Celebrating the Harvest at First Presbyterian Church, Garland
First Harvest is a tradition in many agrarian cultures during which church members share a portion of their crops, goats, sheep, or similar goods as offerings. At the conclusion of this harvest service, the goods are then auctioned for the benefit of the church.
Rev. Paul Burns, pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Garland, says he first heard about the harvest tradition from one of the church’s African families.
“As we were discussing ways to increase giving in our church, we brought the idea to our stewardship ministry team and then formed a subcommittee to begin working on how we might bring the tradition to FPC Garland.”
Shortly thereafter, Harvest Sunday was born.
“We planned the service to coincide with both Thanksgiving and our stewardship season,” says Rev. Burns. “It also gave us many opportunities to talk about giving as we made announcements and wrote articles preparing the congregation for the event.”
On Sunday, November 11, the sanctuary came alive in color, sight and sound, with wonderfully diverse voices lifted in celebration. Ministry and mission groups, families, and individuals all joined the procession to offer gifts and praise on this special Harvest Sunday.
“Our diversity is incredible really,” says Rev. Burns. “It’s one of the main reasons why I was thrilled to accept the call as pastor here.”
“The first African family joined the church in 2002. As a result, a young relative had her wedding here, which is considered one of the greatest events ever hosted at the church – and it led to the beginning of several African families, mainly from Cameroon and Nigeria, joining the church.”
In 2005 the FPC session invited a new South Asian Presbyterian Church to use the church facilities. Eventually the decision was made to merge the South Asian church into the Garland congregation, along with their pastor, Rev. Oliver Jamshaid, who now serves on staff.
In 2017 the congregation contracted Rev. Dr. Gladys Nwabah (originally from Nigeria) to serve as an associate pastor, which helped to deepen an already rich multi-cultural identity.
“We have been very intentional in how best to honor all cultures and incorporate them into the worship and life of the church,” says Rev. Burns.
“Growing into this new identity has come with challenges, as change is always uncomfortable to some degree. But we are learning to make space for each other in the name of Christ.”
First Presbyterian Church is located 930 W. Avenue B in downtown Garland, Texas. Worship services are held at 8:30 a.m., 10:50 a.m., and 5:00 p.m. each Sunday.
You can enjoy more photos from Harvest Sunday, courtesy of church member Rod Jordan.