The Church of Ireland’s two Archbishops have issued a joint statement to mark Harvest and to reflect on the way ahead following the recent announcements of restrictions, to protect public health, in both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland.
The statement was issued by the Most Rev John McDowell, Archbishop of Armagh, and the Most Rev Dr Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin, on September 25.
It reads: “This time of the year is normally one of new beginnings for parish activities and, for many, a celebration of bringing the harvest home. The timeless rhythm of farming life and the unchanging pattern of the seasons is a source of reassurance in these challenging times.
“This is also a critical moment in our collective effort against the coronavirus. In following the call of our Lord to love our neighbours as ourselves, we all have a responsibility – and the power to make a difference – in containing the virus through our everyday choices and actions.
“A return to restrictions is a reminder of our own limitations and the complexities faced by those in political leadership. We, like countless others, pray that there will be brighter days ahead. This situation, as with many recorded in Scripture, will pass but until then, this is a journey on which we all must continue together.
“We thank all members of the Church of Ireland who have kept faith in these times and acknowledge that the Church’s ministry of care never stopped even when the strongest lockdown measures were in place. Indeed, parishes across the island are to be commended on how they are responding creatively in sustaining services of worship and meeting personal and pastoral need.
“While more patience, compassion and discipline will be required in the coming months, we can be confident that this can be a time of renewal as we take up opportunities to be carriers of hope, to serve and care in local communities which will become more familiar to us.
“Over the shorter days and longer nights, we should consider how acts and words of kindness can continue to help front-line workers, who deserve our continued support and gratitude; people who will be facing renewed restrictions whilst living alone; and all who are especially at risk through age or another vulnerability.
“What we can celebrate at Harvest can be brought into the months ahead: a faith in the God whose love never fails his people; hope that the Earth and all within it is the Lord’s; and the love of a natural world where God offers to us the beauty of the lilies in the field and mourns the death of every sparrow – how much more do we matter to him.”
The Archbishops said that, alongside this message, they were committed to praying the following prayer daily with an invitation for others to join with them:
Heavenly Father, Lord of all creation
We thank you for the coming of the harvest
And for those who maintain the provision of food.
Enable us to become better stewards of your creation,
Thinking always of our legacy to future generations.
Mindful of the unequal burdens borne by the old and the sick in this emergency
Inspire us also to be unsparing in giving ourselves in the service of our neighbour
And in support of all who continue to work on the frontline
In government, in hospitals and care homes, and in the community.
All this we ask in the Name of your Son, the servant of all. Amen.