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A Harvest Festival with a difference

Milton Abbey celebrated Harvest Festival on Sunday 9th October, one of many Christian communities doing so around the country, however this year our focus was on the refugees in Europe.  

As the School Chaplain, Rev Joanna Davis, told the congregation, “Thanksgiving ceremonies and celebrations for a successful harvest are held across the world and are very ancient customs.  In Britain, we have given thanks for successful harvests since pagan times.  Nowadays Christians celebrate the harvest by singing, praying and decorating our churches with baskets of fruit and food in a festival known as 'Harvest Festival', usually during the month of September, or early October.”
 
Last year pupils successfully collected and donated 12 crates of food for the Blandford Food Bank, a local charity that supplies food parcels to those who are struggling to feed their families.  This year, the School decided to look further afield, to those who have had no chance to even contemplate a harvest, but who have fled their homes due to persecution or war, and are living in refugee camps in Europe.  As a result pupils opted not to stick to the traditional idea of giving food, but other basics such as shelter, warm clothes, toiletries and rucksacks.  
 
Earlier this term Freddie, a pupil in his final year at Milton Abbey, gave a sermon during a school service to raise awareness about this initiative, asking pupils to return from their Exeat weekend with donations and supplies for refugees in Europe.  These would be collected by Blandford CARES, an organisation set up by Mike and Suzi Hearn that collects donations and supplies for refugees in camps across Europe, with a particular focus on the camp at Calais.  Mike and Suzi were recent visitors to the Milton Abbey Christian Union and we were delighted that they were able to join us again at our Harvest Festival morning service. 
 
Donations from pupils included rucksacks, camping equipment and other essential supplies for teenagers in the camp.  A makeshift boat and lifejackets at the front of the Abbey served as a poignant reminder of what challenges the refugees had faced as they tried to escape terror, war and persecution in search of a safer life. 

Mike Hearn, from Blandford Cares, said “It was a great pleasure to address the school in the splendid atmosphere of a service in your historic Abbey.  If the centre point of the boat was not enough, the “Jungle Camp” and the display of donations made the whole event a real reflection of  how your school views the complex issue of refugees fleeing the horrific events in the middle East and Africa. The donations we received were without doubt the most thoughtful and well selected contributions we have ever received.”