29th September 2022

By Revd Jemima Lewis

I love this time of year as we end CreationTide and celebrate the Harvest Thanksgiving festival – the cooler mornings, the autumnal colours, the sight of tractors on the roads balancing precarious stacks
of hay bales… We are lucky enough here in the Worthys to live close enough to fields and farmland to really see the harvest happening. I grew up in South London and harvest time often felt like a bit of a
remote concept, something that only happened outside the M25! It has also been a great privilege to have conducted several funerals recently for local farming families – these families have worked the land around the Worthys for generations and speak so fondly of the fertile Wessex landscape all around us, a blessing we can often take for granted.

I have also had some interaction with Sparsholt Agricultural College recently and they have introduced me to an organisation called ‘The Gleaning Network’ which focuses on solving the problems of poor nutrition and food waste in the UK, by redistributing excess food to people in need and providing education in schools and community groups. The ‘Gleaning’ is the process of collecting the crops left in a farmer’s field after the harvest; this network salvages thousands of tonnes of wasted fresh fruit and vegetables every year and gives it to people in need. Do look them up this Harvest time – they are doing a wonderful job tackling both waste (which is a huge contributor to climate change) and food poverty all in one go!

But did you know that the concept of ‘gleaning’ actually comes from the Bible? In the Old Testament book of Leviticus we read how God commands his people to always leave ‘the gleanings’ of the harvest in the field for the poor and for foreigners. In ancient Israel it was a social and moral obligation to provide food for the marginalised at harvest time. Of course, it’s more tricky for us in contemporary times to know how to apply this principle of ‘gleaning’ – in our society, people need access to education, capital, jobs, and transport systems, as much as they need food handouts in order to thrive. And yet we can all probably think of ways we as individuals could be more generous and equitable with the gifts God has given us – it could be with how we contribute our time or our skills, not just our money.

This Sunday we will be remembering the Harvest and all our monetary gifts will be directed to the work of the Winchester Basics Bank. Rather than give food stuffs at this time, the Bank have asked that we wait until an allocated time (which for our two parishes will be January 2023) to make food donations – this is so they are not inundated with goods by all the churches all at the same time. We will send out a reminder nearer the date.

In the meantime, we can consider this question: where is your metaphorical ‘field’ this harvest-time and what does it grow? Listen for the still, small voice that says that, rather than take home every last crop for ourselves, perhaps we could leave some of ‘the gleanings’ for the needy and the stranger in our midst.