Kentucky Congregation Connects with Community through Blessing of the Tractors

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Loving and Serving, Southeast

By Carl Stagner

You’ve heard of a “blessing of the bikes,” often happening in conjunction with a “motorcycle Sunday.” But have you heard of a “blessing of the tractors?” In Frenchburg, Kentucky, such a unique event was just what the farmer ordered. In fact, the use of tractors in rural Appalachia isn’t at all limited to agrarian pursuits; while it may be yard tractors or zero-turn mowers getting all the attention among local residents, even the big Massey Fergusons, International Harvesters, and John Deeres—among others—help get the job done, often within only inches of danger and peril. Prayer, tractor safety, food, and fun characterized the mid-May occasion, with Frenchburg First Church of God pulling out all the stops and attracting regional interest and participation.

One of the largest motorcycle ministries in the Church of God movement stems from Owingsville First Church of God, also in Kentucky, and not too far away from the church where Mike Sexton serves as pastor. Mike knows, like many an observant pastor, that it’s the needs of the local community that often suggest the strategic opportunities awaiting to be seized by the church. Inspired by Pastor Lowell Rice and Owingsville Church of God, but recognizing the need for a spinoff approach, tailored to their community, Mike Sexton led Frenchburg First Church of God to start a “Blessing of the Tractors.”

Prayer over a zero-turn, the operator, and his children.

Often pain and tragedy lead to the meeting of felt needs. Blessing motorcycles simply involves praying for the machine—that parts would operate as they should, contributing to safety—and for the operator—that he or she would also stay alert and aware, protected from injury and death. More and more motorcyclists, aware of the danger of riding, request an annual blessing of their bikes, whether or not they claim to be a Christian. In Frenchburg, the unique and very real danger of riding tractors has hit too close to home over the years. Among the congregation, and connected to the congregation, several people have gotten hurt, and in rare but horrible instances, killed in tractor accidents. Even Pastor Mike was injured in 1978 due to a “tricycle” tractor rollover. The divine protection on his life that day was largely responsible for the role of pastor he since embraced.

“We put it all together, all these common experiences, and we responded,” Pastor Mike says of the Blessing of the Tractors event.

A smorgasbord fit for a farmer…and really, anyone!

Besides the tractor blessings, including for lawn mowers, there was much to make the experience grand and thematic. The University of Kentucky’s agricultural department was represented. The FFA has been involved every year. One of the church’s parishioners performs Paul Harvey’s iconic “So God Made a Farmer” recitation. A sermon is delivered on the subject, this year by Robbie Hefner. Safety training is offered, in addition to this year’s awareness campaign concerning the disturbing statistics about suicide among farmers. Local dealers of tractor implements were on hand, appropriate country fare was consumed (think ham and beans, cornbread, tenderloins, etc.), and some seventy-five giveaways were presented to guests. A parade of tractors (in lieu of a motorcycle “ride”) puts the finishing touch on the unique event, which saw a record attendance this year of about one hundred.

Every year across America, crowds climb into bleachers and bring lawn chairs to witness the excitement of “tractor pulls.” But in Frenchburg, a “Blessing of the Tractors” is fast becoming the next big, noisy thing.

Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

Feature (top) photo: The orange tractor (center) is the one that nearly claimed Mike Sexton’s life apart from divine rescue.

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