Our founding team began Plainsong Farm to create a place to cultivate connections between people, places, and God, a place that nurtures belonging and the radical renewal of God’s world. When we started, we knew we didn’t know what that looked like. We began by trying things, adapting and revising, and letting some things go.
One annual practice that we began early and still continue is a public, ecumenical liturgy for Rogation Days. We call it “Blessing the Fields.” Every year, Blessing the Fields takes place on the third weekend of May, just after Michigan’s last frost date. By this Sunday between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, the weather is warm enough that there are plants in the ground, buds on trees, and a fresh sense that spring has arrived. It’s a wonderful time to pray for the coming growing season.
Our Liturgical Practice at Plainsong Farm
We begin by gathering in one place and orienting everyone to what is about to happen. There are always people who have never participated before. Often there are people with no past relationship to church, along with people who do church for a living. After welcoming everyone, we acknowledge the Anishinaabe peoples, who lived in Michigan for countless generations, loved this place well, and are still here. We explain that we are about to walk to different places on the farm to hear scripture and offer prayer. Then we turn on the main water spigot.
The liturgy opens with blessing water so that we can use the holy water to bless everything else. Then the entire group is invited to pick up branches and walk to a place on the farm. At each station, we hear a scripture reading, pray, dip our branches into the holy water, and shake the branches to sprinkle water on that area of the farm. We also tell a little bit of the story of what will happen at that place over the growing season and offer prayers that our intent will bear good fruit. At our Gathering Field, we pray for those who will seek God there. At the fields dedicated to crop production, we pray for those who will labor in the fields and those who will eat the food we donate. As we walk from station to station, we sing together.
I have participated in this liturgy for many years, and I find myself changed each time. After we are done, I am renewed in my recognition that all the work is actually God’s work to do and ours to serve. We can’t make the water, the seeds, the sun, or the soil. We can’t make people donate the funds we need or make volunteers give their time. Because God has done so much, we can do a little. That perspective carries me forward with greater wisdom than I had before. And isn’t that what liturgy exists to do?
Creating Your Own “Blessing the Fields” Liturgy
You may not be on a farm, but you too can bless your place as spring arrives. This liturgy works best when many people are involved. Invite many voices to read a section of scripture or a prayer in one location. The holy water is optional, but what is not optional is being outside, under a sky, and remembering that this is God’s earth.
You can use this prayer from our liturgy last year to inspire your prayers:
in the beginning you planted a garden, and filled it with animals, birds, insects,
and seed-bearing plants. In the garden you first met us, your creatures.
In the garden Jesus agonized over the path of suffering love,
in the garden he rose to make all creation new.
And so we pray for this growing place and for those who will labor in it.
May it be a place not only of fertile soil, abundant food, and joyful labor,
but also a place of learning to tend and keep, bearing the fruit of healing and hope.
Creator God, we ask you to shower down your blessings on these fields. Amen.”
Here are a few more tips that may help you develop a blessing liturgy:
- If you have a church garden, invite those who tend it to contribute to the liturgy. Ask them what their challenges are in the fields, and really listen. Then include their concerns in your prayers.
- Pray for the pollinators on whose life we all depend.
- Find your watershed and pray for all who live within it. Name the living source of your water as part of your prayers, and pray for its healing.
- Consider inviting others beyond your church who care for the earth to join in your prayers. They may have never been prayed for before; they might not know any church is praying for the health of God’s creation.
Your ministry might not take place at a farm, but wherever you are is a part of God’s creation too. How might you bless it, even as it has blessed you?
Featured image of Plainsong Farm in Rockford, Michigan is provided by the author