Celebrating Lammastide in Haslington
Revd Anne Lawson, Vicar of Haslington & Crewe Green, writes about how they have reconnected with Lammastide (the celebration of the first fruits of the Harvest), and the community around them.
When I moved to be Vicar of Haslington and Crewe Green I had a vision to reconnect the Church with the Farming Community. To engage with, and celebrate the Harvest season we decided to hold a Lammastide service.
Lammastide is an ancient Christian festival which many village and farming communities have re-discovered in recent years. It is the festival at which the thanks is given to God for the start of the harvest and grain and bread are offered as a symbol of this thanksgiving. Lammas is an Anglo-Saxon word for ‘loaf’ which is followed by ‘mass’ to indicate a Christian festival at which the Eucharist or Communion is celebrated.
I asked the owners of the local Bakery if they would produce a Lammas loaf and present it at the service, asking for God’s blessing on the people of Haslington. I then talked to the one remaining regular farming family in the congregation to see if they would bring a sheaf of barley and ask God’s blessing on the Farming Community. The service ignited people's enthusiasm and was a real community event. Lammastide is an accepted, anticipated and expected part of the calendar.
We have adapted the ancient tradition for our modern setting. The loaf is not made from the first fruits of barley but it is made using traditional methods in the centre of the Village by a bakery which performs a valuable community role. The barley is grown using modern methods but the Lammastide barley is harvested by hand. The Lammastide barley remains on the altar until the Harvest Service at the start of October and the Harvest banner is proudly displayed for the whole period. It is a simple, visual means of reminding the congregation what is going on in the community beyond the walls of the Church.
Since it began in 2006, a growing number of farming families have been drawn in to participate and some occasionally attend other services. We have rejoiced at the first fruits of the Harvest through a Foot and Mouth outbreak and the wettest Harvest in living memory. In 2008 we introduced Rogationtide (an opportunity for those who know little about the world of farming to find out more) and in 2010 started a Plough Service.
We are slowly re-connecting with the community around us. The walls are being broken down and the Church is returning to the place it belongs; at the centre of the Community. Through these and other initiatives (particularly inviting Community organisations and schools to take part in the Carol Service as well as through occasionally offices) the Church is growing; not dramatically but steadily, and confidence is returning as the congregation discover that they have much to offer to the community in which they live and worship.