Our Rural Officer for the Diocese of Leicester, Revd Canon Peter Hooper, has led the first-ever drive-in harvest festival service for hundreds of Leicestershire Young Farmers at Melton Mowbray Cattle Market and broadcast live on a local radio station.
The last seven months have been challenging for everyone - not least young people, who have struggled with the lack of socialising and activities available to them. Throughout lock down, Leicestershire Federation of Young Farmers Clubs has continued to offer virtual events for its 500 rural young people from across the county but thanks to Revd Peter, with support from Melton Cattle Market and the local council, they've enjoyed gathering (in tractors and cars) for their first ever drive-in harvest festival.
Cars and tractors gathered on a slightly raked car park, looking down to a make-shift stage (a farm trailer) with a combine harvester as the backdrop and two tractors either side providing lighting from their headlights, where Revd Peter led the service.
The event saw liturgy and thanksgiving interspersed with songs chosen by the Young Farmers and also broadcast live by local radio station 103 The Eye FM, so it reached more people than the 100-150 Young Farmers who would normally have gathered for their annual harvest festival in Leicester Cathedral.
Revd Peter, who is also Area Dean for the Framland Deanery, said:
"It was a really amazing experience last night and just how blessed we were. Everything worked well and we were about 60 cars in total with an estimated 160 people present. The event was an opportunity for members to give thanks for the harvest and was the first time all the members have been ‘together’ since March."
Emma Lovegrove, County organiser for Leicestershire Young Farmers said:
"The last few months have been very challenging for our members, especially those in more rural areas of the county. This service gave them a much needed reason to celebrate and an opportunity come together to give thanks for God for the harvest. The spiritual support our members receive from Revd Peter and the church is so valuable, especially at during the difficult times we are currently facing."
Members were even able to get refreshments from a drive-through snack bar on entry and they brought tinned and long-life food for a collection for the local food bank, Storehouse.
The Young Farmers in white coats in the photo below are those who brought up to the stage the ‘symbols’ of Rural and Farming Life. It is traditional for the Young Farmers when ‘presenting’ something like this to wear a white coat.
Young Farmers County Chairman, Elizabeth Charles, who is a former member of our Bishop's Youth Council, said:
"We were absolutely thrilled to be able to offer our members this Covid secure event where they could interact with each other whilst observing current regulations and keeping friends and family safe."