A tractor and plough in front of Ripon Cathedral greeted visitors from across the diocese for the annual Plough Sunday service held on Sunday January 15 to celebrate rural life and pray for farming communities.
Traditional longsword dancers entertained those arriving for the event including civic leaders from across the region, landowners, young farmers and farming families as well as rural clergy. (Pictured left and below Highside Longsword Group from Kirkby Malzeard choose the Dean of Ripon, John Dobson and later Bishop James Bell as part of the traditional Blessing of the Plough dance).
Those arriving early at Ripon Cathedral were able to enjoy locally produced refreshments of hot pork rolls from Tankred Farm Shop, Whixley and were able to view an exhibition of farming organisations and charities involved in supporting famers and the rural economy.
Several local organisations took part in this year’s Plough Sunday service, traditionally held at the start of each year to pray for the coming year’s crops. At Ripon Cathedral in recent years the service has had a major regional focus and is organised with the support and involvement of the Yorkshire Rural Support Network, the Cathedral, the Anglican Diocese of Leeds, four districts of the Methodist Church the Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds.
Guest speaker was the President of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, Paol Christensen CBE (pictued left). “The plough represents so much of what is important to us as a society” said Mr Christensen, ahead of the service. “Many historians will tell you that the plough was the most important invention of all time. Beyond that, we take food for granted today and Plough Sunday is a really important and under-celebrated event in the calendar year for us to come together and really appreciate just how much the plough does deliver for us. …
He added that the involvement of the church and cathedral was important. “The plough is mentioned over a hundred times in the Bible so the Bible understands how important it is, and I think the church needs to get out there and actually and embrace the wider community and embrace farming at the same time.
“Agriculture has gone through a bit of a tough time and still is in many sectors, but having been President of the Young farmers’ organisation the one thing I am struck by is the enthusiasm, the energy and the vigour of the next generation. So I don’t fear for agriculture in the future – it will be tough and there will be ups and downs but there’s a lot of really good youngsters out there who are going to make a go of it and I think we should celebrate that today.”
Leading the service was the Bishop of Ripon, the Rt Revd James Bell, the lead bishop nationally on rural issues. He said, "Our food producers deserve not only our support but also celebration and the annual ecumenical Plough Sunday service at Ripon is a great opportunity to offer both - first by consuming some of the fruits of their labours and then by offering prayer and praise to God for them.
During the service, a ploughshare was carried to the front of the Cathedral and blessed as prayers were said for the rural economy.
Exhibitors at the service included the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, Young Farmers, the Farming Community Network, the Yorkshire Rural Support Network, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, the British Red Cross Moors and Dales Project, Delicious Yorkshire and Farmstay.
The observance of Plough Sunday in Epiphany goes back to Victorian times, but behind it there is a much older observance, associated with the first working day after the twelve days of Christmas, hence ‘Plough Monday’ in some places. In days when work was scarce in winter, the observance looked forward to the time of sowing with the promise of a harvest to come. Although the nature of farming has changed over the centuries, Plough Sunday is still a way of celebrating rural life, especially the work of farmers and all who care for the land.