The farming community and local congregation gathered in Howden Minster on Sunday 16 January 2011, to celebrate Plough Sunday. The service also sought to raise awareness of the farming charity, Farm Crisis Network (FCN).
Plough Sunday appears to be a very ancient festival, revived by the Victorians. Traditionally, it is celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany, 6th January. Often, the plough was fêted and drawn through the streets to be blessed in church. The following day, Plough Monday, was the first day that work in the fields recommenced after Christmas.
This year a traditional horse drawn plough was brought into church, together with a milk churn and sheep’s fleece in order to represent the wider farming community.
In his sermon, the Rector, Revd James Little, referred to the Gospel reading where Jesus warned his disciples that having put their hand to the plough, not to look back. He noted that anyone with experience of ploughing, will appreciate that when the ploughman looks back the plough takes on a life of its own and any chance of ploughing a straight furrow is lost. He went on to say that New Year is a time for hope and optimism, just as the farmer demonstrates every time that a seed is planted in the ground.
In a brief address, Helen Benson, FCN Coordinator for Yorkshire introduced the charity. FCN is a Christian organisation involving almost 300 volunteers drawn from rural churches and farming backgrounds who provide a national helpline (operating 16 hours every day of the year) and visiting service to farming families facing difficulties. Helen went on to describe some of the problems encountered by farmers, including financial hardship, relationship difficulties, isolation and sheer hard work, to name but a few.
Celebration of the ‘rural festivals’ has become a tradition at Howden, with Rogation, Lammas and Harvest being observed later in the year.
For further information on Farm Crisis Network, visit the FCN website www.fcn.org.uk