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Harvest in the City

Sheffield is an outdoors city. It has the Peak District National Park within its borders. However, I suspect it is best known for its history of heavy industry. Members of both Congregational Churches can remember putting out their washing and it getting covered in soot and grime from the steelworks. So how do you celebrate Harvest in the city?

Harvest in the CityIn Hillsborough we celebrated over two Sundays. Once a month we have Breakfast Church starting at 9.30 and both food and worship happens around tables. It attracts a number of families. On September 9th we gave each table a bag of mystery food and they had to design a menu using the ingredients. It was a bit like ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ if you can remember the TV programme.

We gave thanks for the creativity of food producers and home cooks. We also thought about those who receive food from the city’s foodbanks and homeless projects. It is a different sort of creativity and resourcefulness that makes a foodbank donation last all week and feed a family. The food-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe writes very powerfully on the subject. We then looked at the story of Ruth and Naomi living on the gleanings of the harvest. The book’s themes of migration, worker exploitation, kindness across divides and not being over-efficient with resources or use of time also speak into a city’s labour force and economy.

September 16th was a more traditional Harvest Festival - we worshipped with the Salvation Army - who brought their band! We gave thanks for the beauty we can see in the middle of Sheffield and we acknowledged that there are many forms of hunger- loneliness is a big one even in the midst of lots of people. The previous week, worshippers had brought spare vegetables which were turned into soup for a Harvest Supper. It was quite a challenge to use everyone’s contribution and still create something tasty.

Harvest in the CityAt Tapton on Saturday 15th September we used plastic bricks to think about Harvest. Families were asked to choose an iconic Sheffield food product and then design an imaginary factory that could produce it. Then we tried to guess the foodstuff from the factory. The foods included Henderson’s Relish, Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts and a stainless-steel butter knife. We gave thanks for local industries and realised that we do not harvest on our own. Harvests involve working with lots of people and a God who wonderfully provides. Our brick events are becoming increasingly popular with about thirty adults and children attending. The factory models became part of beautiful Harvest window displays celebrating local produce ready for another Harvest service on the Sunday.

I wonder if we interpreted Harvest in a particular way? Perhaps this Festival lends itself to being all about the place you are in? And yes, before you ask, we did sing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’.

Suzanne Nockels