Today we had an excellent number at the Parish Mass at which Father Martin presided and preached, Father Mervyn concelebrated and Joan our Lay Reader led the intercessions. Father Martin took as his theme the Gospel; he related how recently he had talked to a young lady when he was seeking directions into a block of flats. She recognised Father from the time he visited Rush Green Junior School and she told him how much she, and the others, looked forward to his visits because he made religion fun. We are to plant the seeds and sometimes we don’t see the results.
Last nights concert by the New Dimension Choir was a great success and a total sell-out. We will have the result in due course.
FROM THE JULY/AUGUST PIONEER
Come Ye Thankful People Come
Harvest time seems to start earlier and earlier each year, as this edition of ‘The Pioneer’ covers two months I cannot but think of the fact that my holiday is nearly here. Each August as Jan and I leave Stanstead we look down on neatly cut fields; the crop already gathered in, Harvest time has begun in earnest. The start of August used to mark the beginning of the harvest season, now it seems to mark the end for many farmers. The church used to reflect the old way of farming by holding Lamas Day at the start of August and Harvest Festival in late September or early October and I well remember the Hymns and songs that we sang at school as the school year began each September.
In those somewhat less PC days the whole school (about 400 of us) would be marched to the local church for our harvest service. To see the house of God tastefully decorated with the fruits of the field and the flowers of the garden was a sight of wonder and amazement to us youngsters, as was the fact that on the way back we would deliver harvest parcels to the local elderly.
The fruits and flowers we were frequently told were evident tokens of the manifold provisions of God; and it was right that we should have special services of thanksgiving for God’s love in giving them to us. Harvest time was and still is a great opportunity to press home the truths of the Scripture to saint and sinner.
Many a weary child of God has been encouraged to serve the Lord with renewed vigour through a timely message on 'the fields white unto harvest' Similarly, many a wayward soul has been brought into the shelter of the heavenly gamer on hearing that, 'The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.'
But harvest is mainly a time of praise and thanksgiving. I well remember how much sheer pleasure I experienced, as a boy
just from the singing of the harvest hymns. Sadly I don't remember a single thought from any of the sermons I heard; but I do remember those hymns. Stirring hymns like, We Plough The Fields And Scatter, Where Are The Reapers, Bringing In The Sheaves and this one, Come, Ye Thankful People Come. All these bring back a flood of precious memories.
Come, Ye Thankful People Come, was written by Henry Alford and was first published in 1844, and its original title was 'After Harvest.' Only the first stanza deals with the temporal harvest here on earth. The other three portray the spiritual harvest of precious souls and the time when God shall come to 'gather in' His people.
It seems clear that this hymn is based on those encouraging words in Psalm 126:6: 'He that goeth forth and weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.' The lines of each stanza are well worth a thoughtful perusal.
The author, Rev. Henry Alford DD (Doctor of Divinity), was born in London, on October 7 1810. From all appearances he was a very godly man. Indeed, it is reported that when he was just fifteen years old he dedicated himself to the Lord in the words of this sacred vow:
‘I do this day, in the presence of God and my own soul, renew my covenant with God, and solemnly determine henceforth to become His and to do His work as far as in me lies.'
It seems that he never deviated from this for the rest of his life.
Biographers describe Henry Alford as a 'pious young student, an eloquent preacher, a sound Biblical critic, a man of great learning and taste, one of the most gifted men of his day, and, an affectionate man, full of good humour.'
His literary skills were displayed in every department of the art. He wrote a total of 50 books, the most important of them being his four volume Exposition of the New Testament. It took him more than twenty years to complete.
But above all, he was a superior preacher, who ever lived in the light of eternity, and sought to point his listeners heavenward.
Come ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest-home;
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God our maker doth provide,
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God's own temple, come,
Raise the song of harvest-home.
Our Harvest Festival service this year is on Sunday September 25th and by a strange coincidence that very evening we will be joined by Bishop David as he comes to confirm our candidates. Thus, we shall give thanks not just for the earthly harvest, but also for the spiritual harvest of those who are being confirmed.
After the service we shall, as usual, have a reception in the hall where we shall break bread and continue to share fellowship over a drink and a snack (details nearer to the time). Additionally the following Saturday evening will see us sit down to our Harvest Supper which, although the details have still to be finalised, might well feature a choice of casseroles as the main course. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
I would encourage all of you to try and be at both the Sunday services on September 25th and if at all possible to try and encourage a relative, friend or neighbour to come with you. Our Uniformed Organisations will be present at the morning service and it would be wonderful if we had a packed church to say thank you to God for all his good gifts. Gifts which I fear, at times, we all tend to take rather for granted.
God bless you all and remember we can only reap what we sow.