It’s a far cry from the techniques used even a generation ago. It’s a far cry too from the street sellers that I knew in Kenya who would grow a few tomatoes and onions that they themselves had tended without all those benefits of micro-engineering. They would grow them and then sit waiting at the roadside for a customer to come along.

I remember too George in Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum. There was no land. The whole slum was occupied with houses. But George wanted to start his business so he was selling tomatoes and with just a small loan he was able to start selling two or three crates a day. Buying at wholesale prices in city markets he had to walk carrying a crate of tomatoes in a wheel barrow so that he’d be ready to sell to families in the street. No competition there from the supermarkets. The only way to get into the slum was on foot and so the best means of transport was the wheelbarrow. It’s good for us to remember that God’s harvest is at its own time. It doesn’t have to be in October. But the whole year through is God’s time for calling, for uplifting, for challenging, for reaping.


Fr Andrew



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