25 September 2012
Harvest for the city worker
Harvest festivals are a traditional part of the Church calendar, but what significance can the season have for city-dwellers? HOPE, the national mission movement, helps churches make a gear-change so that activities which already feature in the churches’ year take on a fresh mission focus.
Roy Crowne, HOPE’s executive director says: "In many rural churches harvest is a well-celebrated season, but for those in towns and cities we’ve lost some of the emphasis on this as an opportunity to thank God for all the ways he provides for us."
Mark Greene’s contribution to HOPE for harvest, a book of resources and ideas from HOPE, focuses on the world of work. He says: "Since most people don’t make their living by farming… a suburban child does not look at a display of potatoes and make the connection to their father’s job in IT."
Mark’s recipe for a contemporary harvest display includes objects that represent people’s work: a hard hat, a baby’s bottle, a set of keys, a spade, a computer or a syringe. In one church he describes, the whole congregation were invited to bring an object that represented their work to lay it on the altar as a symbolic dedication of their work, their co-workers and their workplaces to God. Children were involved and brought text books or pencils and one unemployed person laid their UB40 form on the altar.
Another practical idea from Mark, which can be used throughout the year, is to include a regular spot in normal Sunday services called: ‘TTT – This Time Tomorrow’. The church leader interviews one of the congregation for two minutes about their daily occupation, about what they will be doing 'TTT – ‘This Time Tomorrow’. The questions can be really simple such as "What do you do?", "What are your challenges/the things you are thankful for?" and "How can we pray for you?"
Mark says TTT is best if the interviewees work in ordinary places, including people whose daily occupation may not be paid, such as a housewife, a retired person involved in a variety of purposeful activities, and those who are unemployed. The result of the TTT spot is that people realise that what they do every day is important to the leader, important to the church, and important to God. As TTT follows TTT month by month, the whole congregation recognises ever more deeply that ordinary Christians doing ordinary things are important to God.
Another practical idea in HOPE for harvest is to mark the occasion when someone gets a new job or is promoted; it is something to be thankful for and perhaps to acknowledge as a whole church. Furthermore, a new job is not just a source of provision it is an opportunity for mission and ministry so, in the same way that a church would pray for a new pastor, it is hugely encouraging to commission someone for their new job or their new role. Pray for those in long-term unemployment too.
These are a few ideas from HOPE for harvest. HOPE encourages churches to do more together in mission, in words and action – using harvest to be thankful, generous and outward-looking to bless our communities.
HOPE for harvest is one of a series of books helping churches to use key moments in the Christian calendar as a focus for mission. It is packed with everything you and your church need to reconnect with the importance of harvest and to focus on the importance of work, generosity and thankfulness. It can be used by individuals, small groups, youth groups, churches and groups of churches to spark workplace and community mission.
See www.hopetogether.org.uk for more harvest resources.