I seem to have spent most of the day in church today. I woke this morning to clear skies and when the sun rose everything looked beautiful and sparkling. There was still a strong wind blowing which made it feel much colder outside than it really was.
I had promised my mother that I’d take her to her church this morning, as the services at our church were both in the afternoon. I left home at just after 9.45 am, picked Mum up at 10.10 and got to Eye just after 10.30. There were a couple of places near the church where I could park which is the advantage of arriving a little early. The service went well but is always much longer than our one and by the time we left the skies were beginning to cloud over. I dropped Mum back at her house at about 12.30 and then went home for something to eat.
Richard and I went to the Plough Service at our church this afternoon. We set out in plenty of time for the 3.00 pm start but we discovered the road was blocked by a fallen tree. It wasn’t a large tree and most of it was dead but it was very heavy and Richard and I really struggled to get it to the side of the road. By the time we had got it half way to the side a few other cars had arrived and first a woman in the car behind us and then a man from a car two behind her and then a young man who had driven up from the opposite direction all got out to help clear the road. Richard, the woman and I had managed to get it almost to the side of the road by dragging it one way but the young man said he would be able to get it further off the road by taking it a different way. He was very strong and put the tree over his shoulder and with the other men’s help he got it right off the road.
To quote from the service sheet –
‘The Blessing of the Plough is traditionally celebrated on the first Sunday after Epiphany, January 6th. Often the plough was feted and drawn through the streets to be blessed in church. This was thought to ensure food for the coming year. The following day, Plough Monday, was the first day that work in the fields recommenced after Christmas’.
A local family bring their plough into the church and decorate it with ribbons and rosettes.
A farmer or his representative says:
‘Reverend Sir, we come to ask for God’s blessing on the work of the farmers of our country, of which this plough is a sign and token’.
To which the Minister replies:
‘I welcome you in the name of the Creator God who made this earth and all life upon it’.
The short service that follows includes verses from Psalm 104 which is a lovely song of praise for all creation and is worth a read for the wonderful phrases like ‘…..You cause grass to grow for the cattle,/ and plants for man to cultivate,/ to bring forth food from the earth,/ and wine to gladden the human heart.’
‘…..You bring darkness, it becomes night,/ and all the beasts of the forest come creeping out.’
In the service we acknowledge our forgetfulness and our gratitude for God’s Gifts. The blessing of the plough follows and then ‘God Speed the Plough’ – some verses about ploughing.
‘God Speed the Plough,/ the plough and the ploughman,/ the farm and the farmer,/ God Speed the Plough.
God Speed the Plough,/ the beam and the mouldboard,/ the slade and the sidecap,/ the share and the coulters,/ God Speed the Plough.
God Speed the Plough,/ on hillside and in valley,/ on land which is rich and on land that is poor,/ in countries beyond the seas,/ and in our homeland,/ God Speed the Plough.
God Speed the Plough,/ in fair weather and foul,/ in rain and wind, in frost and sunshine,/God Speed the Plough.
We are then blessed and we sing the harvest hymn ‘ We Plough the Fields and Scatter the Good Seed on the Land’. Even though there were only eight of us in the church we all sang heartily and made a joyful noise. And the service was over.
The Rector, Richard and I tidied up and blew out the candles and then had a pleasant chat together for a while until it was time for the Rector to leave for home. He is still suffering from a bad cold and has to visit hospital very soon to be assessed for heart surgery. He will have some fairly unpleasant procedures to go through and we wish him very well.
Richard and I had put the heater on in the Ringing Chamber (where the bell-ringers ring) and after Richard had done some maintenance in the church and tidied up the candles we sat and read and talked and Richard drank some coffee he had brought with him in a flask and waited for the next service to start at 4.30 pm.
Maurice our Elder arrived to take Evening Prayers and three other people joined us for the service. Maurice always prepares his services so well; it is a pity more people don’t come to hear him.