A livestock market on an industrial estate off junction 24 of the M5 is not the first place you’d expect to find a chaplain, but that is where Lorna Britton has just taken up her new post. Lorna, a sheep farmer herself, is quite familiar with the Segmore Auction Centre. She also knows first-hand the difficulties farmers face and how hard it can be for those in farming to seek out support.
“Farmers who are very proud folk don’t tend to readily ask for help or open up are under a huge amount of pressure at the moment. There has always been pressure in farming, it’s a 24 hour job, and there can be considerable difficulties for the whole family. But with the uncertainties at the moment farmers are deeply concerned about their futures. “
Lorna used to be a teacher but felt she was being called to do more. It was her vicar who suggested market chaplaincy because of Lorna’s farming background. Lorna took that advice and began chaplaincy training with the diocese and she also became a volunteer with the charity Farming Community Network (FCN). FCN works to support farmers and families within the farming community; helping with issues including financial difficulties and mental health problems.
Suzie Wilkinson is the Coordinator of FCN in Somerset. “Farming is a unique way of life because so often everything is tied up in the farm. It can be very lonely and isolating as you spend hours working on your own.”
Over time it’s hoped that other chaplains will join Lorna on a regular rota basis.
“I think the market has an important place for people because they congregate there. They meet people and talk about their stock. It might be the only occasion when they get out and see other people. So it’s a good place to be, you can walk into the ring and be alongside people, have conversations with them about the animals or the harvest, and from there other conversations can often open up.”
If you are interested in chaplaincy why not come along to our Chaplaincy Gathering 17 October. You are welcome to join for a day exploring how chaplaincy is transforming our communities with the love of God. It is a chance to listen and speak and learn, to get involved and be inspired. All are welcome, whether you are a chaplain or are exploring chaplaincy, in Somerset or beyond.