Conference and service bring together Republic of Ireland second level schools
Representatives of 23 Protestant second level schools in the Republic of Ireland recently came together for the first time for a ‘Faith and Partnership in Second Level Schools’ conference organised by the Church of Ireland Board of Education (R. of I.).
Meanwhile, on the same day, the first-ever service to mark the beginning of the academic year for Protestant second level schools took place in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.
HARVEST OF THE LAND, HARVEST OF THE KINGDOM
This time of the year is marked across the Church of Ireland by Harvest Thanksgiving services. Some parishes will already have observed this annual occasion, while others will still be preparing for their services. It is a happy time, drawing in the involvement of many parishioners in preparations of all sorts, not least in decorating the church. For many who do not usually go to church, the Harvest Festival will draw them to join in the worship; indeed, the Harvest Thanksgiving service can be among the best attended services of the year.
For those who live in the country, Harvest Thanksgiving is especially close to the heart because the countryside is where the farming goes on. Yet, those in cities also do well to stop and remember, with thanksgiving to God, that there is food for them in the shops, all of which goes back to the farmer.
Most people in this part of the world eat regularly, although for many the affordability of good regular food is a constant challenge. For that reason, the distribution of Harvest gifts nowadays goes not only to local homes and hospitals but also to foodbanks, where people who are truly in need, perhaps struggling to bring up a young family as best they can, are able to find some food.
Harvest Thanksgiving is thus a real opportunity for Church outreach, but it is first of all a true expression of our perhaps instinctive thanksgiving to God for the fruit of the earth. Yet, not only amongst ourselves but also across the world, nourishing food cannot be taken for granted and many, many people go hungry. For that reason, a predominant theme at Harvest Thanksgiving is that of sharing. Good harvests tell us something about how much we do need to share, right across the world. That, in turn, has political implications and it soon becomes clear that the theme of Harvest has vast ramifications.
A good Harvest Thanksgiving will not only be an enjoyable occasion but will also be one that reaches out to the community and that causes every person participating to reflect on the real needs of the wider world, and to respond with a caring and generous heart. Harvest Thanksgiving should never be a kind of ‘retreat’ into some cosy, Church world, but should be an occasion of gratitude to God that also brings about in the individual a renewed awareness of the needs of others and of one’s own responsibilities in conscience.
Perhaps for these reasons, Harvest Thanksgiving is a time that is also associated with the mission of the Church – the planting of the seed of the word of God and the bringing forth of fruit in terms of the Harvest of the Kingdom.
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