What to sing now we no longer plough the fields and scatter?

Malcolm, a member of one of our worshipping communities who works with the Farming Community Network, has provided an updated first verse to the much-loved hymn We Plough the Fields and Scatter, which is more in line with modern agricultural practices.

We drill the fields and bury
The good seed in the earth,
But it is warmed and watered
By God who gives new birth:
He sent the cold in winter,
Then warmth and gentle rain,
The long days and the sunshine
Produce our harvest grain.

As Malcolm explains, “We no longer scatter (or broadcast) the seed onto the ground, but drill it into the seedbed. 99% of crops are now drilled into the soil, as scattering seed on top is far too wasteful, and less land is ploughed nowadays. This is better for the environment, as minimising the amount of tillage means much less carbon dioxide is lost from the soil and the amount of diesel used can be vastly reduced”.

"This verse also fits more closely with the biblical narrative of death, burial, and resurrection to new life. The live seed “dies” (John 12:24), is “buried” to emerge reborn or “resurrected” to new life. In my experience, as one who has been involved with all aspects of farming, the natural world so closely reflects God’s divine created order."

Of course, many people will remain attached to its original hymn. But as a rural diocese with an urban heartland, you might find that those in your community with a keen interest in agriculture appreciate Malcolm’s more agronomically accurate version.

As we work towards developing Eco Communities as a diocese, we also give thanks for the hard work of scientists, engineers and farmers who have made such strides to reducing the environmental impact of modern farming.

First published on: 1st September 2023
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