Rev Trevor Sargent’s Ecological Notes for April 2020

Let’s Celebrate Creation 50 years on from the 1st Earth Day!

Fifty years ago, the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. The immediate background was a UNESCO Conference on the Environment, held in San Francisco, USA, in 1969. At this event, the Irish-American peace activist, John McConnell, proposed that an annual day be set aside to consider the interdependence of all life on this planet. Earth day on April 22nd, is now marked in over 190 countries and is estimated to involve over a billion people.

Earth Day and Rogationtide

As Christians, Earth Day can inspire us to prepare for Rogationtide in May, the three days before Ascension Day in the Church calendar. This relationship between Earth Day and Rogationtide was not lost on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Robert Runcie, when he spoke at ACC-8 (the 8th global Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Wales in 1990), where he said:

‘In many places, the observance of Rogationtide has fallen into disuse. We hope that Churches will encourage imaginative use of this season, focusing on our responsibility for the environment’.

Celebrating the Earth in your Parish

A Rogationtide custom which brings to mind Earth Day, is called ‘Beating the Bounds’. This involves all who have good walking shoes, following the boundary of the parish, blessing, (and mapping) the land, especially the trees which mark the boundary. Knowing what biodiversity lives within the parish can be called, ecological literacy. When we pray for God’s creation in the context of our parish, our prayers have deeper meaning if we know what we are actually praying for. How many of us know what biodiversity lives within our parish? How many tree species? How many bird species? What is growing in the hedgerows?

Liturgical material for a Rogationtide procession is provided in Common Worship: Times and Seasons (pages 614 – 18), published by Church House Publishing, London, 2006.

The following petitions are an example:

That it may please thee to grant favourable weather,

temperate rain and fruitful seasons,

that there may be food and drink for all thy creatures,

we beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to bless the lands and the waters,

and all who work upon them,

to bring forth food and all things needful for thy people,

we beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to look with favour

upon all who care for the earth, the water and the air,

that the riches of thy creation may abound from age to age,

we beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.