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Derbyshire Rural Chaplaincy

Offering spiritual and pastoral support to the agricultural and rural community

Derbyshire is a beautiful county of varied landscapes, with many types of agriculture that have helped to shape it, from the moorlands of the High Peak to the fertile land bordering River Trent in the South.

The Derbyshire Rural Chaplaincy (DRC) is run by Rev. Alan Griggs, who is frequently ‘out and about’ giving pastoral and spiritual care to the agricultural and rural population. Since no two farms or farmers are the identical, we have a dedicated team of four chaplains and four farmers who have experience in the relevant fields to interact with people ‘on the ground’. There is a strong sense of community within the agriculture sector, and they are quite welcoming to us. Please do visit our website and click on ‘Meet the Team’ to find out more about us.

So, what do we do?

Every week, the team goes to Bakewell Livestock Market. It is a bustling centre for rural life and the last remaining market in the county. The team here interacts with the farmers, traders, and auctioneer employees, offering a sympathetic ear and identifying any issues. We also enjoy a nice chuckle and avoid becoming overly serious, and most importantly, we learn about the most recent stock values and if the weather will be favourable or unfavourable based on the agricultural tasks that week! Additionally, the agricultural chaplains will go to farms proactively and respond to recommendations. If statistics are important, we conducted 283 in-person visits to farms in 2022–2023.

The DRC provides a hospitality area and a Christian presence at agricultural exhibits all around the county. We often officiate at funerals, weddings, and baptisms for farming families as well as conduct and assist important farming services around the county at Rogationtide, Plough Sunday, and Harvest. We constantly collaborate closely with local clergy and ground the work of the chaplaincy in the rich soil of the rural church.

The DRC also coordinate a harvest festival and Christmas carol service with the support of Bagshaws, the livestock auctioneers. These are held in the main store ring at the livestock market, and the carol service can attract well over 500 people.

Farmers face numerous challenges, and farming is an occupation fraught with unpredictability. For example, if tuberculosis attacks a farm, it can be extremely difficult - even disastrous - for the farmer: there is the loss of the animals as well as a financial cost. However, as chaplains, we are particularly concerned with the human cost and how things affect the farmer. Unfortunately, a variety of stresses on farmers can contribute to an increased risk of mental illness and suicide. And being devalued has become one of the biggest problems farmers confront today. They put in long shifts in all kinds of weather and are often made an easy target in the battle against global warming. Sometimes we need to look beyond the headlines to realise exactly how vital a contribution farmers make to their communities and society.

Our guiding principles

There may not be much that is new under the sun here. Still, we recognise how important it is to start with thanksgiving, recognising the vocation and calling of our farming community to serve and care for the land in partnership with creation. It is also a privilege to learn from their deep connection with the environment and the wisdom passed from one farming generation to the next.

In response, the DRC is deeply relational, and it takes time to build trust and earn our stripes with our farming community. This is a ministry that must always take the long view. We also make every effort to answer the phone and welcome interruptions from a community that puts in excessive hours at work.

In the end, we are simply following a calling to participate in the mission of God, and we come as guests to be with a community that is deeply rooted to place.

First published in MOSAIC September - December issue 2023


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