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NFU visit St Edmundsbury Cathedral in Bury St Edmunds for Plough Sunday service

A tractor parked outside St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Sunday (January 12) as farmers joined the traditional Plough Sunday service.

The annual event is a sister gathering to autumn’s harvest festival and sees the county’s agricultural community invited for prayers and blessing.

Sarah Friswell, visits and volunteer manager, said the idea of Plough Sunday is ancient but has been held in the Bury St Edmunds cathedral for about a decade.

All pictures by Mark Westley
All pictures by Mark Westley

She said: “It is all about blessing the ploughs so the production will be fruitful. But the modern day thinking is that we want to pray with the agricultural community here - it links in with the Harvest Festival in that respect.

“It is also a chance to think and pray for some of the issues facing the agricultural community in 2020, such as Brexit and the environment.”

Plough Sunday was held at 3.30pm, the time of the Cathedral’s usual Sunday evensong, and finished with the blessing of a tractor and plough next to the Norman tower.

Canon Philip Banks, Precentor at the Cathedral, said: “The tradition of blessing the plough reminds us of the significance of the agricultural industry to the county of Suffolk.

“Whatever the time of year, we rely on our farmers to provide food for our tables and increasingly we are aware of the need to source that locally.”

The service included prayers led by Agricultural Chaplain, Canon Sally Fogden, while the event was also organised by Sally Gaze - the archdeacon for rural mission. Both Sallys play a role in helping with faith issues in rural areas.

The observance of Plough Sunday on the First Sunday of 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.

Sarah Friswell added: “Agriculture is everything here and we try to respect the tradition. It is a big part of Suffolk life, which is why you might not have Plough Sunday in other places.

“We are always talking with the farming community but this is one occasion where we can stop and talk about the issues that are real to them.

“It was within the context of our evensong. It has become a tradition in the past few years to do this.”