Stalks of corn are tied to the ends of every pew. Apples, parsnips, carrots and tomatoes are nestled in beds of colourful leaves on every windowsill. Fall flowers are tucked among wooden hampers overflowing with cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes and turnips at the chancel steps. Homemade bread and bunches of grapes deck the altar. It’s Thanksgiving and we have gathered “to raise the song of harvest home” (Hymn 262, Common Praise).
As the offertory hymn is sung, wheelbarrows laden with canned goods, pasta and cereals are rolled up the aisle, all destined for the local food bank. The offering plates brim with gifts for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, widely known for its commitment to both food aid in emergency situations and food security for the long term. It’s Thanksgiving and we are praying for deliverance from ways of giving thanks for plenty that leave the poor unfed (Psalm 135, Book of Alternative Services).
One billion people in the world are hungry. Over four million people in Canada live in poverty. Thousands of people in First Nations and Inuit communities live without access to clean water and affordable, healthy food.
As people of faith, we are called to hear the cry of the poor and to do everything we can so that their hope for a better life does not perish (Psalm 9:18, BAS). We have a moral responsibility to press world leaders to have unwavering political will in achieving the Millennium Development Goal “to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.” In the monumental task of building a just global economy, we pray that their deliberations will be firmly rooted in the divine will for peace and plenty among all peoples.
Our perseverance in this public witness to our faith is wonderfully expressed in some words from the song that united the 2013 Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Busan, Korea:
How long will we sing? How long will we pray? How long will we write and send?
How long will we bring? How long will we stay? How long will we make amends?
Until all are fed we cry out;
Until all on earth have bread. (“Until all are fed” by Brown, McFarland, Morris)
ARCHBISHOP FRED HILTZ is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.