Why Rogation?

by Gerry Lynch last modified 27 May, 2014 02:32 PM

Some thoughts on Rogationtide, ancient and modern

Why Rogation?

Rogation Sunday service at All Saints', Middle Woodford. Photograph by Elizabeth Perry.

Rogationtide comes between the 5th Sunday of Easter and Ascension Day. Traditionally this was the time to ask for God’s blessing and protection upon the fields and crops at a time when any blight or poor harvest would result in the community going hungry later in the year.

Now, of course, with our supermarkets and efficient farming we are somewhat removed from that fear, but nevertheless, surrounded as we are by the agricultural life in this part of the world, it is still timely that  we set aside a time to pray for our farmers and those who work on the land. This last winter, with its storms and floods has presented a different set of challenges for our farming community, and we think of those in Somerset and elsewhere who have watched all winter, wondering when their fields would be free of water.

Rogationtide was also the time for “beating the bounds” when, in the days before freely available maps, Google Earth and the like, it was important for a village to know the bounds of their own land, so everyone would walk the boundary of their village. Boys were bumped on prominent marks and boundary stones, or even rolled in briars and ditches to ensure they never forgot the boundaries. Although we don’t need to make sure our young folk remember their own fields anymore, this is a good time to give thanks and pray for the place where live and to celebrate a sense of belonging; so important to our mental well-being. Perhaps we should also ask God’s blessing upon those who feel, for whatever reason, that they don’t belong, and do all that we can to build up a real sense of community where we live.

Our local poet-priest, George Herbert, said in the 17th century that Rogationtide should be about asking God’s blessing upon the fields, a sense of justice in keeping the boundaries of the fields, caring for each other, in the model of the village walking together as it beat the bounds, offering a time for reconciliation and friendship, and care for the poor by the distribution of charity. All of these are relevant today. Perhaps this month we can think about how we can put his ideas into practice in our own ways?

Rogationtide is one of those ancient festivals that still has a modern resonance today, linking us with the past, but also encouraging us to make its ideas part of our own modern life in a new way. Remembering our reliance upon each other and building community is as important now as it ever has been, more-so perhaps in our modern, technological, fast moving age.

This article is adapted from one written by the Revd Jane Tailby which appeared in May 2014’s Tisbury Parish News.

The Church of England provides worship resources for the agricultural year, including Rogationtide, on its website in pdf format.

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