Every year in March, the Agricultural Council of America recognizes National Agricultural Day as a way to celebrate the importance of agriculture in providing food and materials for other things that we need. Ag Day at Coolspring Presbyterian Church, held on May 29th this year, goes one step farther to honor not only the agricultural workers for all that they do, but also God as our ultimate provider.
The event was advertised as “Bring Your Tractor to Church Sunday,” inviting people from all over the community to bring in their farm equipment for a special service to ask for God’s blessings on the harvest to come and offer prayers of thanksgiving for His provision. Pastor Mark Frailey compared it to the “Blessing of the Bikes” services he does for his motorcycle ministry, except that on Ag Day it was a “Blessing of the Tractors” instead.
An Outreach to Farmers
Five years ago, when Agricultural Day first started at Coolspring, Pastor Mark had observed a trend that fewer and fewer farmers were making church attendance a priority and lamented that they did not seem to recognize the importance of taking a Sabbath. He was discouraged that people “who depend on the provision of God’s hand more intimately than anyone else” would “see no need to show God gratitude or ask for protection or even success in the growing season,” and he wanted to do something to reach the unchurched and the de-churched in his community.
Ag Day was his response. Pastor Mark called it a special day “to welcome in the new growing season and ask God’s hand be upon the crops we plant and the animals we raise—to show our gratitude for the land, the history, the innovations, and the health we have in and on our farms.”
Although the years following the pandemic have seen a decrease in attendance since that first year, Pastor Mark is still thankful for the way that he has seen God moving in the turnout for the event. It might be challenging for farmers to take the time in the beginning of the summer to go to church, but that does not mean it is not important. “Isn’t God worth taking time for?” Pastor Mark asks. “He provides the very land we work.”
A Time and Season for Everything
Setting aside a special day to recognize this has opened up the doors for Pastor Mark and others in the church to talk to their neighbors about the relationship they have with God and why they take the time out of their week to honor Him for all He does in their lives. Pastor Mark says that “If God gave us eight days in a week, we’d fill it up too. But I have seen it over and over again in my life and others, if you take an hour or two out of your week to thank God, praise, and worship Him, you will find hours in your week you never knew you had. Happens every time!”
Church member John McCullough remembers when almost everyone in the church were farmers and appreciates how, even though this has changed, Ag Day provides an opportunity for those without ag-related careers to still “take part and realize how much agriculture means and how we work.” He says that in the business of dealing with crops and deadlines, Ag Day “makes us more aware” and “helps us slow down” and remember how important God’s hand is in our lives.
Gracie Turnbaugh, who attended the event as a photographer for PRM, noticed the way that Ag Day emphasized thankfulness throughout the whole season. She said, “the church used Christmas carols to worship and prayed for Thanksgiving over the summer harvest—something that I had never see done in late May!” She was impressed by the way that even a small church group was able to impact their community in support of their local farmers, including the ones who were also members of the church. Gracie saw that these farmers “were happy to show the other church members their ‘toys,’ as they called [their equipment],” and that the church members that were in attendance seemed very interested in all that went on. Gracie felt that the event was a good example of what a rural ministry can do that does not occur in other contexts. “I really enjoyed the opportunity I had to attend!” she said.
Gratitude and Remembrance in Context
Agricultural Day is a valuable part of the ministry done at Coolspring, because it is a reminder of our dependence on agriculture for the things that we need and agriculture’s dependence on God. “It is important for us to show our gratitude, confess our dependence on the God of creation, [and] raise our awareness of Agriculture and those who farm,” said Pastor Mark. Ag Day is one way to remember for them and for all of us that we need to care for and pray for our farmers and for people who either do not know Christ or are “making excuses not to take Him seriously,” and it also allows non-farmers “to just be thankful we live in an agricultural community,” Pastor Mark added. “This part of Mercer County is just beautiful and so are our people.”
 Agriculture Council of America, “About Us,” https://www.agday.org/about (accessed June 7, 2022).
Emily is a PRM writing intern also partnering with First Presbyterian Church of Jeannette to gain
firsthand experience in ministry. She is a lifelong resident of southwestern Pennsylvania.