As we drove through the Irish midlands yesterday, I saw lambs in a field.It is possibly the first real live lambs I have seen in eight years.Farming sights are not common in the Dublin suburbs.
For a few moments there was a longing to be back in a rural community; spirituality was much easier amongst country people.Irish Protestants have never been much into symbolism or ceremonies, being suspicious of anything that might be associated with the other tradition, but in the seven years I spent in a very rural Co Down parish, we managed to find events that struck a chord with the small but strong rural congregations.
There was, of course, harvest festival.The sheaf of wheat was placed in front of the altar and those who filled the church were reminded of the tradition of placing the last sheaf of the harvest above the farmhouse kitchen door – a constant reminder to those coming and going of God’s goodness and of their own mortality.When my own grandfather died, a sheaf of wheat was left on his coffin as it was lowered into the ground, a recalling of Jesus’ words that grains of wheat that fell to the ground and died would rise to new life.
On the first Sunday after the Epiphany, 6th January, we held a Plough Sunday service in the evening, bringing one of the old single furrow ploughs that would have been drawn by a horse into church and blessing it as a sign of our prayer for God’s blessing upon all the work of the coming year.
On Rogation Sunday, the fifth Sunday after Easter, we went out to one of the farms and held an open-air service asking for God’s blessing upon the crops.
Doing spirituality with rural communities seemed so much easier.
Where do we find events that will touch the hearts and minds of urban people?