Rector's Letter October 2000 

As a teenager I used to do seasonal work on local farms in the West Country.  In the days before "pick your own" I picked them for you, filling great big punnets of plump Somerset strawberries which made their ways to local tea rooms for the rapturous consumption of tourists.  Later in the season the work was pulling up the cloches - my least favourite job of all time I think.  I always seemed surrounded by bullying wasps drunk on the fermenting leftovers of the fruit!

 But if that was the worst, then haymaking was the best.  My job was going into the field that had been cut and bailed, loading the trailer with a partner, taking it back to the farm and stacking the barn.  The days were long, and hot (aren't all the summers of your childhood?) and however many bottles of squash we took we were always thirsty.  I'd come home with blistered hands and aching shoulders from throwing the bales to the top of the stack with the pitchfork.  My favourite bit though was sitting on top of an immense wobbly pile of hay as the trailer made its way to the barn.  They were moments of great peacefulness, looking out over the Somerset levels as the tractor slowly made its way along the lanes.

 I never went to Church in those days.  I wish I had.  It would have completed the circle somehow, to acknowledge the incredible fruitfulness of the earth as a gift from God.  I think I felt in my heart that sense of wonder and thankfulness, sat atop the trailer cross-legged, looking dreamily across hedgerows into stubbly fields.  I wasn't sure if there was a God out there, but at times like that it seemed there just might be, and that He'd really made quite a good job of His creation.

 Over the years, even the years since my own childhood, the harvest has changed quite a bit.  Huge circular bales of black-bagged hay now sit in the fields around us, and health and safety would have a fit at my acrobatics on top of a trailer.   Other things haven't changed, it's still hard work!

 I don't work in the harvest anymore, but I do lead the Harvest Thanksgivings.  I hope in some way that if Jeff-from-25-years-ago came along he would find what he was looking for: Somewhere to celebrate his hard work, and a chance to express wonder at the incredible fruitfulness of our rich earth.

                   Jeff Cuttell.

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