The first-ever rural chaplain appointed by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland started his role as he means to go on, by heading straight to the mart.

Rev Kenny Hanna began his role with a service held in Mourne Presbyterian Church, Kilkeel, and on Monday evening was meeting farmers at Downpatrick Mart, Co Down.

On Tuesday, Rev Hanna hit Rathfriland Mart and on Thursday he travelled to the sheep sale in Hilltown.

His role is to provide a chaplaincy service to the rural and farming communities across counties Armagh and Down.

The three-year pilot project is aimed at prioritising the pastoral and spiritual needs of the rural and agri-food sector, associated with geographical and social isolation.

Born in 1970, Rev Hanna was brought up in Kilkeel on a mixed farm, which has over the years included dairy, sheep and beef. He is married to Freda and the couple have a son and daughter.

Common goal

His commissioning service was attended by friends and family, as well as representatives from various agri-food and rural agencies, farming organisations and sectoral bodies.

He said he was humbled by their presence, adding: “I believe that we have a common goal and our common goal is to care for farmers and farming families…”, adding that he was “here for any farmer and any farming family from any background”.

He told the congregation that farming is in his blood and that although he had been away from the family farm for 27 years, he enjoys being a part-time farmer when he has the opportunity.