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Church event to help Armagh and Down farm families as cost of living crisis escalates

"Farmers have seen a 200% increase in the cost of feed and fuel, and a 300% increase in the cost of fertiliser, which adds to day-to-day pressures."

Promoting the How’s the form? event to be held on Sunday 20 November at Rathfriland Young Farmers Hall is (left to right) Rev Kenny Hanna, PCI Rural Chaplain, Marcus McCollum, Farm business mentor, Rural Support and Rev John Torrens, minister of Second Saintfield Presbyterian and guest speaker. Picture by Rebecca McConnell

With increasing uncertainty in Northern Ireland’s agri-sector and farmers and farm families facing additional pressures, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Rural Chaplaincy Panel is holding a special event that asks the simple question, ‘How’s the Form?’

The Church’s Rural Chaplain, Rev Kenny Hanna, works across four of the denomination’s 19 regional presbyteries – the Presbyteries of Armagh, Down, Iveagh, and Newry.

This means that Mr Hanna’s focus is on famers and farming families who work and live in all of County Armagh and most of County Down.

Taking place at Rathfriland Young Farmers’ Club Hall at 7pm, on November 20, the event itself will focus on the wellbeing of farmers and farm families and will involve speakers from Rural Support, the Health & Safety Executive Christian Union and PCI’s Rural Chaplaincy Panel.

Panel member, and minister of Second Saintfield Presbyterian Church, Rev John Torrens, who will be speaking at the event, said that it was an important and timely initiative.

“‘How’s the form?’ is something we say all the time, isn’t it? It’s really a general kind of a greeting for friends and family alike, rather than a direct question – but it’s a question we want to ask,” said Rev Torrens.

“As a minister in a rural community, I know that these are difficult and worrying times, especially for farmers and their families. With that in mind we wanted to organise an event, which is a service of worship with a difference, while being a time of fellowship and togetherness where people can be encouraged, receive information and talk.

“Running through the whole evening will be a clear and holistic focus on physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing, and the support that is available for those living and working in our rural communities.”

Thanking Rathfriland Young Farmers’ for hosting the evening, Mr Torrens said that it wasn’t just for Young Farmers, as everyone was welcome.

He added: “While I will be talking on Psalm 49 and where we look for support and get our comfort from in hard times, I am looking forward to the contributions of our partners for the event, Rural Support and HSENI’s Christian Union.

“I am also looking forward to hearing from William Sayers, who as a 12-year-old boy in 1990 survived a serious farm accident which led to the loss of his right arm. He will talk about the help Jesus has been to him.”

Also looking forward to attending is PCI’s Rural Chaplain. Commissioned in November of last year, Rev Kenny Hanna’s main role is to provide a chaplaincy service in the four presbyteries to rural and farming communities, supporting congregations in their local setting, while prioritising the pastoral and spiritual needs that are associated with geographical and social isolation of those working in the rural and agri-food sectors.

“There has been a huge increase in the cost of living for everyone. Farmers, however, have seen a 200% increase in the cost of feed and fuel, and a 300% increase in the cost of fertiliser, which adds to day-to-day pressures. Talking to farmers and those in the agri-business sector, there is no getting away from the fact that things are tight and we want to bring light into this situation,” Mr Hanna said.

Growing up on the family dairy and sheep farm in the Kingdom of Mourne, prior to becoming PCI’s first Rural Chaplain, Kenny Hanna was in parish ministry from 2001 to 2021. “Building relationships within the rural community and sharing the Good News of Jesus relevantly and warmly with people of all backgrounds is a key part of my role.

“I am also aware that the biggest hidden problem in farming today is mental health, something that is borne out by various national surveys and many conversations that I have had. How’s the form? is timely and folk from all backgrounds will be most welcome. I hope those who do come will be encouraged and uplifted by it.”

How’s the form? takes place on Sunday, November 20, at Rathfriland Young Farmers’ Club Hall, Downpatrick Road, Rathfriland, at 7pm.

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