The Royal Welsh Show is more important than ever to the rural community as it faces the challenges of austerity, isolation and uncertainty over Brexit, says the Church’s Senior Bishop.
The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies – whose diocese includes the showground at Llanwelwedd – says the four-day annual event, which begins on Monday, gives isolated farmers a chance to meet others and also to seek help if needed.
Bishop John says, “This year, as always, there will be a strong Christian presence at the Show with daily services, to which everyone is welcome, and a team of chaplains offering care and support to those who need it. The Show is the highlight of the year for our rural community as it is a valuable chance not just for them to showcase livestock and produce but to meet, socialise and share experiences. Our clergy who minister in rural areas know only too well how important that social element is as austerity, loss of public services, uncertainty over Brexit and increasing isolation take their toll on the mental health of farmers in particular. Our message to them is that we are here, we care and we want to help.”
There will be a warm welcome to all visitors at the Churches Together in Wales – Cytûn – tent on the showground. Tea and coffee will be served throughout the day and there will be services at 8am, 11am and 5pm every day. The tent is shared by several Christian denominations as well as Christian Aid and Fair Trade Wales. It can be found on the showground at D294.
The tent is also one of the bases for a team of chaplains who serve the Show, offering pastoral care and support both to those who work there and to those who visit. They can be easily spotted at the tent or around the show, wearing distinctive orange fluorescent Chaplain vests.
The four-day event will begin with an opening service at the nearby parish church, St Mary’s, in Builth Wells. The service, which is open to all, begins at 6pm. It will be led by the Revd Michelle Bailey, the rural life adviser for the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon who is also a show chaplain. The guest preacher will be the Revd Canon Eileen Davies, a farmer in Ceredigion and the rural life adviser for the Diocese of St Davids.
Early visitors to the town this weekend will also hear the bells ringing out from St Mary’s Church for two-and-a-half hours on Saturday afternoon. The peal attempt will begin at 4.30pm.
Fair Trade petition
Bishop John will be signing a petition against Sainsbury’s decision to reduce its commitment to Fairtrade in its own brand tea. The supermarket giant recently announced that it would be replacing the Fairtrade certification with its own ‘fairly traded’ scheme. Tea-farmers and workers in Africa say the move will disempower them as they will no longer control the Fairtrade premium.
The petition, organised by Fair Trade Wales at the Show, calls on Sainsbury’s to reconsider their decision. People will be invited to add their names by writing them onto a label and dropping them into a large teapot.
Bishop John will be adding his signature at the Cytûn tent on Monday at 11.45am.
BBC Songs Of Praise
The Christian presence at the Show will also be the theme of a BBC Songs of Praise programme which will be filmed at the show. The programme’s presenters, Aled Jones and JB Gill, will be following the show’s chaplains and joining in the worship services. The programme is scheduled to be broadcast at Harvest time on September 24.