photoOne of the things I like most about being an Episcopalian is that we have hymns for “Rogation Days”. Rogation Days are days when we ask  – at least through singing a simple hymn – God’s blessing on our work as stewards of the land (and more broadly, the environment). Most in the congregation are probably not aware of Rogation Days, in general, unless they check out the church calendar or the fine print in the hymnal. (A special shout-out to our Rector, the Reverend Susan Bek, for encouraging the development of a congregational garden and intentionally keeping our garden – our small agricultural enterprise – in the thoughts and prayers of our parish’s members. We even have a gardening committee that offers a report at Vestry meetings).

On Rogation Days, we pray for good weather…and for good yields. That prayer might be offered in sung or uttered form. Today in our Prayers of the People, we asked our Creator to “Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others.” We sang a hymn, a portion of which I’ve included below, because it’s just so lovely.

The word “rogation” derives from a Latin word meaning “to ask”, but it can also be defined as meaning something akin to “litany” or “supplication”.  Rogation hymns often have the rhythm of call and response: praise and request. These days have been observed in Christianity for centuries, often with fasting and feasting.  But Rogation Days fall out of a variety of earlier (pre-Christian) customs and practices.

One ancient custom was “beating the bounds”.  In that case, a procession from the community would walk out and mark the boundary lines of the village (including the areas of agricultural  production), with stakes hammered into the ground.  Sticks of willow and birch were used to hammer the stakes into the ground, thus, “beating the bounds”.  Particularly in England, Rogation Days were celebrated by walking the boundaries of the parish and acknowledging in this way communal obligations of stewardship. That not only included stewardship of the land, but stewardship of people, and caring for those in the community who might be unable to care for themselves.

My Episcopal Church, #stpaulsventura, is hosting a “Spirit Walk” around the Parish next weekend, as we begin our annual stewardship campaign. This is the period when we contemplate what time, talents and treasure we can each contribute to the rich life we share together as a congregation, and how we can serve and engage with the world beyond our “bounds”. As we engage in activity that might echo the ancient custom of “beating the bounds”, you can be sure that I’ll spend a contemplative moment in the congregational garden we’ve built there, and which I’ve written about in my blog before.

“Lord, in their change, let frost and heat, and wind and dews be given;

All fostering power, all influence sweet, breathe from the bounteous heaven.

Attemper fair with gentle air the sunshine and the rain,

That kindly earth with timely birth may yield her fruits again:

that we may feed the poor aright…”

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

P.S.:

Hymn 292, 1982 Book of Common Prayer and Hymnal. “O Jesus, crowned with all renown.” Words: Edward White Benton (1829-1896). Music: Kingsfold, English melody; adapt. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

Also, The tomato pictured above was harvested from our congregational garden and shared with a 98-year old member of our congregation, who enjoyed it for lunch.