Sunday, 6 October 2013

Preaching at the Harvest Thanksgiving
Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

I am preaching this morning [Sunday 6 October 2013] at the Cathedral Harvest Thanksgiving Service in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. The celebrant is the Precentor, the Revd Canon Peter Campion.

The readings are: Habakkuk 1: 1-4; 2: 1-4; Psalm 37: 1–9; 2 Timothy 1: 1-14; Luke 17: 5-10.

The setting is Missa Brevis S. Johannis de Deo by Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809), sung by the Cathedral Choir.

The Processional Hymn is ‘Come, ye thankful people, come,’ by Henry Alford (1810-1871), based on Matthew 13: 37–43. The Offertory Hymn is ‘Lord of beauty, thine the splendour,’ by Cyril A. Alington (1872-1955); the Communion Hymn is ‘Bread of heaven,’ by Josiah Conder (1789-1855); and the Post-communion Hymn is ‘We plough the fields, and scatter,’ by Matthias Claudius (1740-1815) , translated by Jane M. Campbell (1817-1878).

The Communion Mote is also by Hayden:

The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.

Today that is coming speaks it the day,
The night that is gone to following night.
The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.

In all the lands resounds the word,
Never unperceived, ever understood.
The Heavens are telling the glory of God,
The wonder of his work displays the firmament.


The modern tradition of celebrating the Harvest Festival in churches began 170 years ago on 1 October 1843, when an Anglican priest, the Revd Robert Hawker (1803-1875) invited his parishioners to a special thanksgiving service in Morwenstow Parish Church, Cornwall.

Well-known Victorian hymns, including ‘We plough the fields and scatter,’ ‘Come ye thankful people, come’ and ‘All things bright and beautiful,’ helped to popularise his idea of a harvest thanksgiving service and to spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce.

But the person who helped to have the Harvest Thanksgiving introduced to Anglican calendar was, perhaps, the Revd Piers Claughton (1811-1884), when he was Vicar of Elton in Huntingdonshire in 1854. He later became Bishop of St Helena and then of Colombo, and later Archdeacon of London.

Increasingly, churches have linked harvest with an awareness of and concern for the impoverished and for people in the developing world for whom growing crops of sufficient quality and quantity remains a struggle. This morning in my sermon I hope to mention the work of the outreach programme from Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, at the Mendicity Institute.

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