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How Agricultural and Rural Chaplaincy Supports Farmers and Rural Communities: Revd. Canon Richard Kirlew

We have perhaps the best type of Chaplaincy to work in!  But I would say that, wouldn’t I!

Agricultural and rural chaplaincy is very often forgotten.  Many people think that the countryside and farming community just keeps pottering on at a slow pace.  A very wrong assumption to make!  There are many issues making the idyllic life of ‘roses round the farmhouse door’ in some cases a living hell!

Farming, and with it, rurality in general, is undergoing perhaps the biggest upheaval since World War 2.  The existing form of subsidies is being replaced with one based far more on a sustainable and eco friendly grant system.  Farming seems to be encouraged now to plant trees and grow wild flowers and grasses which grow to maturity. 

It appears that food production in farming, which was for centuries the main occupation, is now being sidelined in favour of cheap imports and food insecurity, and with it, humungous food miles!  Neither, in my opinion can be sustainable, with a very hostile world, such as the issues in Ukraine and the middle east, or eco friendly with importing food from Australia and New Zealand.

So what do Agricultural/Rural Chaplains actually do? 


Being an agricultural/ rural chaplain is not just working working with farming communities.  Rural covers a multitude of other things, such as local business in pubs or shops, agricultural dealers and many others who might find a visit from a chaplain useful.


Our chaplains, lay and ordained, provide a listening ear and practical support during challenging times.  The main issues affecting the farming community at present are increase in Bovine Tb; financial worries, late payment of grants; milk prices are very low at present; Succession planning for future generations; stress, anxiety and depression, costs of fertiliser, fuel and electricity; insecurity of tenure amongst tenant farmers; post Brexit issues; fear of cheap imports from abroad; weather extremes due to global warming and many more!

We attend Livestock Markets and agricultural shows to be a “passive” Christian presence in the spaces where farmers and traders gather.  This might be in machinery or animal feed dealers, pubs, market cafés or NFU, CLA meetings.


We encounter mental health issues almost on a daily basis.  Farming has the highest rate of male suicide of any profession in the UK.  At the time of writing, there is an average of two suicides per week.

We visit farmers to see them in their own farming situations and care homes to meet retired farmers, farm workers, gamekeepers etc. in care.

We work with other support agencies such as the Arthur Rank Centre (ARC), Farming Community Network (FCN), The Addington Fund, The Royal Agricultural Benevolence Institution (RABI), the Rural Church, the Police, Trading Standards, Banks, Social Services and the NHS, together with other voluntary and statutory organisations to provide holistic help.

We aim to organise special worship services at Harvest and Christmas in Markets and support other key farming services around the area.


This is not an exhaustive list but above all our approach is "Be brave and be prepared to make mistakes!!"


For more information, please contact:

Revd Canon Richard Kirlew

Chair – Agricultural Chaplains Association

Tel:    01935 488564

Mobile:  07966 754110



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