We drove southwest from Winnipeg along highways and country roads, along fields green with spring planting. After about two hours, the endlessly flat eastern prairie vista opened suddenly below us to reveal the Pembina River Valley.
There, nestled at the bottom was our destination, was the small white church of St. Luke’s, Pembina Crossing. A large white tent had been erected behind it to hold the more than 100-member congregation gathered from parishes in the valley, from the Morden area, and from Winnipeg to celebrate Rogation Sunday together.
Rogation Sunday is celebrated on the fifth Sunday of Easter, though it is not part of every church’s calendar. In Pembina Crossing, this year it was moved to June 9 to accommodate other schedules.
I was invited to bring greetings and gratitude from PWRDF. This special gathering was asking for particular blessings on a large field of newly sprouted canola, and a small calf that together represent the “Anglican Grow Hope” project in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land. Now in its second year, Anglican Grow Hope has brought together urban and rural parishes in an effort to raise funds for the PWRDF account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank with the goal of ending global hunger. Last year, this effort raised $14,588 in addition to the regular donations to PWRDF from the diocese.
Chris Lea, the farmer who donated the land and is growing the canola crop, led us in worship. During his homily he described a recent visit to Ethiopia, the people he had met there, especially the children, and the difference that Foodgrains Bank-supported food security programs were making in their lives. Nancy Howatt, a local cattle farmer who is donating the proceeds from the sale of the calf to Grow Hope, spoke about her recent visit to Haiti and how that experience has affected the way she views the relative abundance that surrounds her in Canada. Both Chris and Nancy movingly recounted the hospitality and generosity they experienced from those they visited who, out of their scarcity, shared so abundantly.
Together we asked for God’s blessing upon the canola seeds and sprouts, upon the calf and his mother, upon the farm machinery and the farm, and upon PWRDF, the Foodgrains Bank and the Grow Hope project. And then, we asked God’s blessing on the country feast that awaited us following the service. Because as the Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, said when launching PWRDF’s 2013–2016 Fred Says food security campaign, “It all begins with food.”
This Rogation Sunday together we prayed, “Loving Creator God, we acknowledge you as the source of growth and abundance. You provide us with food for body and spirit. With your help we plant our crops, and by your power they produce our harvest… In your kindness and love, make our work fruitful. Grant favourable weather to make these fields productive… Loving Creator God, be gracious to us and bless us, and make your face to shine upon us.” – Suzanne Rumsey
This story was originally published by PWRDF.
Years ago, when the British settled the country, most immigrants from U.K. were farmers and, of course, of the Anglican faith. So a lot of traditions came with them.
When I was a child, I can remember the yearly Rogation service in the little church at Pembina Crossing. The elders would bring sacks of grain, farm animals, and farm equipment to the church yard. Then, during a specific time in the service, the priest would lead us outside to bless all these things, along with the land surrounding the church and the people who were involved with food production.
These Rogation services were always a festive occasion, with a potluck lunch being served afterwards. It was more of a community festival as opposed to an Anglican church service.
That was my first experience with Rogation.
As the years went by, farm sizes increased. There were fewer farmers and, thus, fewer congregation numbers. But our little church has still maintained our annual Rogation services.
Over the years, my appreciation of God grew as I could feel the spirit of God within the land, the farm animals, and the farming community within me.
Even now, I take great comfort in knowing that God is with me, my family, and my community during the beginning of the growing season with this very special Rogation service that is held annually. It is not only a form of livelihood for us in growing food for all. It is the sustenance of life that God has provided for all that have faith.
That is what I believe. – Chris Lea, farmer and priest in Pembina Hills