Rogation Day

2 June 2000

Rogation Day

sees a national

surge of solidarity

PRAYERS were said for farmers and their families across the country last Sunday (May 28).

Rogation Day events saw special services in and around churches and, as a way of showing solidarity with crisis-hit countrydwellers, thousands of people wore green ribbons on their lapels.

"Anything that brings people together and emphasises the problems of rural areas is good news," said Malcolm Whitaker, one of many farmers addressing congregations.

This current crisis is worse than in the 1930s because its happening in the midst of such great affluence, he said. "Its harder to bear."

He told churchgoers at North Nibley, Glos, that technological advances in food production, though wonderful, had brought an enormous cost. "The cost has been the decline and almost disappearance of many farming communities."

Meanwhile at West Walton, Norfolk, the ancient tradition of "beating the bounds" was reinstated. Parishioners walked a six-mile route along the parishs boundary, starting at St Marys Church after the morning service.

"Rogationtide is a wonderful opportunity for the church to be seen out and about in the countryside," said Reverend David Fysh, who wished the walkers well as they set out.

Urban dwellers from St Helens, Merseyside, joined the congregation at the rural Holy Trinity Church, Bickerstaffe. The service was followed by a blessing of crops and tea in a barn. Such events, said church warden Colin Johnson, help foster understanding between different groups. "If we meet and talk, people can begin to see that its not just towns that have problems."

The Bishop of Guildford, Rt Rev John Gladwin, used his address at the opening of the Surrey County Show the day after Rogation Sunday to highlight the issues in rural areas.

He compared the situation to the "implosion" of the steel industry he had seen during his time in Sheffield. "Nobody wants to see a similar unravelling of the British countryside nor the farming community that sustains it," he said. "Ordinary people do, I believe, want to support British farming."

And he called for more understanding between the "two nations" of town and country in Surrey. "We need to build partnerships that will take us all forward – and, as with any partnership, that will mean a commitment to seeing each others point of view.

"But you will only make that discovery if there is a proper dialogue going on at a grass roots level between the two communities. A show, such as this, is a good place to start."

Message of support… Rev Terry Brighton at West Lavington, Wilts.

See more