This week we celebrate creation in our year long campaign to beat the drum for all that we are and all that we do here in the Diocese of Leeds with a film that brings us a lovely example of that regular event in the church calendar; the flower festival.
We travelled to the further reaches of Upper Wensleydale, to St Matthew’s Church in Stalling Busk, to film them as they opened their doors for their annual August Bank Holiday flower festival.
Who would have thought that that tiny church could have created so much beauty and shared so much love with hundreds coming through their door over the three days of the festival.
The theme was based loosely around the children’s novel, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and one of the only stipulations was that no flowers should be bought – but cut from your own gardens or foraged from the hedgerows.
Flower festivals are a unique way of bridging the gap between the wider community and the church community. They are the public face of your church and your church family as well as a fundraising opportunity, and an opportunity to meet new people, for new people to meet your church family and strike up new and often meaningful conversations.
As St Matthew's church secretary, Lesley Coates Jones explains: “It’s just a getting-together of people. It pulls in a lot of young people to help with the arrangements who might be rather reluctant to be worshippers until they find out how friendly and easy it is; and how much people love each other and that it’s such a lovely famly.”
“You’d be surprised at how many deep conversations can spring out of something as superficial really as a flower festival,” she said.
But flower festivals are much more than that too as the Revd Michael Hepper, Area Dean of Wensleydale says: “They speak about our relationship with a God who so loved the world, He gave His only son for it; a God who is so creative and so expressive through what he’s made, and it introduces them to that God.”
The Church of England has endorsed the Season of Creation as the period in the annual church calendar from 1 September to 4 October. It is a time that generally encompasses many harvest festivals in churches and builds up to the feast of St Francis of Assisi as Christians everywhere acknowledge that the environment is our common home, and we need to tread more gently on the Earth and care for our shared planet.
Creationtide is originally an Eastern Orthodox initiative, but has now spread widely among Anglican, Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations, bringing Christians together to pray and work for the protection of the environment that sustains everyone. Last year Church House, Westminster provided some suitable resources for Creationtide and you can find them here.