Letter from the Rectory September 2018
This month we hold our traditional celebrations of Harvest Festival. It is, above all, a time to give thanks to God for all his provision. This summer has been extraordinary: with Mediterranean weather week after week.
Despite the challenges of our times, we in this country have so much and we often take it for granted. Visits to the developing world can remind of that.
Before being in Wiltshire, we lived near Alton in Hampshire. Winchester Diocese is linked with Anglican Church in Uganda. In 2004 I travelled there as part of a team visiting our link diocese of Karamoja, a very remote area in the north-east.
We were taken round much of the diocese, visiting villages and local churches. One particular day we were due to visit five villages. Things didn’t start well as our vehicle broke down out in the bush which put us three hours behind schedule.
In each place we were greeted on village boundary by the choir, fully robed, who then accompanied us running and singing! The same ritual followed in each place: the welcome and lengthy introductions, songs and drama from youth and mothers, their ‘shopping list’ of wants, ‘a word’ from one of the visitors (a 20 minute sermon ‘off the cuff’!) and finally a large meal – visitors first, then the men, finally the woman and children.
This was repeated five times that day. Thankfully, on the final visit of the day it was so dark we were able to hide the fact that we were too full to eat another thing – it would have been seen as a great discourtesy: a huge irony in a land of considerable hunger.
Our hosts immense generosity is what has stayed with me since. Being the recipients of abundance and provision is a great privilege; being generous with what we have is a response that warms the heart of our Heavenly Father for, as St. Paul put it, ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7).