Ten reasons why I’m excited about our new Harvest resources!

 

Our Church Engagement Manager, Liz Baddaley explains why she’s so inspired to get churches sowing seeds of change with our new FREE resources this Harvest.

If I’m not careful I’m going to get a reputation for always saying I’m excited about each new resource we produce. But in all honesty, it’s hard not to be.

Our partners in the Middle East – and the work they do there – are deeply inspiring. Many are brilliant examples of how to follow Jesus more closely. So on reflection, it’s hardly surprising just how rewarding it is each time I prepare a resource for Embrace. After all, I get to spend time pulling together stories from them, traditions they worship with, approaches rich and resonant to us here, and scriptures that motivate us all.

So it’s true, I do always get inspired in the process! Here’s why that’s happened this time…

1. These resources are harvest-y!

I know first-hand from leading worship in lots of different places how tricky Harvest can be to explain to people who are quite distanced from how the food they eat is grown – especially children. And how difficult it can therefore be to integrate resources that introduce a whole new set of different themes too!

So it’s been great to shape an idea for Embrace’s resources this year that helps us get right to the heart of the core themes of what Harvest is all about – God’s creation; the process of sowing, planting, growing, reaping and eating, and celebrating all this by giving thanks and sharing God’s gifts with others.

2. They provide a rich and helpful way to pray and give this Harvest

Using visual and symbolic approaches in our prayer and giving helps us to be present to what we’re doing. That’s why I’m looking forward to using – as well as sharing – the central idea of sowing prayerful and practical seeds of change with our Seed packets.

We’ve had some fun creating them to mirror the real thing, and I think they help bring to life the 2 Corinthians 9 call to give cheerfully, as well as to sow generously. I particularly like the fact that everyone – even kids – can join in the ‘sowing’. Because everyone can sow a prayer, even if they’re not able to give money as well.

3. They’re going to be fun to use

Harvest is a time of thankfulness and celebration. And there’s joy, fun and good news stories in these resources, alongside the more serious focus on helping people living in poverty to grow new futures.

The Worship resources include some creative ideas for collecting everyone’s Seed packets. The all-age talk picks up a celebratory, as well as an informative, theme; and some children I know will definitely enjoy making the prayer pyramid that’s included in the Children’s activity sheets!

4. The resources share stories of one of the most effective ways to grow change on the ground that we know...

Small businesses: made possible by microloans, given to enterprising individuals by our partners.

The difference this simple form of support can make is astounding. For example, Think and Do – one of the partners in Egypt we’re focusing on in these resources – make microloans as small as £37. What’s a helpful comparison for you to that amount? For me, it’s probably my share of the weekly supermarket shop…

But when these loans are put in the right hands – hands like Hana’s who you will meet in our ‘Growing new futures’ story – brilliant new ventures can grow!

5. One of our Egyptian partners contributed to writing these resources

Early on in the process, we chose to use Psalm 65 as one of the scriptures to feature.

And when our Egypt Partnerships Manager, Rhiannon, asked some of the staff at Anafora, one of our partners in Egypt, about Harvest themes, they shared a Coptic Orthodox ‘sowing prayer’ with her.

It’s beautiful and we’ve included it in the resources. I particularly like the fact that it asks for blessing on the harvests to come from the seeds being sown ‘for the sake of the poor of Your people, the widow, the orphan, the traveller, the stranger’… and the fact it does so by echoing Psalm 65’s language when it asks God to bless ‘the crown of the year’.

6. All of our Egyptian partners will be deeply blessed by the prayers and money raised through people sowing seeds of change with us this Harvest

All the money given to Embrace this Harvest will go direct to Egypt, and our partners’ wonderful work on the ground there.

And all the Seed prayer cards sent in to us will be taken out to Egypt. They’ll be given to Anafora – who shared the Coptic sowing prayer with us – on behalf of all our partners in the country. And we’ll share some photos of these extra special gifts arriving, and news of just how encouraging we know they will be. (Keep an eye on embraceme.org/sowseeds to see these in December.)

7. The resources contain some delicious inspiration!

Last year’s mouth-watering Middle Eastern Recipes are back… and everyone using one of our table mats as part of their place-setting at a Harvest supper will also be introduced to the delights of ‘aish baladi’ – the traditional Egyptian flatbread Hana makes in our ‘Growing new futures’ story.

8. They also introduce churches in the UK to their Coptic brothers’ and sisters’ September celebration of El-Nayrouz

This was the new area of discovery for me in preparing these resources – as I’m sure it will be for many of the people using them.

Egyptian Christians don’t have a once a year Harvest festival. Mostly because they have more than 300 days of sunshine a year … so they can grow multiple cycles of crops! But Coptic New Year celebrations, called El-Nayrouz, begin on 11 or 12 September each year (12 in 2019) and run for two weeks. So Harvest in the UK is a great time to be praying for our Egyptian brothers and sisters, and their service of those around them. (Find out more in the Sow seeds of change with us: Worship resources.)

9. We believe these resources will help you further grow a heart for Egypt

Did you know that Egypt is home to the largest number of Christians in the whole of the Middle East? Around 10 million, which is a little over 10% of the nation’s total population, live there.

Moving the Worship resources to an online only format meant we could extend the amount of inspiring background facts and prayer pointers we could provide in them about Christianity in Egypt. And I think this will help people with growing a heart for Egypt, its Christians, and the people they serve.

10. The resources were inspiring and encouraging to prepare…

… which gives me real confidence that they’re going to be inspiring and encouraging to use too!

So do have a browse to see what would suit you and your church to use this Harvest, alongside any local food collections or other priorities you might have.

Everything you need to join in, and sow seeds of change with us this Harvest is here.