a farmer from
Religion plays an important role in the lives of many members of the Knox County community and particularly to those who farm the land. Father Richard Snoke of the St. Luke Catholic Parish in Danville understands the relationship between the farmer, land and God. According to his words, "Anyone that works with the things of God has got to be close with God. And I think the farmer, when he's working with the land, he, is more respectful of the creation that God had put in charge of him . . .They are in tune with God because anytime you take a little seed and drop it in the ground and see it turn you know-think of the Pascal mystery, the life, the death and resurrection of Jesus. It's all part of God's greatness."
Tom Staats, a dairy, beef and grain farmer from Danville confirms Father Snoke's perception of the connection between stewardship and God, "we don't own the land, we are just, technically kind of caretakers. You know God put us here to take care of it and if we don't we're hurtin' Him, we're hurtin' ourselves and we are hurting the next people that come along. And I feel if it weren't for the religion we wouldn't be taking care of it [the land] like we are." Tom later goes on to state that, "the farmer doesn't use their land, they don't worship the land, they just see what God does as a result of the land, and so therefore it increases their faith. Their faith is continually exercised. You look to God for guidance and you realize you can't do it on your own."
The Knox County farming community, besides having the guidance from God, shares in a sense of comfort which comes from the parishioners, thus the farmers are never truly on their 'own.' Reverend Lloyd Miller, the pastor of the Greer Wesleyan Church in Eastern Knox County confirms the parishioners' dedication to God, the Church and community. "The church is always available to them and by the same token I must say they are always available to the church. It is kind of a mutual thing that happens as a result of their faith and belief in God and what's going on here. God is in all parts of their life. From getting up in the morning to going to bed at night."
In Danville, Father Snoke experiences the same dedication from his parish. "One of the neatest things happens here is any time we lose someone, all we do is I like call up . . .women and they get together and we'll just have the tables out there filled with food and women will come in and work and we may have a hundred, hundred and fifty people here for after the funeral where the parish serves the dinner to 'em and it's just a nice--and they'll stay around and chat . . .and it's nothing unusual to see many families standing over the back of the church among the pews talking to their neighbors or their family members and they may talk ten, fifteen minutes before they go home, you know it's just a nice getting together." Tom Staat's brother, Kevin, notices a similar fellowship within the community, "It's just kind of a neat thing to see the harmony and unity in a community that's surrounded by speed and expectations above reality, in a world that seems to be spinning out of control."
With society constantly changing and the farm evolving as a result, the Church remains constant
in the lives of the people of Danville and throughout the rest of Knox County. Working the land
instills a strong sense of stewardship within the farming community, bringing the farmer closer to God, the land and,
most importantly, one another. As Father Snoke gracefully said, "you know the family that
prays together stays together." Although a large proportion of Knox County members practice
different forms of religion, there exists shared sentiments among the many religious sectors within the county.
photo credit: February 18, 1996 bulletin from the St. Luke Catholic Parish.