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Until this year, although aware of its existence, I confess I haven’t taken proper notice of this day in the calendar. But owing to the retirement of an eminent local parish priest – and one who offers considerable support and pastoral care to the farming and rural community far beyond his own Dorset parish – I was invited to a Rogation Sunday gathering, in a most suitable cattle barn. The building lies in that stunning area of rural southern England near Sherborne which, it was explained to me, is nonetheless still within the Diocese of Salisbury.

Rogation, as I understand it, means ‘asking’ and the service centres around singing, readings and prayers for the crops now established, to reach their maturity and a successful harvest. The service last Sunday followed that tradition, during which we gently (the average age of the congregation comfortably exceeding 60!) toured the fields and inspected agricultural equipment and livestock. All of these of course contribute to the outcome: food – and in this instance principally cheddar cheese! Which for a number of reasons in 2022 may be to the fore in many people's thoughts and concerns.

The vicar maintained his light touch to proceedings which helped us get through a somewhat extended event. How important it is to have that skill of communication with people and the ability to make such occasions ‘easy’ on the soul. But that applies to many contexts. I’ve just read today an uplifting article in the Sunday paper: it was about a head teacher in London who has stamped her own interpretation on the curriculum she is required to follow. Equipped also with her ability to communicate and her firm beliefs, she has nurtured and encouraged her teaching staff, and her school is turning out youngsters from every walk and colour of life who have the will, the confidence and the skills to succeed. These include children from deprived, often impoverished, backgrounds who, if the school followed the professions’ own textbook, might simply be forgotten or overlooked in the system. Too often the script – whether in school, church or the office – is too ‘visionless’ to succeed.

This year, at this Rogation-tide, will it be in order to ask for a whole lot more? The world seems to be at odds with itself in so many places and in so many ways – why can’t we achieve a peaceful and harmonious life? Do we have to be constantly self-absorbed when there is so much around us to be admired and encouraged? The message from yesterday was ‘wholeheartedness’ – it is not what you get out of something that counts, but what you put in. What are the chances we can look outward rather than inward, and even achieve transformations like the one in that school near Wembley? I’m not sure it would help stop the bombing in Ukraine, and we have a testing year ahead in many connected ways as the full ramifications of this tragic conflict hit home. Nevertheless, hopefully there will be something positive to come out of such adversity, difficult though it may be to see at this point. Hindsight will give us the answer – but for now we can but ask …

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