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Rogation Sunday traditions

by
13 July 2012

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When I was a youth, Rogation Sunday was always celebrated. . . I find that the only reference to Rogation Sunday (as opposed to Rogation Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday) was in the 1928 Prayer Book. Did the ASB put paid to any formal recognition of Rogation Sunday? Is it still celebrated anywhere?

Although the only reference in 1662 to Rogation Sunday is in the Table and Rules for the Moveable and Immoveable Feasts, and the phrase "commonly called Rogation Sunday" (1928) was not used in the ASB, Rogationtide customs have been maintained.

Outdoor processions on what were once known as "gang days" were suppressed in 1547, but restored under an Elizabethan Injunction in 1559. The brief mention of Rogation Sunday, and the inclusion of three Rogation Days in 1662, indicated widespread observance in the 17th century, evidenced also by George Herbert in his A Priest to the Temple, in which he exhorts the parish priest to be diligent in encouraging Rogation processions: "a blessing of God for the fruits of the field" and "justice in the preservation of the bounds".

The ASB provided for the Rogation Days with eucharistic readings and three additional collects, but in no way put paid to the way Rogationtide was otherwise observed in traditional ways.

In his New Handbook of Pastoral Liturgy, in 2000, Bishop Michael Perham identified "a need for imaginative Rogationtide liturgy". Fortunately, in 2006, Common Worship: Times and Seasons filled the gap in a section "Seasons and Festivals of the agricultural year" (pages 609-618).

This season has gained fresh significance, especially by concern for responsible stewardship of God's creation, and the new services make an admirable contribution to its proper observance. Time-honoured customs, not least the beating of the bounds, are recognised, and resource material is available for litanies, with readings that can be used at suitable points in an outdoor perambulation of the parish.
(Canon) Terry Palmer
Magor, Monmouthshire

A few years ago, we re-established the tradition of the annual Rogation service at Hartpury. It takes place on the Sunday evening in the open air at the Orchard Centre, the home of the National Collection of Perry Pears. We pray for the trees and the crop of perry pears, with sheep grazing around us. After the service we verify that the previous season's perry is up to standard.
Jim Chapman (PCC Secretary)
Hartpury, Gloucestershire

At St Mark's, Pennington, in Winchester diocese, we reintroduced a service for Rogation Sunday two years ago, and it has proved hugely popular. Beating the bounds is not practical; so we walk the boundary of the churchyard, stopping at various points to sing a hymn verse, and to pray for the areas of the parish in the direction of our view.
(The Revd) Alex Russell
Lymington

We have always had a Rogation service, on or near Rogation Sunday, since 1966, when I was a curate in Wolverhampton. The order of service was drawn up by Frank Berry, who based it on one put out in 1946 by the C of E Rural Group (a sort of church quango, originally appointed by Archbishop Temple, which sadly died a death before it got beyond the "re-inventing rural services" stage). I have revised it.

The local magazine report of this service says: "The Rogation Service on 13th May at Miserden was another memorable occasion. We blessed everything from the school and shop to the Garden Centre and the Estate Office. . ."
(Canon) Andrew Bowden
(Now at Caudle Green, Cheltenham)

Rogation Sunday is still observed in some rural parishes. Gringley-on-the-Hill, Nottinghamshire, used to have a procession with visitors arriving by the coachload from as far afield as Sheffield, but today's observance is much smaller. East Stoke also has an annual Rogation service. "The Staffordshire Seven" have a chapter on Rogation in their book Seasonal Worship from the Countryside (SPCK, 2003).

Vernon Staley, in The Seasons, Fasts and Festivals of the Christian Year (Mowbray, 1908), commented on the relative popularity of Harvest Festival (not recognised by the BCP) and the lack of observance of Rogation Days (ordered in the BCP "to be observed"). "It is neither appropriate nor consistent to celebrate Harvest thanksgiving, unless previously the Rogation fasting days have been duly observed," he wrote.
(The Revd) Derek Hollis
Kedington, Haverhill, Suffolk

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