Farming

THE FARMING COMMUNITY NETWORK – FCN 
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For more information on FCN click here

The Farming Community Network (FCN) is a voluntary organisation & charity that supports farmers & families within the farming community through difficult times. FCN has a network of over 400 volunteers across England & Wales, many of whom are involved in farming, or have close links with agriculture, and therefore have a great understanding of the issues farm workers & farming families regularly face.

Since 1995, FCN has helped thousands of people deal with a variety of issues, including financial difficulties; animal disease; mental health; & family disputes. FCN volunteers will “walk with you and help you find a positive way through your problems – for as long as it is necessary.

FCN also publishes monthly reflections, and recent editions are detailed below.

FCN’s MAY REFLECTION ~ Identity Security

In May 2018, the new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) comes into force with all charities and organisations having to have systems that are compliant by the 25th May.

This has created a lot of work and expense which has been particularly difficult for very small charities that do not have the human or the financial ‘spare’ capacity to deal with setting up new systems and contacting supporters. Although this is an important and very much needed revision, especially given the level of information we put out there about ourselves whenever we make any transaction, it could have a big impact on our lives.  The Farming Community Network has set up a whole new system because of the very sensitive nature of some of the information we hold as we walk alongside people.

What I particularly like is the ‘opt in’ rather than ‘opt out’ whenever we engage with something or make a purchase online. Our willingness to be contacted must have our explicit agreement and not merely an implicit assumption.

On the 9th September 1951, I was baptized at Rochdale Parish Church. I would have been four months old at the time and in effect there was an implicit assumption that I would engage with God. I did this variously over the years but with no great intent or enthusiasm. That was until January 1st 1975 when I made a New Year’s Resolution to become a Christian. I asked God to write my name that was written in pencil at my baptism, metaphorically speaking, to be written in ink, permanent ink! I had moved from implicit faith to explicit faith and now had a real desire for God to contact me regularly.

What made this change is a much longer story but it is tied up with identity. As an adolescent I went through the normal angst about my own mortality and had a great fear of dying unknown. Wondering what the point of my life was, and was I to be remembered or leave any kind of legacy behind. (This was 1966, but think of the 1982 TV Series ‘Fame’)

On the same day as another already famous Gordon Banks was in goal for England on the 30th July 1966, I travelled from Oldham down to Newmarket to sign on as an Apprentice Jockey for five years. I had never ridden a horse, had no love of horses or riding, but it seemed to be an opportunity to become famous as a jockey!

That never happened but nearly ten years on, through the gentle and persistent witnessing of a work colleague, I came to realise that ‘my life was hidden with Christ in God.’  (Colossians 3:3.) I came to realise my identity was to be found, as I was to be found, in Jesus. That there was only one place I needed to ensure my name was written and that was in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Revelation 13:8, 21:27 & Luke 10:20)

What difference does this make? It makes all the difference knowing my identity is in Christ, that I am loved of God, that I am a child of God. Knowing that I have a place and purpose in God’s plan for the redemption of the cosmos.

This gives me a security to step out into the world and engage with people and seeing them also as loved of God. (John 3:16)

I also discovered that God already held all my personal details and that this was the most secure place for them to be held! (See Psalm 139)

He also holds all your details and records and if your name isn’t already written in the Book of Life you can do that today.

Prayer:

Loving Heavenly Father,
We thank you that, in you, we can know security and discover our true identity.
We pray that as people trust us with details of their lives we will hold them as a precious gift and treat them with respect and confidentiality. We pray for all charities and organisations that are currently undergoing the necessary changes to be compliant with GDPR, and in particular for the new systems in place for The Farming Community Network.  We pray we may soon find it an effective and safe way of recording and logging the details of those whom we are walking alongside.
Lord of all life we put our trust and hope in you, knowing that you are always faithful and will not disappoint and that what you have ordained will come to pass.
Lord, mercifully hear our prayer. Amen

FCN’S EASTER REFLECTION 2018
The Bread of Life

Emmaus, 3 1⁄2 miles. Oh Cleopas, look, we’re only half way! Let’s sit on this rock for a few minutes.
No, Zach, got to keep going if we want to get there in the light. Come on, stop dragging your feet.
I can’t help it, Cleo, it’s all so depressing and distressing. I don’t want to see a cross or a Roman soldier ever again. It’s really shaken me up.
Come on Zach. It’s got me too, you know. There’ll never be anyone else like Jesus. I was sure he was Messiah and now – I just feel completely gutted. What went so hideously wrong? I loved that man, Zach.
Oh – hello – sorry – didn’t see you coming up behind.
What are we talking about?
You can’t have come from Jerusalem and not know what’s been happening there, surely? You don’t?
You must have heard about Jesus of Nazareth?
No? Tell him Cleo.
Last Friday. Three men crucified at Golgotha. One was him – Jesus. You can’t have missed that procession – all that shouting. All those soldiers. Where were you?
And today, there are rumours flying about that he’s still alive, or come back to life. Some say they’ve seen angels, but perhaps they mean a ghost.
But how foolish you are! Let’s me remind you what Moses has to say, and then the prophets . . . . . .
. . . . . . No, don’t go on alone, it’s so late in the day – come and stay with us . . . .
. . . . We thank you, Father, for this bread . . . . . .
Cleopas! It was him, wasn’t it? Did you see how he broke that bread? How he prayed?
Yes! And didn’t you feel your heart on fire when he was talking to us on the road?
Of course. It’s him. Jesus is alive! JESUS IS ALIVE! Come on, Cleo, it’s back on the road for us.
Zach, we’re not walking all the way back to Jerusalem, are we?
Oh, no Cleo. We’re not walking – we’re running back! Fetch that bread. What… ?
The bread that Jesus broke. Hurry! I can’t wait to share it with the others.
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Do not forget to share with others, for with such sacrifices, God is pleased.
Hebrews 13 vs 16

Dear Lord and heavenly Father. Thankyou for the privilege of sharing the staff of life with others, in our group and with those whom we serve in agriculture. Help us to discern every opportunity to do so.
Amen

FCN’s MARCH REFLECTION

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Psalm 8:3-4

I have been asked to speak to a church group on the spirituality of the countryside. What does this mean? Recently I was chairing a conference of rural church leaders and we were given an excellent presentation on a project to establish pilgrimage walks between rural churches. The speaker described this as an aspect of rural spirituality – so I better mention this example when I give the talk!

Lots of farmers I speak to tell me that whilst they don’t necessarily take part in organised religion they have an instinctive sense of God as the creator, whom they see demonstratively evident in the natural processes. I suggested this in a social media conversation I was involved in and was torn to shreds – surely God can only be known through Jesus? said the correspondent. But doesn’t John, that great mystical and theological interpreter tell us that Jesus is the Word through whom everything was made (John 1)?

Farmers are not alone in encountering God through an experience of nature. I am not hot on poetry generally, but I remember at school learning parts of The Prelude by William Wordsworth. In it he describes his spiritual experiences, and his sense of God, whilst walking in the Lake District. The Forest Church movement capitalises on that same sense of experiencing God in nature today.

We are in the middle of Lent. This is the time when Christians take their cue from the experience Jesus had in the wilderness; a time, for him, of reflection, renewal, prayer, and attention to God. It is clear from the dreams and visions he later recounted that Jesus was reflecting on the nature and meaning of his ministry for himself. In Luke he told the worshippers in Nazareth that he had resolved to focus his ministry in terms of the prophetic hope of social, political and religious justice. We take our lead from Jesus, Lent should be a time to reflect on what those justice themes mean for us – in our daily lives and in the work we do in FCN. There are other occasions in the Gospel story of Jesus seeking a lonely isolated place for prayer and contemplation and from those moments he received inspiration for his ministry.

In FCN we are not allowed to evangelise but there will be times when we are led to spiritual conversations by and with those we meet. When we do it is surely right to encourage those whose search for God begins with what they feel and understand about the creative processes of God and in what they see around them? This spiritual experience in, and of, the countryside comes from God the creator and is part of the journey leading to God.

Prayer
Healing and life-giving God, accompany us in our journey through life. Through our experiences of you grow in us a depth of understanding and compassion to strengthen in all we do in your Name. Amen.

Glyn Evans March 2018

FCN’s FEBRUARY REFLECTION

They maintain the fabric of the world

The fields around me this year, here in Durham, are a deep rich brown having just been ploughed ready for spring sowing. They spent much of the winter hosting a steaming pile of manure in readiness for the frosty days that aid its spreading.

So this year’s Plough Sunday service in Ripon Cathedral seemed particularly appropriate. Plough Sunday this year really felt like a fresh start, and a wonderful new beginning, to the farming year.

The excellent address at the service was given by Adam Bedford, the Regional Directorof the NFU, North East. His address was a celebration of farming and its contribution to human well being. Of course he mentioned the quality food farming produces, its contribution to the landscape and the environment, but he also dwelt on the special nature and quality of relationships within the farming community; the commitment to land and to place, and the mutual understanding and support that exists among the farming community, especially in times of need. The latter point struck me in particular. The farming community at its best models a way of living together, a sense of solidarity, that the wider world is in danger of losing touch with. It stands in contrast to what the Archbishop of Canterbury has called the ‘excessive individualism’ of our culture.

The Farming Community Network, with the other Farming Help charities, is one expression of this sense of solidarity as our new name emphasises. Many of our volunteers are themselves farmers or have close links to the farming community.

The service, with its hymns and readings as well as the talks, was a marvellous celebration of God’s gift of land, soil, skill and people. It made me aware how rarely we celebrate all of God’s gifts, without which there would be no life. What we celebrate indicates what we truly value, what is precious to us.

As a new farming year begins, with the challenges and uncertainties of Brexit ahead of us, perhaps there should be many more celebrations that focus on land, food and farming families. Our culture celebrates many things, some of which seem very ephemeral, but it marginalises the the essentials, including farming.

The church is called to give thanks to God and celebrate his goodness. We should use every opportunity, at Plough Sunday, Rogation, Lammas, and at lambing time, as well as Harvest, to counter the neglect of farming and to rejoice in God’s gift of the soil and in the skills and solidarity of our farmers. Thanksgiving, much more than price, is the way discover what is of real value.

God bless the earth that is beneath us,
the sky above us,
the life that lies before us,
your image deep within us

FCN’s DECEMBER REFLECTION

by Revd Janet Nicholls, Chaplain Essex FCN Group

Luke 2: 8-20

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of joining a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was an amazing experience with many life-changing moments as the Bible simply came to life before my eyes.

One of the highlights was visiting the shepherd’s fields outside Bethlehem. As a rural minister, I was asked to speak and as I stood to give my impromptu reflection in the shepherd’s fields, a fox ran in front of us. Suddenly, in my mind, I was transported back to the life of the biblical shepherds working in this place. Their job was to tend and protect their flocks, day and night. Any potential predator spotted in the fields would heighten the tension for the shepherds. They would know they couldn’t risk any dereliction of duty. So, when an angel urged them to leave their flocks, one can imagine the dilemma. A multitude of angels appearing to ordinary, men of the fields isn’t an everyday occurrence! These men were accustomed to the familiar nocturnal sights and sounds; those that brought reassurance, those that brought fear. But at that moment, their senses would have been overloaded with beauty and terror in one massive hit. But these terrifying yet beautiful angels persuaded them to risk everything, to leave their sheep on the hillside exposed to predators, to visit a baby in Bethlehem. Luke’s gospel tells us that the shepherds went with haste….no dithering or risk assessment! This multitude of the heavenly host was so unworldly, glorious and holy that there was simply no question in the shepherds’ minds. They left their sheep to seek out the Christ-child. And of course, when they found him, it confirmed to them that they had been touched by God.

In FCN we are committed to caring for farmers. We pray that our care provides light and hope during challenging times. We stand in a good tradition there. As Christmas approaches let yourself be drawn again to that moment when God sent his Son to the world; to bring light and hope. And let’s celebrate that just like us in FCN, God began his wonderful ministry on earth by bringing light and hope to some men caring for animals, out in the fields.

Prayer: God, you sent your angels to speak to shepherds the good news of salvation. You are our shepherd. You called your Son the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep. You are our shepherd. You have called us by name and brought us into your fold. You are our Shepherd. You have taught us to be shepherds for the sake of your sheep. God, you are our shepherd. Enfold us, and all your sheep, in your love. Amen

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