Celebrating harvest is catching the imagination of Black Majority churches. Yemi Adedeji, Associate Director of HOPE, remembers celebrating harvest festivals ‘back home’...
It was one of the most exciting moments. Our parents dressed us up more elaborately than Christmas day. The harvest bazaar was a joyful, social occasion of feasting and fellowship.
It sticks in my mind the amount and level of preparation there was for the Harvest bazaar. All the societies, the youth church, the Mothers’ Union - they all got involved. It was like a carnival and it was all about fellowship, a shared experience and always joyful. But it was quite inward-looking. In those days, we were not intentionally missional. It was about feasting and fellowship and thanksgiving for what we had though.
It is good to be provoked and challenged by HOPE to look beyond ourselves. These days we have a new context for harvest. It is like a different kind of harvest - a harvest bringing people and gifts together to be able to share with those who do not have. We now have organisations and charities, like the Manna Project at Jesus House and Foodbanks nation wide, to ensure that the vulnerable are identified and get help. Like the little boy who chose to give up his lunch of fish and bread to feed the 5,000, our decision to respond in generosity to those around us can so easily be multiplied by our God. This is the 21st century harvest.
Black Majority churches are always worshipping in a context of celebration and thanksgiving – we do not take anything for granted, but harvest is not part of the church calendar and many of the new generation of Pentecostals would not even know the word.
This is why I’m excited about revisiting and reclaiming harvest as part of the Christian mission journey. It is both biblical and missional. We have an opportunity to turn it from an inward
celebration to an outward mission as a means of reaching the poor, the unemployed - to be a blessing to those who do not have. Above all it is an example of how we can live out our faith and reach the lost. We have to reach people with our words and actions. God has given us his love and we are expressing it to others. At the same time we are not ashamed to talk about the grace and hope that we have and where it springs from.
In the context of a lifestyle of thanksgiving and celebration, regardless of time of year or circumstances, it is great to inject some more joy into our communities and to be challenged to look outwards.
At HOPE we are excited to use this harvest moment to reclaim harvest time and to build on ways to make it relevant to our communities now. At the same time we act generously, celebrate joyfully and bring people along in the festivities. In this way we can share our cultural backgrounds and experiences aswell as be united in purpose. It’s is about neighbours speaking to neighbours and building community spirit.
Most British schools still have a harvest festival and most parents would be commissioned to find the cans and food stuff. If kids or your church are celebrating traditional British harvest festival then here is a chance to enhance what is taking place and take a moment to challenge people in the community to think in a new way and in a modern context about its meaning. American thanksgiving is a good example of a time when there is intentional time to take stock and appreciate all that we have.
Traditional African celebrations of the abundance of crops have a big street festival feel. With dancing, singing and the whole community together. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could bring a bit of that energy to harvest festivals and for communities to celebrate together – people unified regardless of age, culture or tradition. At the same time there is real potential for Black Majority churches to engage again with their roots but also work out, along with the rest of the Church, how they can tie in regular thanksgiving with doing practical, evangelistic and culturally relevant mission.
To see brothers and sisters learning how to celebrate life and make thanksgiving a lifestyle, would be exciting. Let’s use harvest as a time to share with those who do not have; to express love, open doors to strangers, live out the gospel and then communicate it!.
HOPE for Harvest