Ripon Cathedral marks Plough Sunday

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A tractor and plough will be parked on the West Forecourt of Ripon Cathedral, while traditional longsword dancers will welcome those arriving from across the region for the annual Ripon Cathedral Plough Sunday service, on January 15 at 3.30pm.

Those arriving early at Ripon Cathedral will be also offered locally produced refreshments of hot pork rolls and cakes and will be able to view an exhibition of organisations involved in supporting famers and the rural economy.

Plough Sunday, traditionally held at the start of each year to pray for the coming year’s crops, has in recent years at Ripon Cathedral, become a major regional service for the farming community.

This year, the guest speaker will be the President of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, Paol Christensen CBE.

The popular service brings together civic leaders, local politicians, farming representatives, landowners and young farmers from across North and West Yorkshire. It offers an opportunity to acknowledge and give thanks for the dedication and commitment shown by farming communities in the region.

During the service, a ploughshare will be placed at the front of the Cathedral and blessed as prayers are said for the rural economy.

Leading the Plough Sunday service will be 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.

“It is especially good to have the focus on our Young Farmers as we have as our speaker Paol Christensen, President of the Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs.

“The more we can encourage the young in their callings, the better, and not least the calling to food production.”

The service is a joint collaboration between Ripon Cathedral, the Anglican Diocese of Leeds, four districts of the Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Leeds.

As well as locally produced food and refreshments before the service, exhibitors from the farming world will have displays in the Cathedral.

They include the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, 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 12 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.