A letter from the Bishop of Worcester for September: Harvest

The season of harvest festivals is upon us. It’s good to know that it’s still an important fixture in the calendar of our parishes, particularly the rural ones.

Harvest is about taking nothing for granted. Farmers certainly don’t, in my experience, but I think that there is a temptation for many people in our society to take their food for granted in a way that never happened in the past.

There is an increasing disconnectedness between most people and the food they eat. Our generation is more removed from the land than any previous one with a much greater proportion of us living in an urban setting rather than rural and many people never seeing anything of farms and farming. Urban myths about children thinking that milk comes from bottles abound.

There is also a continuing globalisation of food production, as with much else. When we eat, we’re involved in a vast, complex, interweaving set of life and death dramas as never before. In these dramas we are only one character among many, but no matter how solitary our eating experience may be, every sniff, chomp and swallow connects us to vast global trade networks and thus to biophysical and social worlds far beyond ourselves.

We owe thanks to God and to very many other people for the food on our plates. We should never take them or it for granted. The contrast with our partner diocese of Morogoro in Tanzania is stark. Crop failure there has led to malnutrition and even starvation. The picture remains bleak – and that is true of vast swathes of Africa. Maybe the plight of millions elsewhere will give us more incentive to give thanks and to share what we have more generously. Harvest Festivals are one way of encouraging that.

Rt Revd Dr John Inge
The Bishop of Worcester

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