19 May 2000

Set for Rogation Sunday

PEOPLE everywhere are preparing for Rogation Sunday on May 28.

It will be a special day of prayer for the farming community – one spanning the nation and religious denominations.

It will be a day when the plight of farmers and their families will be uppermost in church-goers minds. The aim is simple – to raise awareness of the human cost of the crisis in agriculture.

"A great opportunity for everyone to remember the needs of the farming community," says Rev Gordon Gatward of the Arthur Rank Centre, the body co-ordinating rural church work.

And around the nation, in towns and villages alike, people are being asked to show their solidarity with British farmers by wearing a green ribbon.

"It really has captured the publics imagination," says Rev Gatward. By early May, hed already sent out enough material to make more than 150,000 ribbons.

A leaflet containing statistics to help prepare suitable sermons and special prayers has been provided for 20,000 churches. A briefing paper has also been made available to clergy, highlighting how 22,000 full- and part-time jobs were lost in agriculture in 1999 and how the average income on a dairy farm is now just £8000.

The human cost of the current crisis, says the briefing paper, is seen in guilt, isolation, loneliness and a loss of self-esteem. It also refers to the plight of the tenant farmer. "With no house or land as an asset and the value of livestock and equipment being so low, many tenants find themselves trapped. If they decide to leave farming, they risk losing their job and home with little prospect of rebuilding life in an isolated area dependent on a thriving rural economy."

Rogation Sunday has peen picked as the ideal day for the initiative as it has traditionally been seen as an occasion to unite the whole community. In rural settings, services often feature a walk around the parish with prayers offered at different places representing community life such as the village hall, school or a farm.

NFU president Ben Gill says: "When a similar initiative was held last year, the call received widespread support across the country – from towns and cities as well as rural villages – and from all religious denominations.

"The situation now is even more critical, with farm incomes having fallen 60% in recent years and many farming families facing poverty."

&#8226 For more information, call the Arthur Rank Centre on 02476 696969.