Tuesday, 3 May 2011


The green ribbon has been used as 
a symbol of prayer for the farming community

Rogation Sunday is May 29th 2011

This Sunday was originally so called because of the words in the Prayer Book gospel for the day: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give to you”. (The Latin is ‘Rogare’ – to ask.) The origins of Rogation as an agricultural festival go back to the Roman practice  of robigalia((“robigo”: Latin for “rust” or “mould”) - praying for the safety of the crops from the destruction of mildew. Mildew is still referred to as rust in some parts of the country!  The separate Roman rite of Terminalis or boundaries was adapated by the church to mark out the physical boundaries of parishes and fields.

 The link with several kinds of Harvest festivals mentioned in the Bible was made by the Christian Church.  In Genesis the primary purpose of humankind in the second story of creation  is to till and work the earth. The dependence on the success of the harvest was more evident in a pre industrial society but today processions to bless the crops and walk around the village to pray for the life of the community helps to reconnect us with the land and with the common enterprise of humanity.  Walking the boundaries of a parish or a farm continues to be a custom of some Rogation celebrations.

In the 1630s by the poet George Herbert, said that processions should be encouraged for four reasons:

1 A Blessing of God for the fruits of the field.
2 Justice in the preservation of bounds.
3. Charity in loving, walking and neighbourly accompanying one another with reconciling of differences at the time if there be any.
4 Mercie, in relieving the poor by a liberal distribution of largesse, which at the time is or ought to be used.

Today a blessing on growing crops in fields and gardens, and on young lambs and calves remain a key fetaure of the service. In the agricultural cycle, the main themes are seed sowing and the tending of the young plants and animals. Of course in contemporary agriculture sowing is done all the year round, as is the birth and rearing of the young, but it is convenient to fix on one particular festival as the time to remember these before God in a public way. Rogation will help reconnect people to the agricultural enterprise  - particularly if the local farming community is involved in the service planning - and recognise  dependence upon farming for our food and well being. A contemporary Rogation will also want to focus on themes of land use, climate change, diversity, the interrelatedness of humankind with the rest of creation, justice for and in creation.  In a global world, issues of fair trade and justice for all peoples including farmers inin other parts of the world will also feature.

Rogation is also likely to be  a festival of community, celebrating all that is good about human society in the local setting.  Rogation processions include prayer for various aspects of community which might include the village shop, the village pub, the school, the  places people meet and congregate  in the community.  There might be an opportunity to celebrate the variety of work and industry whether local or at distance, to which people commute.  Justice, neighbourliness, inclusion will be key themes.

Rogation prayers in Ramsden

Here are some links to resources you might find helpful :-

Church of England Times and Seasons  main web page: http://tinyurl.com/5ssuhzs
Direct link to the Agricultural Year section of Times and Season: http://tinyurl.com/63wu8cv

The Rogation section from Seasonal Worship from the Countryside (SPCK 2003)

A range of material gathered from  the Arthur Rank Cente:http://tinyurl.com/65t84pd

For wider environmental and climate change issues you will find a range of stories, ideas and resource on the diocesan website  http://www.earthingfaith.org/ ; and for information and reflection on global isses see the website of Christian Concern for One world. http://www.ccow.org.uk/

If you are thinking of taking a collection at your Rogation Service then there are three charities working together  as Farming Help :

Farm Crisis Network, a Christian voluntary organisation which provides emotional and practical help to farmers in diffculty. FCN runs the national farmers helpline 0845 367 990 
The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) with its national base in Botley, Oxford, provides financial support to farmers.

The Addington Fund; provides homes for farming families having to leave the industry and emergency grants in times of hardship

No comments:

Stay up to date with the 'Rural Church and Community Matters' blog: