Faith in sod: Bishop blesses plough ahead of start of farming year

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Bishop of Chichester conducts traditional blessing on Plough Sunday, as farmers hope for a fertile year in the fields

Faith in sod: Bishop blesses plough ahead of start of farming year
Plough Sunday
The Right Reverend Dr Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester, blesses the plough of farmer Jonathon Bental CREDIT: RUSSELL SACH

A bishop blessed the plough of a local farmer in south-east England on Sunday as part of a tradition to mark the start of the farming year. 

The Right Reverend Dr Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester, blessed the machinery of Jonathon Bental in the parish of Chidham, East Sussex.

Plough Sunday is a traditional English celebration where parishioners and members of the agricultural community come together to mark the start of the agricultural year, after the fields have been left fallow for several months.

Plough Sunday
The plough was parked outside St Mary’s church in Chidham, West Sussex CREDIT: RUSSELL SACH
Plough Sunday
Reverend Andrew Birk blessing a plough in West Sussex in January last year CREDIT: RUSSELL SACH

The celebration usually involves bringing a plough to church to receive a blessing, but it is also common for local farmers to attend services with their tractors. The celebrations can also be accompanied by other traditions, including Morris Dancing. 

The celebration – which is held on the first Sunday after Epiphany, typically between Jan 7 and 13 – goes back to Victorian times, but has its roots in much older worship. ADVERTISING

In the Middle Ages, ploughs were sometimes kept in the parish church, and some churches kept a ‘plough-light’ – a candle that burned over the plough throughout the winter. 

In days when work was scarce, parishioners would look forward to the time of sowing with the promise of a harvest to come. 

Separately, the annual blessing of the Thames took place on London Bridge on Sunday, during which a wooden crucifix was thrown into the river.

Jonathan Clark (left), the Bishop of Croydon, throwing a wooden crucifix into the River Thames CREDIT: Jonathan Brady/PA
Members of the clergy and congregation of Southwark Cathedral cross London Bridge during the annual Blessing of the River Thames CREDIT: Jonathan Brady/PA

The parishes of Southwark Cathedral and St Magnus the Martyr met in the middle of the bridge and held a short religious service.

The custom was only established during the twenty-first century, but it harks back to the ancient ceremony in the Orthodox church of throwing a cross into the waters on the Sunday after Epiphany.

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