Another guest post, this time from a local colleague, Rev’d Danny Pegg who writes about the relevance of Rogationtide in current circumstances…
“You’re going to do something aren’t you? You’re the Church – you must be doing something?”
The woman from the council sounded desperate. They needed more volunteers she said; the Community Hub was seeing an increasing trend in need. I had never spoken to her before in my life but she called me up and clearly expected results.
Traditionally at Rogationtide the parish boundaries were beaten, processions had, and God’s protection and blessing prayed for over our corners of creation. Rogationtide is about place, limits and prayer – and as Christians we are currently very much about those things!
Place at this time can mean our homes, our home prayer spaces, our communities, our parish or our country. Now we are all probably more aware of these than usual. There are areas we cannot go and the number of places we can access has been reduced. But whether clergy or laity, we still belong to a community and a parish. How well do we know it? Do we know what is going in our own place in terms of relief and support for this pandemic? For young people? For the lonely? What are our community hubs doing? What is going up in the windows of our street?
We are all limited both by boundaries and by the current lockdown, but still we must not draw our limits too tightly. If the Church of England is not the Church for England in a crisis what claim do we have to that title any other time? The Revd. Alice Whalley’s recent article in The Church Times makes the precise point that it is not that the Church is concerned with the spiritual diet of its congregants, or the theology of all of this or that latest digital endeavour that is an issue; it is that it appears to be concerned with these things whilst not being overly concerned with the stuff of the Beatitudes as well. She notes the class dimensions here and pithily ends saying that she cannot ‘dream of putting a notice on their church door that says “No food here, but Morning Prayer is online.”’
The woman who works for the council who contacted me may have not had any faith, but she certainly had a view of the Church. We could pick this apart, but at a fundamental level there is still some sense of the parish church being a force for good in our cities, villages and communities. We should make sure during this time that we don’t damage what little of this reputation is left by neglecting the poor, marginalised and hungry whilst providing wonderful resources and support to our own select few. Parish by parish and person by person this will vary: what a well-resourced youth worker or pastoral volunteer can do is going to be different to what the stalwart wardens of a parish in vacancy can manage. Regardless, we (lay, ordained, older or younger) can be there in some way for those in our parish – the full parish around which the boundaries nominally extend.
Are we communicating our prayer for the community now? When my own congregation tells me that they have never prayed as much as now and that they are having something of a spiritual renaissance under these troubled circumstances, I must acknowledge this as positive change for the future.
What is important is that this prayer is happening and it is to be shared. With so many deaths and much suffering from isolation, knowing that there is someone out there caring for you can make a difference.
We must not forget our vocation as the Church of England, the Church of the people. We can re-beat those boundaries, whether with a phone call or a huge parish volunteer initiative, a prayer or a house-group, much or little – anything. It is my hope that the Church of England is found after all of this to have taken on board some of the changes these extraordinary times demand – and that might just be nudges from God.
The Rev’d Danny Pegg is Assistant Curate at St. Luke’s Stone Cross with North Langney, in the Diocese of Chichester. This is an extract from an article written for Anglicanism.org For the full article please see their website here. There are also Rogationtide liturgy resources on the St Luke’s website here.
 https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2020/24-april/comment/opinion/youtube-sermons-will-not-feed-the- hungry