• Loading

A Harvest thanksgiving

August 2015

This year marks 70 years of our work with partners across the world, 70 years of rebuilding lives and communities shattered by poverty, disaster and conflict.

Cocoa farmer holding sapling    
Families in Beni, Bolivia struggle to feed themselves all year round. Our partner CIPCA brings cocoa saplings like this one as well as other ways for the community to diversify their sources of nutrition.

Because of Christian Aid and its partners, and the tireless fundraising efforts of our supporters, millions of the world's poorest people have received vital aid in emergencies, thousands of mothers have given birth safely, and refugees have been supported into new beginnings.

Many lives have been saved! But the task is not over...

Much of our work never hits the headlines. But we need to fundraise for hidden or long-term poverty.

Please consider supporting our vital work with a collection or event at your church this Harvest time.

Justice

Our commitment to speaking out for justice in South Africa was an important part of encouraging churches in the anti-apartheid movement.

But poverty has not yet ended there. Today, our partner the Church Land Programme (CLP) works with shack-dwellers in Kwa-Zulu Natal, helping them to stand up for their right to stay on the land that is theirs. CLP supports people's struggles for freedom and to regain their collective power. The work goes on...

Dignity

Our work is inspired by belief in the God-given dignity of all people. Manual scavenging is a hideous and undignified way to earn money. Though it's illegal, around 1.3 million dalit women in India clear human waste from toilets using their bare hands and a brush or piece of cardboard.

This has been called a form of both caste discrimination and gender violence. Our partner Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) supports women to access government resources for rehabilitation and alternative employment.

SKA is challenging the system that ensnares women in this degrading occupation. The work goes on...

Livelihoods

Today, climate change is inseparable from poverty. In Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in South America, illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest is adding to global greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing the effects of climate change.

Intense flooding and landslides are destroying crops and devastating communities. Our partner CIPCA assists people to cope with the impact of climate disasters and find new sustainable livelihoods. It's also helping to push climate change up government agendas. The work goes on...

Get involved

You can help to ensure our work in these countries and elsewhere can continue, by supporting our Harvest Appeal.

To help you, worship resources are available below to incorporate into your church's Harvest activity, and Harvest collection envelopes and posters are available from your local Christian Aid office.

You can also find out more about our work in South Africa, India and Bolivia by coming to our 70th anniversary conference in Edinburgh on Saturday 3 October.

Worship resources

You are welcome to use any or all of the suggested sermon notes, prayers and activities for children in your Harvest celebrations this year.

Sermon notes - Present, past and future hope

These sermon notes for Harvest thanksgiving have been based on week four of the creation time lectionary. However, they are suitable for use anytime during creation time: 1 September – 4 October.

For the writer of Ecclesiastes the glass appears to be half empty. Yes there are good and joyful things in the world, but there are also as many destructive and saddening things too.

This season of Harvest is marked by a balanced perspective. Amidst the joy and celebration of thanksgiving for the abundant provision by the earth and those employed in the food industry, churches have always shown concern and compassion for those who do not have enough.

In this 70th anniversary year of Christian Aid we give thanks for the millions of people who have been enabled to lift their lives out of poverty, and we are also conscious of the ongoing challenges of conflict and inequality facing many across the world.

'A Time for Everything' can be read as a pessimistic poem of resigned acceptance of how the world works, or it can be understood as an honest description of the kingdom come, but not yet in fullness.

We cannot fathom the mind of God, the writer goes on to say, but we do know that everything has been made beautiful in God's time. Whether the glass is half full or half empty is uncertain, since for now we can only see through the glass, darkly.

There is a time to lament and a time to praise. Psalm 98 is one of praise.

This may have been an anniversary Psalm, an annual celebration of one of the Lord's historic wonders such as the exodus, the rescue of Jerusalem from the Assyrian army in 701 BCE or the return from Exile in the sixth century BC.

As such it is an appropriate Psalm to sing in celebration of the campaign victories seen during the Christian Aid's 70 years. A song to praise the end of apartheid, the dropping of debt, fair trade, land rights in India, the progress of tax justice. And so the list goes on.

These campaign victories have enabled thousands of people to live free from the injustice that kept them poor. Free to live the fullness of life that Jesus came to bring. To glorify God by being fully alive and to enjoy God forever.

Yes, there may be many more challenges of injustice to face. But in these moments we sing of the world reconciled with God, of righteousness and of equity being established.

The Psalm doesn't just invite the praise of the people, but for all the earth to make a joyful noise. Even the Munros are invited to sing for joy! It is our hope that, through the current climate justice campaign, all of creation might be reconciled to the Creator.

In this passage from Romans our singing with creation turns to groaning.

Groaning seems like the right adjective to express the frustration and sadness we often experience when we face headlines of horror.

We groan to hear of the migration crisis leading to deaths in the Mediterranean. We groan to hear of refugee camps overflowing with those fleeing from the war in Syria. We groan to hear of the sexual violence of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We groan to hear that in this day and age still almost a billion people still do not have enough to eat and that 5,000 children die every day from drinking unsafe water and not having proper sanitation.

We groan with creation when we read of the mass extinction of plants and animals, including the decline of the honeybee. We groan when we hear of mass deforestation still continuing. We groan when we hear of the melting icecaps. We groan with creation and for ourselves.

The writer to the Romans does not leave us in this place of lament, but suggests we recognise these groans as the labour pains of another possible world; to recognise the first fruits of the Spirit at work in the world, even the fruits of justice being established and poverty being overcome.

The glaciers are melting in Bolivia, but communities there are being helped by Christian Aid partner, CIPCA to plant cocoa trees which are more likely to survive a depleted water supply.

In India, Dalit women cleaning waste from toilets for their living are being given support and alternative employment opportunities by Christian Aid partner, Safai Karmachari Andolan.

In South Africa, shack dwellers who are yet to know the security of having their own land are being supported by Christian Aid partner the Church Land Programme to stay on their land and know the freedom from fear they are due.

We do not deny, nor do we remain in, our groaning when we find hope that another world is possible. A world where all of creation will be renewed.

A Christian Aid vox pop film a few years ago showed people in the street being asked if they thought poverty could be ended.

One lady was very direct in her answer: 'if it could be ended, it would have been done by now – they've been at it for years.'

We've been at it for 70 years and yet we seem to live in a world of increasing inequality and conflict.

So, why does Christian Aid still exist? Dr Rowan Williams, the chair of Christian Aid, explains that 'the hope is that our work gets less necessary, that there is less poverty and less need. Realistically, I don't think we can take it for granted that this will happen anytime soon.'

In the opportunity our anniversary provides for reflection, we may find some needed encouragement from the seeds parables of Mark 4.

In the first parable many seeds are scattered on the ground by someone who then appears to do little more than rest and keep an eye on the progress of the seeds. They keep a close eye on the grain – not hesitating to take a sickle to it as soon as it is ripe.

We are to remain faithful in sowing the seeds of giving, activism and prayer and to keep watch for the Kingdom at work, being ready to take action when the time is right. 

In the second parable we are encouraged to remember that even if we think our offering of time, money or faith is very small it can grow into something of great significance.

The mustard plant is one that had a tendency to outgrow other, planned crops. Perhaps it is the nature of the Kingdom to challenge the very root systems of an unjust society.

For Christian Aid’s tax justice campaign, timing was key. The seeds of the campaign were sown some seven years ago without any idea that tax justice would become such a mainstream issue.

This bold idea began as a single seed that is now threatening to uproot one of the most embedded economic systems of our time. We cannot remain passive, but must keep watch for when the time is ripe to harvest the billions that are denied to countries across the world through tax dodging practices.

Thank you for your faithful partnership in helping gather in a harvest of justice and righteousness with Christian Aid these past 70 years, And thank you for sharing in our hope that all things are being made beautiful in God's time.

Suggested prayers

These prayers are suitable for a Harvest thanksgiving service. They reflect the harvest of Christian Aid's work with our partners across the world over the last 70 years, and the work that still continues.

Let us sing a new song to the Lord.
Let us sing of His power to save;
His strength to bring Justice;
His faithfulness to his people.

Let us sing a new song to the Lord.
Let us hear the melodies of the harps;
The trumpets, horns; oceans and creatures;
The clapping of hands and singing hills;
Worship the Lord with a joyful noise for He is our Lord and King.

God, giver of life,
we love the picture of the good earth,
of land and sea and livelihood.
But for many, the picture is a bleak one;
landless or uprooted,
their land degraded or devastated,
who sleep in damp houses, squalid hostels, or on the streets
vulnerable to those with power and money,
they have nothing to lose,
or they have lost everything.
Lord have mercy upon us,
Christ have mercy upon us.

God, giver of life,
we love the picture of human dignity,
of women and men made in your image.
But for many, the picture is an ugly one;
humiliating, dangerous and poorly-paid work,
violence, insult and discrimination
because of their race, their caste, their gender,
they are still not counted
in the profit and loss accounts of the world.
Lord have mercy upon us,
Christ have mercy upon us.

God, giver of life,
we love the picture of abundant life
of growth and plenty, good harvests and full stomachs.
But for many, the picture is a sombre one;
failed harvests, dry river beds or flooded fields,
threatened forests and a changing climate,
lack and empty stomachs.
Even in our rich country, there are people
who go to bed each night with hunger pangs,
whose next meal will depend on a food bank.
Lord have mercy upon us,
Christ have mercy upon us.

As your children suffer, set us free from bondage to fear,
that all may live in the freedom of your glory.
As your children labour in pain, release us from futility,
that all may know themselves as your heirs.
As the creation itself groans, lead us to love and cherish it
for you have made it, and we are merely its caretakers.
Help us to live within limits,
we pray, O God of life,
for the harvest is yours
and the glory is yours.
Amen.

Lord, we give thanks for the changing of the seasons,
for autumn, the fullness of harvest
and the promise of rebirth and renewal,
for the fulfilment of our work
for goals achieved
for targets met and projects delivered.

Help us to celebrate what we have achieved.
Give us discipline to renew our efforts
and the wisdom to learn from our mistakes.
Inspire us to plan ahead.
We ask this in the sure knowledge of the resurrection,
the transformation of death to new life,
and the building of your kingdom.
Amen.

Nick Burden, in Acorns and Archangels: Resources for Ordinary Time, edited by Ruth Burgess, Wild Goose Publications, 2009

We give thanks to you, O God,
for those, 70 years ago,
who became servants of their neighbours,
made friends even of enemies,
and found new ways to heal and restore
a world wounded by war.
We celebrate those who still
love their neighbours round the world
through giving, and acting and praying,
in street collections and campaigns
in charity that seeks justice
inspired by faith in your unconditional love.
Amen.

Lord Jesus,
You are a Lord who stands beside your people.
So we pray for people who stand for justice.

You are a Lord who raises up those who are bent low.
So we pray for those held down by the grindings of life
and the indifference of the world.

You are a Lord who feeds the hungry.
So we pray for all who long for bread
and the means to provide it.

You are a Lord who celebrates the small and the insignificant.
So we pray for the children,
and for those who are never noticed.

You are a Lord who says, 'Follow me'.
So we pray for courage and faith in our hearts
that we may take up the cross and find it leads to life.
Amen.

God of the first fruits
let your rain dance on us,
your sun shine on us,
and your love and justice grow in us,
until we bring our last fruits to your harvest.
Amen.

Ruth Burgess, in Bare Feet and Buttercups: Resources for Ordinary Time, edited by Ruth Burgess, Wild Goose Publications, 2008

As we prepare to leave
and embrace the challenges of our lives and our world,
let us ask for God's blessing.

May God bless us with strength to seek justice. Amen.
May God bless us with wisdom to care for our earth. Amen.
May God bless us with love to bring forth new live. Amen.

In the name of God, the maker of the whole world,
of Jesus, our new covenant,
and of the Holy Spirit, who opens eyes and hearts. Amen.

Go in peace and be witnesses to hope.
Thanks be to God.

Canadian Catholic Organisation for Development and Peace, in Bread of Tomorrow, edited by Janet Morley, Christian Aid/SPCK 1992

Suggestions for children

Activities to involve your young people.

You will need:

  • Grocery bag with the ingredients needed to make a cake
  • 70th birthday cake candles / 70th birthday banner
  • Birthday cake – you may want to give one of the accomplished bakers in your congregation this task
  • World map

What to do:

  1. Bring in a shopping bag of groceries with the ingredients needed to make a cake, in packets that show their country of origin.
  2. Mark on a world map where the ingredients came from. Explain how at Harvest time we give thanks that we have enough to eat and drink, and often this comes from places all around the world. We should give thanks for the people who have provided our food and consider how our lives impact theirs.
  3. Explain that you have all the ingredients to make a cake, but say you have one you made earlier and bring out the birthday cake.
  4. Explain that Christian Aid began 70 years ago to help people who had been made homeless, cold and hungry because of the second world war.
  5. You might want to tell the story of the Scottish minister who sent word back to Scotland to mobilise support for these refugees.
  6. Explain that now Christian Aid works in over 40 countries around the world where people are in need.
  7. Ask for three volunteers who would like a piece of cake.
  8. Give the first two people very thin slices of the cake and the third person a standard-sized slice. You might wish to have it pre-sliced unequally.
  9. Ask the first two people how they feel about this – assuming they may say it is unfair or unequal.
  10. Explain that Christian Aid's work is focussed on helping to reduce inequality, to make sure everyone has enough.
  11. Ask the volunteers what they think it might feel like to be watching them eat cake and not getting to have any at all. At this point, you can invite everyone to stay behind for some coffee and cake after the service, and provide some cake for the children's gathering if it happens during the service.
  • Use our Happy birthday Christian Aid school assembly and presentation 
  • Challenge your young people to hold a coffee and bake sale for Christian Aid's 70th anniversary, to contribute to your harvest thanksgiving collection
  • Play the Chocolate Trade Game to learn how cocoa can help make a difference to communities across the world, including in Bolivia and Ghana
  • Use our Global Explorers resource to find out more about how Christian Aid has helped young people around the world


Share this article

Please donate

Help people around the world fight their way out of poverty

  • Regular donation
  • Single donation

Sign up for emails