September is very much the end of the holiday season as people try to fit in a last few sunny days before the autumn starts and Harvest Festivals are in our minds as a church.
But September has been dominated this year by our international refugee and migrant crisis. Many opinions have been expressed and inadequate solutions have been put forward and like many others I struggle to know what to say or do, as we have all been so clearly moved by the plight of these desperate people driven from their homes. People not from poverty, but many comfortable professional people like people we know who have been displaced by war, destruction, oppression and persecution all around them. I find myself telling the old stories of our village as I show people round our ancient parish church – stories from the 6th century how Vikings came and murdered the villagers and survivors fled their homes. I have told these stories to school children and visitors over the years I’ve been here, and suddenly they are all the more poignant as this is exactly what is happening in Syria and many parts of the Middle East and Africa at the hands of IS and other brutal groups.
So what can we do? As a nation not only our political leaders but also a groundswell of public opinion want to do something. So I am encouraged that what I believe is our deep Christian, compassionate and welcoming heritage is still coming through somehow despite our natural instinct to look after ourselves and our own near and dear.
So Harvest Festival this year I believe will have a new challenge. As ever we shall thank God for all His great provision and be reminded of His bountiful goodness and generosity, and we shall be challenged in a new way how we can share this not just with those around us in immediate need, but how we can welcome and accommodate refugees and migrants into this Country. They may not be poor in the traditional sense, but they need a home, a place to dwell. Lots of thinking and planning is going on that we are all involved in as it will affect us locally as well as nationally and internationally.
And it all puts me in mind of the disturbing character who is at the heart of our Christian faith. Jesus says ‘foxes have holes and the birds of the air have their nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’. Whether it’s those who suffered from Viking raids here in the C6th or those displaced in our own time. As we look back to times in our history when we as nation have welcomed in those of others faiths and nationalities, lets prepare and pray and think how we can be a welcoming, sharing and compassionate people as others have been before us.