Eldest goes to school in a rural community, about fifteen minutes away from where we live. It always amazes me that leaving the town and driving for just fifteen minutes can make you feel as though you really are in the middle of nowhere. You have to drive a good few miles for a pint of milk or loaf of bread - unless you make your own that is!
Last Sunday we attended a church service for Rogation Sunday at the church which eldest's school is attached to. Rogation Sunday falls on the fifth Sunday after Easter and is a time of asking God to bless the crops being sown in the fields, pray for a good amount of rain and sun, and ask God for a good harvest later in the year. In past centuries before maps existed, parishioners would also walk the boundaries of the parish to remind everyone where they lay, and prayers would be said or sung as the church processed along.
The importance of Rogation Sunday in small rural communities is as relevant now as it was in past times. A number of those living in the local parish make their living from the land. During the church service prayers were said for a good amount of rain and sun in the hope of a plentiful harvest in the Autumn. I had never really considered the essential role of religion in farming but of course it makes perfect sense that this would be the case as farmers are really caretakers of the land. They witness God's creation from the minute they wake up until they go to bed, and those who work the land see the fruits of their labour in a more tangible way that those who don't. They rely on good grace and favour to keep their livelihood healthy.
One part of the prayers said during the rogation service really struck a chord with me.
"When we demand cheap food without thought of the well-being of the growers, the farm animals or the land itself, when we fail to consider those who produce our food in difficult conditions for meagre reward, when we forget to give thanks for good food and clean water... lord have mercy."
This really made me think... how many times do we give consideration to where our food is grown? - I know I don't as often as I should. How many times do we choose the cheapest food in the supermarket? I sometimes do - often out of necessity rather than choice. How often to we buy food with no idea of it's origins? It's so easy to go and pick up our food from the supermarket and not consider how it got there. How often to we consciously buy fairtrade products over others? Again I will admit I don't as often as I should.
It is said that those who are interested in food should be interested in farming. I do try and give consideration to where my food comes from, and I have been very diligent about trying to pass this onto my children. We have explored the origins of many different foods together and we regularly buy food from farm shops or local markets, or from the people who produced the food directly.
During the service we sang the hymn "we plough the fields and scatter", only it had been changed to "we plough the fields with tractors". This new updated version really struck a chord with me. The last verse goes:
"Then why are people starving, when we have life so good
And some in crowded cities, search dustbins for their food
And even some go hungry, who farm in distant lands
Lord help us to more swiftly, share with open hands"
Definite food for thought don't you think? Why are people starving when we have life so good? - Ok maybe life isn't so good for many of us at the moment as it has been previously, but the majority of us still have food on our tables and clothes on our backs. Why do those in crowded cities search dustbins for their food? Surely in the present day westernised world people shouldn't be rifling through dustbins to be fed. I recently heard about a charity called foodcycle who are trying to reclaim surplus food from an estimated 400,000 tons of surplus food from the food retail industry to feed people in the local community who are homeless or do not have access to nutritious food. This is a charity I am hoping to find out more about and feature on my blog more in the near future. Why do those in distant lands go hungry, even when they farm the lands? Political corruption, corporate greed and personal greed has meant that starvation has never been eradicated throughout the world. Through agriculture and the increase in crops, it is said that there is currently enough food in the world to feed everyone, but it is the distribution of the food that is the issue worldwide as it is affected by the political, economical or environmental situation of the country. What can those in the western world do to help those who are not as fortunate as us have access to food?
I don't have the immediate answers to my questions, but taking time to think about them could mean that small individual changes have a big global impact.
After the service finished, we took a lengthy walk around the parish and through the fields of crops. This was followed by a BBQ back at the church which eldest thoroughly enjoyed. Rogation Sunday really is a time for reminding us of where are food comes from, to give thanks for the fact that we have enough food, and also to remember those who rely on the land for their livelihood. For me, Rogation Sunday was a reminder of how close to home the food chain really starts. Recently we have all bemoaned the unprecedented amount of rain, after a time of none, yet for the farmers sowing their crops just a few miles away from my house, the rain has been essential, as is the hope of sun to help the crops to grow. Rogation Sunday was also a reminder about how important it is to intercede for well grown crops and a plentiful harvest for the farmers, and for the dinner tables of the country and beyond.