7 November 1997

Regions join in a harvest thanksgiving

HARVEST thanksgiving at Liverpool cathedral was celebrated with rural vigour this year with 2000 people from the farming community taking part – mostly from Lancashire and Cheshire but including some from Cumbria, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Shropshire, Warwickshire and Nottinghamshire.

"The atmosphere both during and after the service was one of tremendous good feeling and happiness," said festival co-ordinator Alice Bradley who is a Lancashire farmers wife. "This was something about which everyone commented, even the cathedral staff who said they had never experienced anything quite like it."

"Fruitful the land" was the theme of the service and Lord Plumb gave the address. An offering of soil was among the gifts presented at the altar, and a plough, a fiddle sower, a hoe and a scythe were brought as symbols of the working pattern of the agricultural year.

Among the traditional harvest hymns was a new one written by Cheshire farmers wife, Nellie Brocklehurst, whose compositions include many Easter and harvest hymns and verses for christenings and weddings.

Sung to the tune Aurelia by S S Wesley, the hymn included in the cathedral service has a call for conservation entwined with its praise and thanksgiving, and concludes:

Gods golden fields are sacred, pollution must not be

Or one day in the future, no harvest we shall see;

We will protect all nature, and every living thing

Then pray His greatest harvest, gives us eternal spring.

Mrs Brocklehursts hymn may well be sung at harvest thanksgivings on the other side of the Atlantic too, since a rural community in Canada has asked for a copy of the order of service.

"Although this was a regional affair," says Mrs Bradley, "it was hoped that rural organisations and parishes would take away something from the service which they would see as good practice to use in their own churches, so we have already made a global start."

The numerous organisations contributing to the harvest display at the West End of the cathedral ranged alphabetically from the ACORA group (the group responding to the findings of the Archbishops Commission on Rural Areas) to the Womens Farming Union.