On Sunday evening a special service was held in the Mission Church to render thanks for the abundant harvest. The church was most tastefully decorated. Over the altar the motto, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof,” was beautifully worked with coloured letters, on a white ground, and the initial letters illuminated, the bordering being composed of ivy leaves, studded with stars of corn ears. The windows were decorated with fruit and flowers, and the reading desk was covered with flowers and ears of corn, amongst which three magnificent bunches of grapes were suspended. The new handsome lamps were also hung with ears of corn, tied with blue ribbon. An impressive sermon was delivered by the Rev. Randolph Skipwith (Whilton), from St. Mark, 14th chapter, and part of 8th verse – “She hath done what she could.” The Mission Church choir gave the anthem, “Lord, remember not the sins and offences of our youth,” with good effect, and appropriate hymns were selected from “Hymns Ancient and Modern.” A collection, amounting to upwards of £4, was made at the close, in aid of the Northampton General Infirmary.Northampton Mercury 1875 9 October
The decorations sound absolutely beautiful. The large windows that you can see in the above photograph are the altar windows – on an October evening the sun would have been setting and shining through the windows at the other end of the church, just enough to illuminate the motto, fruit, and flowers. This year’s harvest must have been especially good, and this was the first time that the Wharf residents were able to celebrate and give thanks in their own church – it had only been open for seven months.
It is probable that the anthem “Lord, remember not the sins and offences of our youth” comes from Psalm 25, a Psalm of David. Psalm 25-7 is “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.” (King James Bible) The choice of Mark Chapter 14 for a Harvest sermon is somewhat puzzling to me, as it refers to Passover and the anointing of Jesus, followed by the events that are remembered at Easter time. But I am not a church-goer of any doctrine, so my knowledge here is reliant on the internet – please do correct me if it is a usual sermon for Harvest.
The collection of more than £4 doesn’t sound very much but when you account for inflation, it is roughly equivalent to £250 today. A sizeable sum of money for a small community, especially one that varied from paupers to landowners. The Northampton General Infirmary was the closest hospital to the Wharf, and, in the days before the NHS, fundraising was an important factor in keeping the hospitals open and staffed.
Harvest thanksgiving became one of the many regular services at the Mission Church, which was itself an important part of Wharf life.