Bless the land

In this part of the country we’re probably more aware than some of the turning of the seasons: spring and autumn, seedtime and harvest, especially. They are times of the year to celebrate!

Most people will know about Harvest Festivals, not so many will have heard of Rogation-tide. Harvest is the autumn festival, giving thanks for the crops being safely gathered in. Rogation comes in the spring-time, praying for the land, for the growing crops, for the people who work on the land.

It’s an ancient festival, often connected with the ‘Beating of the Bounds’ – a walk in procession round the parish boundary. In the days when maps and books were not readily available, it was a way of making sure that boundary markers were in place and the coming generation knew where to find them. I think the children beat the boundary markers with willow wands … to help them pay attention!

It seems that Rogation processions in the 1200’s through to the 1600’s were great community events. Great processions with parishioners carrying banners and torches, followed by choir and clergy – and a certain amount of ‘drunken revelry’ as they walked. Then it seems that such occasions were banned by the Puritans – not enough piety and far too much fun!

A couple of years ago we revived Rogation-tide in the parishes of Branston, Nocton and Potterhanworth – with a service for the blessing of the land. Too far to walk round all three parishes – so we drive between them. (We save our legs for a pilgrimage walk on Holy Saturday, walking the ten miles from Bardney along the Witham and up Steep Hill to the cathedral.)

Rogation Sunday for us this year will be on May 12th. We’ll begin at Branston parish church at 10am with the first part of the service, then move on to Branston Booths village hall, looking out over the dark earth of the fen for the blessing of the land. In our cars again to Nocton church and finally ending the service at Potterhanworth church – then a glass of wine and a shared lunch. You’re welcome to join in.

Rev’d Lorna Brabin-Smith
Rector of Branston with Nocton and Potterhanworth