Changing attitudes to the countryside

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Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.

Over the last number of years there has been increasing debate in different places about our care of the land, and the natural world around us.

Obviously this debate includes agricultural practices, but there are great concerns also about other things such as litter (plastics especially), water and air pollution.

One area where it seems to me there has been a big change in thinking since the 1960’s, when I worked on farms, is in our attitude to hedges. Those parts of our rural landscape that are everywhere, and which give our land such a distinctive patchwork pattern, especially when seen from the air.

Fifty years ago there was a move to tear out hedges and make fields bigger, while now it seems that thinking is in the opposite direction, with the creation of new and wider hedges for wildlife to re-colonise.

Those of us who remember the days of hedge removal can picture the scene in a field where the thorns and bushes, which once grew in the hedge, were piled up and burned. The line of the old hedge often had a drain, with pipes and stones put into it, before the soil was levelled and the whole (bigger) field was then ploughed. I remember well the old bits of roots, which had been left behind, sticking out of the ground. We just walked over them, or drove over them in the tractor. We didn’t care about them, because they were just useless and worthless.

Yet that picture of useless, worthless roots is one which is used in the Bible to describe Jesus himself. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah (around 750 years before Christ came) speaks about Jesus and in particular describes his suffering and death. But one of his descriptions of Jesus, in Isaiah 53:2, is quite remarkable.

He says that Jesus is ‘like a root out of dry ground’. Isaiah is telling us that this is how many people think of Jesus. They have really no time for him, they don’t seek him, or read the Bible, which tells us about him, and they never go to a place where he is worshipped to hear about him. For such people it is as if Jesus is just like a worthless root.

Yet this same Jesus, whose name is constantly abused in foul language, his existence denied by many and his followers persecuted in so many countries, is the Son of God. The Messiah, who became man and entered our world to die to save sinners like you and me. And he is, in fact, the only one who can save us and give us the hope of Heaven.

He said that Himself in John 14:6, “‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’”. But for those who come to know Jesus as Saviour, He is no longer like a worthless root, but our Saviour and He is precious (1 Peter 2:7).

So what is Jesus to you? Is He just like an old piece of root out of dry ground, not worth bothering about? Or is He your wonderful, precious Saviour?

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Patterson is a former GP who was ordained for the ministry in 1990. He retired in 2013 after 19 years as Minister of Castledawson and Curran Presbyterian churches in South Derry. Having worked on farms during his student days, before coming a minister, as a hobby he now enjoys restoring vintage farm machinery.

If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at or call him on 028 9753 1234.