Worship during the agricultural year

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Plough Sunday 

The observance of Plough Sunday on the First Sunday of Epiphany goes back to Victorian times, but behind it there is a much older observance, associated with the first working day after the twelve days of Christmas, hence ‘Plough Monday’ in some places. In medieval times some ploughs were kept in the parish church, and some churches kept a ‘plough-light’. In days when work was scarce in winter, the observance looked forward to the time of sowing with the promise of a harvest to come. Some Christian communities have reintroduced it as a focus for asking a blessing on human labour near the start of the calendar year. The CofE has forms available for the blessing of a plough and the blessing of seed. Lectionary material is also provided.


The Rogation Days (from the Latin rogare, ‘to ask’) are the three weekdays before Ascension Day. However, in practice, many churches have observed Rogation on the preceding Sunday (EasterV in the Prayer Book, the Sixth Sunday of Easter in Common Worship).The Prayer Book Gospel includes the words of Jesus, ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask for in my Name, he will give it you’ – words associated with the heavenly intercession of the ascended Christ. Originally, the Christian observance of Rogation was taken over from Graeco-Roman religion, where an annual procession invoked divine favour to protect crops against mildew.The tradition grew of using processional litanies, often around the parish boundaries, for the blessing of the land.These processions concluded with a mass. The Rogation procession was suppressed at the Reformation, but it was restored in 1559.The poet George Herbert interpreted the procession as a means of asking for God’s blessing on the land, of preserving boundaries, of encouraging fellowship between neighbours with the reconciling of differences, and of charitable giving to the poor.The tradition of ‘beating the bounds’ has been preserved in some communities, while others maintain the traditional use of the Litany within worship. In more recent times, the scope of Rogation has been widened to include petition for the world of work and for accountable stewardship, and prayer for local communities, whether rural or urban. The provision here includes resource material for Rogationtide worship, litanies for flexibility according to local circumstances.


Lammas or ‘Loaf-mass’ (derived from the Anglo-Saxon Hlafmaesse) is an English feast in origin, held on 1 August as a thanksgiving for the first-fruits of the wheat harvest. Traditionally, a newly baked loaf from the wheat harvest was presented before God within the mass of that day.While the ceremony ceased at the Reformation, been revived in some places in more recent years.The tradition of giving thanks for the first-fruits need not be limited to 1 August, and churches are at liberty to decide when to hold such a celebration. Here, material is provided to form the Gathering rite of the eucharist.The Lammas loaf should ideally be baked by members of the congregation, using local produce wherever possible. Other small loaves or buns, in the tradition of ‘blessed bread’, may be distributed to the congregation. Part of the Lammas loaf may be used as the eucharistic bread on this occasion.Two patterns of readings are suggested, the first concerning the offering of the first-fruits and the second concerning the bread of life.


In 1989 the Ecumenical Patriarch suggested that 1 September, the first day of the Orthodox Church's year, should be observed as a day "of protection of the natural environment". Ten years later the European Christian Environmental Network widened this proposal, urging churches to adopt a Time for Creation stretching from 1 September to the feast of St Francis on 4 October. This was endorsed by the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu, Romania in 2007, which recommended that the period "be dedicated to prayer for the protection of Creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles that reverse our contribution to climate change". Churches Together in Britain and Ireland produce some helpful liturgical resources: http://www.ctbi.org.uk/CJB/295

Harvest Thanksgiving

Harvest Thanksgiving is a more modern addition to the church calendar. Its origins are usually traced to the adaptation in 1843 of Lammas Day by the Revd R. S. Hawker, a parish priest in Cornwall. He chose the first Sunday in October as a Christian response to coincide with the traditional but largely secular ‘harvest home’ celebration, but there is some evidence to suggest that a thanksgiving for the harvest was already a relatively widespread practice. An annual church celebration of the harvest certainly established itself rapidly with great popularity and was first recognized officially in the Church of England in 1862. Since then, many local traditions for the celebration have developed and many liturgical resources are available. Here, a bank of resource material is provided for use at Holy Communion or a Service of the Word. An Act of Thanksgiving is provided, which may accompany the tradition of bringing to church gifts of fresh produce and other foodstuffs. 

Prayer in Times of Agricultural Crisis

Two forms of prayer are provided.The first is a prayer that can be used as a basis for corporate response to a time of crisis.The second is for seasonable weather, and may be used in times when heavy rain or flooding or indeed lack of rain prejudices the crops, or when severe or extreme weather endangers the harvest and the welfare of animals. 


The CofE's Common Worship resources include  "Times and Seasons" available here: https://www.churchofengland.org/media/41161/tsagyear.pdf