Out of this time of tragedy comes a new way of being
On May 17 Christians, particularly those of the Anglican faith, observed Rogation Sunday.
It is the day when the church has traditionally offered prayer for God's blessings on the fruits of the earth and the labours of those who produce our food.
This past Rogation Sunday, the Reverend Tom Slawson shared a virtual homily with his congregation at St Peter's Church in St George as a reminder of God's blessings and how important it is to acknowledge them, even now.
Drawing a parallel to the global observance of Earth Day on April 22, Mr Slawson asserted that liturgical Christians have been practising this same ritual for centuries.
“Since 1970, every April 22, is observed as Earth Day. Earth Day is a day set aside to honour and care for nature and our natural resources with the hope that every day would become ‘earth day'.
“It was the idea of Gaylord Nelson, who was a United States senator from the state of Wisconsin at the time.
“It centred around the idea of other social and environmental movements of the day.
“Earth Day began as a day of environmental concern when few people, other than activists and scientists, paid much attention to such things.”
Christians have observed their own “Earth Day” for thousands of years, the minister said.
“For liturgical Christians such as Anglicans, our so-called ‘earth day' is called Rogation Sunday.
“Rogation days begin on the sixth Sunday of Easter and last for the next three days.
“Rogation comes from the Latin word, rogare, meaning, ‘to ask'. In the Christian tradition, we are asking God's blessing on crops planted in spring and that, with God's blessing and human labour, the crops may produce abundantly at harvest.
“Church historians can find evidence that as early as the year 470, Christians were observing Rogation Day.
“That evolved into the custom of people and clergy walking in a procession around the edges of the fields praying and singing and asking God's blessing.
“In England, this custom came to be known as ‘Beating the Bounds'. In other words, walking the boundaries.”
With our move to more urban communities, churches now use Rogation Day to celebrate all God's creations.
“We not only ask God's blessing, we also thank God for the complexity and beauty for all of God's creation.
“And God's creation truly blesses us here in Bermuda with the stunningly beautiful blue waters, lush vegetation and palm trees, rocky overlooks, and mild climate.”
Mr Slawson “Also here in Bermuda we can look forward to, not one, but three growing seasons or cycles. People of faith and Jesus followers have a unique relationship with the environment. We look at the world and universe, first, as God's creation.
“As God's creation it is God's possession and not ours. But God graciously and lovingly shares his universe with us. We thank God by caring for that creation and being good stewards, caretakers of all that God gives.
“God's relationship with creation goes far beyond the formation of the Earth and the universe. Even now God sustains the earth and gives it life.
“Creation cannot live without God's active presence. Much like the presence of the Holy Spirit in each of us that gives us life and breath.”
During the coronavirus pandemic many countries have noticed the positive changes in nature as a result of the temporary closure of businesses, fewer flights and a decrease in motor traffic — all prompted by lockdowns and social-distancing protocols.
Environmentalists claim that the pandemic has been so beneficial to that we should consider making permanent changes that protect and safeguard the planet.
“An interesting phenomenon was first observed in China at the beginning of coronavirus and has since spread around the world … in a good way,” Mr Slawson said. “As people ceased normal activity and travelling, air pollution levels dropped quickly and dramatically; waters and rivers quickly became less polluted and cleaner; wild animals began moving about freely and gracefully. [It all shows] that the human imprint is large and harsh and takes its toll on planet Earth.
“In the world of coronavirus it is being said that we will never go back to normal, whatever ‘normal' means for you.
“We are staring at a new normal and new world and a new way of being — whether we like it or not. Out of the tragedy of coronavirus, maybe we can see a new world and a new harmony where we can treat our world and each other in kinder, gentler and more gracious ways.
“With less human activity, our world has responded by healing itself with God's care.
“Maybe we can begin to use human activity in ways that will increase healing for all of God's people with kindness and goodwill and compassion to all. And we are all God's people, everyone, no matter what we believe.”
• St Peter's Church is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Anyone interested in joining the Reverend Tom Slawson's virtual services should e-mail email@example.com