Ploughing On!

Kendrick Partington's article about the Plough Sunday service at East Stoke (in which I took part) serves as a vivid reminder of our time ‘in the country’ when we lived at Tickhill, South Yorkshire from 1972 to 1983. There at St. Mary’s a full cycle of rural tradition was upheld.

The year started with the blessing of the plough at a special service in early January. The light evenings of Rogationtide enabled us to Beat the Bounds of the parish and to ask blessing on the crops. Fully robed we did a Travelling Evensong, singing parts of the service at the Buttercross, by the Mill Dam, outside the Carpenter’s Arms and in a farmyard (all good smells around us are sent from heaven above).

Our son and daughter had the great good fortune to attend the local C of E School where, after a service on Ascension Day, a number of children climbed to the top of the church tower, there to sing ‘Hail the day that sees him rise’ to the glorious Llanfair tune.

1st August bought a special Lammas service, the feast of the first-fruits - a farmer bringing to the altar the first sheaf of corn and the churchwarden a loaf (the ‘loaf-mass’).

Harvest was marked by a full-blown Festal Evensong on the first Thursday in October. The church was laden with harvest bounty, the like of which we have never otherwise witnessed. Afterwards, the grapes were purloined, not by the choir, but by the verger who made wine for use at Communion throughout the year (none of your Vino Sacro plonk, thank you).

Kendrick comments that he found the East Stoke service ‘strangely moving’ (he played the hymns at a cracking pace so it certainly moved!) For me it served as a timely reminder, not just of our eleven years in a rural community, but that God’s provision for us requires much preparation before "all is safely gathered in".

John King
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 4th March 1998