Hundreds of people attended the annual Kent County Harvest Thanksgiving service which took place on Sunday 4th October as part of Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral. The Cathedral was adorned with local produce including honey, Harvest loaves, marrows and pumpkins, lavender and even a couple of live chickens, as a reminder of all that Kent has to offer, rightly deserving its reputation as the ‘Garden of England’.

The ‘Bring Home the Harvest’ beacon, a steel sculpture etched with sheaves of corn and apples, was carried in by Lynsey Martin, the Agricultural and Rural Issues Chair of the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs, and was received by Dean Robert Willis.

The beacon is an initiative of the National Bring Home the Harvest Campaign which aims to encourage more people to get involved with local Harvest celebrations and was received in Canterbury this year in recognition of the special efforts made by the diocese and the cathedral to mark Harvest.

The address was given by Lt Gen Sir Barney White-Spunner, former Executive Chairman of the Countryside Alliance, who has spoken widely on the role of the Church in rural areas.  He reflected on how society’s increasing drift from involvement with the land and agriculture did not mean losing the sense of communal effort and common purpose that the Harvest Festival represents, and that the Church should play a significant role in this:

“Surely we must look at what people do today to sustain themselves in rural life and then build those activities, those jobs, those livelihoods into modern communities and keep the Church at its heart?

“God is we know in the woods and the trees…He is in the roll of the hills and in the fields at harvest time. But surely He is also in the car and the commute, the online business or in the retirement cottage – He is as much in the modern embodiment of Harvest as He was in the old.”

He called for churches to adapt so that they did not become staid and empty, but rather more creative in their usage. He used as an example the village shop in Broadchalke Wiltshire, which last year won the Village Shop Award at the Countryside Alliance’s Rural Oscars:

“It combined the shop and post office with a café and drop in centre. It hosted yoga and pilates and several local service businesses used it as their hub. The police station was there too…Where was it? It was in the village church.

“Divine worship continues as it has always done, but the difference is that everyone comes. As a village they find God in everyday life – in their modern harvest – and they unashamedly put God and their church at its centre”

During the service a collection which was taken for the local branches of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) and The Farming Community Network (FCN); both charities offer practical and financial support to those in crisis in the rural and farming communities.