Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Thanksgiving: Harvest Sunday Nazareth Moravian Church, Maidstone, Manchester, Jamaica

We plow the fields, and scatter
the good seed on the land,
but it is fed and watered
by God's almighty hand;
he sends the snow in winter,
the warmth to swell the grain,
the breezes and the sunshine,
and soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us
are sent from heaven above,
then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
for all his love.


Thanksgiving! Harvest! Church! God! Lord! I am not the best when it comes to scaring people but should the word church, Lord and God scare you, simply wait. Remain calm. Don’t run away yet. Those words are nothing to make you run, hide, swear and call on your ancestors; compared to the thunderous sounds of the pipe organ and the militant voices of the congregation at the Nazareth Moravian Church on their rendition of the song: We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land. 

To a little girl it was scary. Scarier than the spider who came down the wall and frightened Little Miss Muffet as she ate her curds and whey. It was the most righteous, grateful, cleansing time of my life to hear that song. I wanted to say that I am not the only one who stole a little bit of sugar from the jar at home. My siblings did too. I had to get it right with God in that moment and to display a humble, penitent look for the helpers of the church to see the effect of the powerful singing which was enough to push me to the altar. I had been a participant in altar call many times at church only to be reprimanded by the members of the Helper committee. It was their belief that my sporadic show was a copycat issue among the children. We had no clue at such a tender age what it meant to be saved and sanctified, according to them. In that moment too, of Harvest celebration, if I had my own wish I would rather be at the altar where all the donated goodies awaited: candy canes, cakes, sweet potato pudding, coconut grater cake, coconut drops and more.

Frankly, though, some people may be of the opinion that Thanksgiving is an American thing. No, it’s not. People elsewhere in the world do their thanksgiving on a regular basis and in their own way. The Harvest Sundays, I celebrated as a little girl, in my village were also deemed Thanksgiving. People in our village and surrounding areas walked, rode horses or drove to give thanks. Of course there were donkeys in the village but perhaps that would be upstaging Jesus if a congregant had ridden one to the service. It would have been a coo-ya and giddy-up moment instead of a come by here moment.

Back in the day, in my hamlet, villagers and well wishers went deep and plentiful to give thanks. They gave their best, nothing riff raff as we gathered at the house of worship to celebrate and enjoy a spirited service. The sanctuary on that day would be decorated with crops of all sorts in every nook and cranny. It’s a time when the local farmers get to showcase the harvest from their crops: corn, yams, bananas, plantains, potatoes, sugar cane, oranges, tangerines and more. The farmers also brought along a few fowls which were placed at the altar too. Some ladies donated crochet and tatting pieces. Above all though my interest was with the sweet treats.

Our Harvest Service or Thanksgiving dismissed nothing. There was a special offering. My parents, like many others, gave my siblings and me money to deposit in the collection plate. I was the happiest during that Harvest Service moment because we all got the opportunity to walk to the altar where we deposited our pennies and thruppences, sometimes sixpences and shillings. It was with hope too that people would see my pretty dress with stiff crinoline underneath to make it wide and nice to brush against each pew as I went by. I also wore drop curls hairdo under a lovely hat to match my dress. Complemented by socks with lace around the edge and black patent leather shoes which glistened from the Vaseline used to polish it. It was seldom in those times for a child not to be dressed in new clothes on Harvest Sundays. Everyone came looking clean, fabulous and celebratory.

Most importantly, I could hardly wait for Monday morning to arrive when people would gather on the grounds of the church to buy any desired Harvest donation. How enlightening and rich to see earth being bountiful with its beauty for all to participate.

Tah-tah! The more we give; the more we shall receive in return.

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2019

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