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HARVEST SEASON CELEBRATED IN CHURCH SERVICES FROM THE CURRAGH TO CARNALWAY

Leinster Leader 6th November 2008
 
Harvest season celebrated in church services from the Curragh to Carnalway
by
LIAM KENNY
 
In our modern world where we are removed to a great extent from the sources of food production the harvest season does not have the same significance as it had in the days when people had closer ties to the land. The importance of the harvest has long been highlighted in the Church of Ireland liturgy with the holding of the harvest festival prayer services. An issue of the Leinster Leader of November 1958 recalls in atmospheric detail the liturgy at three such festivals in Co. Kildare.
 
St. Paul’s Garrison Church on the Curragh Camp upheld its traditional beauty in the line of decorative taste and seasonal variety for the opening of the Festival of the Harvest. The Service was conducted in part by the chaplain, the Rev. F.W.R Knowles MA, and the Rev. JGW Beresford, MC, MA. The lessons were read by the Rev. JSG Stronge. BA, and the guest preacher was the Venerable C M Kerr, MA, Archdeacon of Elphin and Ardagh, a personal friend of the Rev. Knowles.
Basing his sermon on the biblical text ‘What is man that thou art mindful of him’ the Archdeacon said thanksgiving is a very essential part of worship.
Mrs. N. Gannon was the organist. The opening Service was followed by an enjoyable tea in the hall at which Rev. Stronge expressed thanks to the efficient ladies’ committee for their hospitality. A vote of thanks was also passed by the Archdeacon for the greatly appreciated address.
 
In the county town the preparations had been similarly elaborate for the annual harvest festival. One of the largest congregations and the most elaborate scheme of floral and harvest decoration ever remembered were features at the opening Service of Harvest Thanksgiving in St. David’s Church, Naas. The decorative array was extended to the entrance of the edifice and on the end of every pew hung a large sheaf of corn. The lessons were read by Rev. FWR Knowles MA, Chaplain to the Forces and the special preacher, the Rev. E.A. Crawford, Professor of Education in Dublin University. The Service was conducted by the Rev. B.W.N Walsh, MA, assisted by Rev. E.H.Despard, BD. A beautiful anthem was sung by an augmented choir representing almost every parish in the diocese, arrangements for which were ably carried out by the Naas organist, Mrs. A. J Barber. Solo parts were sung by Mrs. P. Metcalfe and Mrs. D. Coe, both from Monasterevin. Other clergy in robes were the Rev. Chancellor B.L.Handy, MA; the Rev. W J Moynan, BA, and the Rector, the Rev. JCW Beresford who pronounced the Blessing. The Service was followed by tea in the Town Hall.
 On the Sunday following a large congregation attended the closing Service, which was conducted by the Rector. The Lessons were ready by General Sir Eric de Burgh and Col. E.P. Lloyd.
 
One of the most picturesquely situated churches in the county was another venue for a special liturgical service at that harvest time of 1958. The opening of the Festival of Harvest Thanksgiving took place in St. Patrick’s Church, Carnalway on Friday of last week when the lovely little roadside church was beautifully decorated for the praise, glory and honour of God. The Service was conducted by the Rev. J S C Stronge, BA, Rector of Dunlavin and the Rector of Carnalway, Rev. A.K. Palmer, MA, BAI. The Lessons were read by the Rev. Canon JBS McGinley, MA, Rector of Athy and the Rev. J B Evans Gregory, Rector of Stradbally.
In his address the special preacher, the Rev. Canon R.R. Hartford, DD, MRIA, Regius Professor of Divinity at TCD, stressed the lack of gratitude on the part of people living in cities and towns in comparison to those in the country who actually witness the wonderous work of God manifest in the fields season by season. Very often, he said, people not living in the country when they cut open tinned products in the line of fruit and vegetables, merely take them for granted and seldom take even time to realise these as gifts and blessings from God grown from the land which he has made fruitful.
 Mrs. K. Jackson presided at the organ and shared a worthy tribute paid to the choir by Dr. Hartford. The Service was followed by tea in the school. 
 
Series no. 92.

Liam Kenny, in his regular Leader feature 'Nothing new Under the Sun' reflects on how the importance of the harvest has long been highlighted in the Church of Ireland liturgy with the holding of the harvest festival prayer services. He cites an issue of the Leinster Leader of November 1958 which recalls in atmospheric detail the liturgy at three such festivals in Co. Kildare.


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