Harvest festival in a Costwolds country church: what could be gentler, or more traditional? A lovely way to spend an hour on a Sunday morning, contemplating the divine with smiling locals as autumn sunshine slants through the Norman arched windows and the small congregation shakily warbles the familiar strains of “We plough the fields and scatter…”
You get the idea.
And so it was yesterday. Exactly like that.
Until the fellow in a royal blue dog-collar started his “Harvest Festival Show-N-Tell” service.
By the time we got to the bit of the service that I know as the “prayers of Intercession” (the bit that includes “Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer”) we had already endured his sermon (or “Talk” as it was called in the order of service, as if “sermon” was too off-putting) which involved a bicycle lamp to represent the sun, a watering can for the rain, a bag of soil and – bafflingly – a wooden train set and a box of Lego. Something about God being an enthusiastic builder? Can’t really remember.
Anyway, come the prayers and he brings out another bag of props. “I need some volunteers for this bit,” he said hopefully and after some cajoling, four unwilling parishioners went to the front where, from the shopping bag, they were each handed a box of breakfast cereal.
“Today,” gushed the reverend, “We celebrate God’s gift of food, especially the cereal crops that are grown all around us here, so I thought I’d adapt the names of these breakfast cereals into our prayers.”
Each volunteer’s prayer was written on the back of the box. The first, an elderly lady, held hers up and quavered:
“Dear Lord. Help us to be grateful for the gifts you grant us, to be satisfied with your bounty and not to Krave for more.”
Yes: it was a box of Kellog’s Krave. Next up was a box of Cheerios.
“Dear Lord. Some people in the word do not have enough to eat. Help us to share your precious gifts so that they may say ‘cheerio” to famine.”
I swear I am not making this up. Ask Mrs W. She was there as well, solemnly intoning “amen” with the rest of us at the end of each asinine prayer.
It went on, and got even worse.
“Dear Lord, thank you for putting food on our plates and for “alpen” us to appreciate your great works.”
“Dear Lord, help us to be free from sin so that we are sh-ready to enter your kingdom.”
The vicar wrapped it all up with, “Finally Lord, we ask this in the name of your son, out Special K-ing” and he pronounced it like that: “special kay-ing”.
Footnote: The Church of England in the UK is in precipitous decline and has been for decades. In 1983, 40 per cent of British people described themselves as Anglicans. By 2004, this was down to 29 percent. It’s now 17 percent, and if the current rate continues, then by 2033 there will be no one at all in our Anglican churches. What could possibly account for this, I wonder?