Rogation Sunday Homily

Today is Rogation Sunday which was encouraged by King Henry 8th. During that time there were processions around the fields in rural communities with clergy leading the occasions. This was supported by the national church following a period of prolonged rain in 16th Century which threatened to ruin crops. These processions were very noisy but great fun and a time to have plenty of ale, but their main purpose was to bless the growing crops.

Sadly again this year we will not be able to have our annual Rogationtide tour of Chase Farm with the wonderful commentary by Peter Chapman followed by a lovely tea provided by Pam Chapman. This year I think that instead of wanting the rain to stop I am sure that the farmers’ prayers would have been for a few weeks of much needed rain!
Giving thanks is so important and whilst we have been in isolation at home my wife and I have both been thinking about the present and the future, and Marian suggested this week that we ought to have a national day of prayer and so I have written to the Bishop of Norwich with this suggestion. So often in our country we have a 2 minutes’ silence for various occasions and that is important, but to have a national day of prayer would be positive thing for the future and I wonder whether the Bishop will take up this idea.
The reading this week from St John’s Gospel comes from the Last Supper when Jesus was looking to the future, as we are, with Ascension Day on Thursday. In a few days’ time we remember the day when Jesus took his disciples to the Mount of the Ascension and physically left them, but he left behind what he calls the Advocate. Now we all know that in a court an advocate is an important person to support people, but here Jesus sees the advocate as a power protecting the disciples in the future. This power would in many senses be a substitute for Jesus and we know this power simply as the Holy Spirit. That the Holy Spirit has been a guiding force of the church through many centuries is important and on this Rogation Sunday we should remind ourselves that along with the growing crops, God wants to bless our congregations and the church as a whole to grow and be supported and sustained.
In the coming weeks we will receive guidance as to when and how we can open churches. The Government is hoping to open churches for worship at the beginning of July if the virus, and especially this important R, remains well below one. It will be up to us all to abide by the many rules which will come, wear face masks and protective gloves if advised, avoid any contact with people, make sure that seating is organised with appropriate spaces.

There may well be many other rules and regulations but we owe it to the congregation to abide by each one so that everyone is safe. It may mean that we have a series of services on a Sunday for fewer people but whatever happens I will be with you and make sure that you are safe.
During the last few weeks we have seen Jesus as the Shepherd caring for his flocks; now he sends the Holy Spirit, and all this is to guard and help those he has given the task of caring for. Clergy all over the world have been waiting to be released to care for their people but sadly when the virus is over life will not be the same and probably never will, but let us all remember the good times.

On Sunday the choir came together in another Zoom meeting for fun and laughter and just simply to see one another again (on computer screen they are an ugly bunch I have to say – joke), I have heard of all the kindnesses that have been going on in our communities and last week I had an email with news that Rachel Butterworth housekeeper at Breckles Hall is offering to make cakes to cheer people up. What a lovely idea, but I know that the local postmen and dustmen have all put on weight in our group of parishes as they have been fed with chocolate cakes and scones!
So if you are going out for a walk today or in the week, have a look at the fields, see what is growing in them and thank God for this time of year and pray for our farmers who have all kept going during the lock-down, and which will be a vital part of the country keeping people fed but also caring for the environment.
A prayer for Rogationtide:

Remember, Lord, your mercy and loving-kindness towards us.
Bless this good earth, and make it fruitful.
Bless our labour and local farm workers, and give us all things needed for our daily lives.
Bless the homes of our parishes and all who live within them.
Bless our common life and our care for our neighbour.
Hear us, good Lord.
Amen.With every blessing
Adrian Bell

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