Every year when the first years from Southfields Community College attend their annual harvest service I tell them about Robert Hawker, the vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall, and his reason for inventing the original version , back in the C19th. It was not out of any romantic notion of the hallowing of time, or to celebrate agricultural life. It was to instil a sense of morality and higher purpose in those men who wrecked passing ships for a living- Luring them on to the rocks so that they could loot the washed up cargo.
This murderous practice resulted in Hawker often having to carry the corpses of dead sailors up to his churchyard for burial. The Harvest festival was a way of inculcating the idea that there is a better way to acquire things than a murderous form of gang warfare. In the wake of the riots on our streets a similar approach makes sense. Name the evil for what it is but then strive, imaginatively, to convince the perpetrators that there are alternatives and that a generous, ordered, and responsible life is far more enriching than a one constructed out of resentment and whim.
Wandsworth Council meets tonight to consider its responses to the disturbances. For all involved we pray for wisdom.