The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council joined local church leaders at a cross-community service on Saturday afternoon to mark the centenary of the Ulster Farmers’ Union.
The service, in Londonderry’s Guildhall, celebrated ‘faith in farming’ in the UFU’s 100th year, and featured readings from scripture, prayers for the farming community, communal hymn-singing and performances by Codetta choir.
Senior figures from the farming industry took part in the service, along with the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Ken Good, the Bishop of Derry, Dr Donal McKeown, the Rev Paul Linkens from Ebrington Presbyterian Church and the Rev Richard Johnston from Clooney Hall Methodist Church.
The address at today’s service was given by the President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Rev Dr Laurence Graham, whose grandfather was a former President of the UFU.
Dr Graham described farming as a partnership with God – “a partnership that God has ordained to provide food for all”. God drenches the furrows, Dr Graham said, but it’s not God that ploughs the furrows in the first place.
Dr Graham asked those present – in the midst of all they were celebrating – whether they were partnering with God. “As we celebrate this wonderful centenary, and as we celebrate the importance of agriculture and the crucial role of farmers in feeding the world, as we celebrate the fact that farmers are partners of God in their work, so I ask you: are you partnering with God in your life? And if not, why not, because he only wants what is best for you?”
During the service, soil from all six counties in Northern Ireland was blessed; it will be used to plant a commemorative tree in the grounds of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise’s Greenmount campus.
The collection during the Service was taken up for the UFU’s chosen charity this year, Air Ambulance NI. The Union’s President, Ivor Ferris, told the congregation that – with three months still to go – the UFU had already exceeded its £100,000 fundraising target.