Learning Module #1
Welcome to this first of five learning modules that invites you to explore the connections between climate change and food security and to LEARN, PRAY, ACT and GIVE. Over the coming year, we will follow the seasons of agriculture, as well as the liturgical calendar, beginning in this module with “Rogation: The Blessing of Seeds.”
Traditionally celebrated on the fifth Sunday after Easter, “rogation” as the definition states, is a time “to ask for blessings for the fields, plants and animals at springtime.” Below you will find resources for a learning module with prayers, reflections and learnings from a PWRDF volunteer and PWRDF partners, questions for discussion, links for further learning and action, and an opportunity to support the ongoing work of PWRDF partners engaged in this vital work.
This module can be undertaken individually or as a group. You will see tips for group process throughout. Should you have any questions about the content or would like further information, please email Suzanne Rumsey.
Group Tip: If you are preparing to work through this module with a group, ask participants ahead of time to bring a symbol/image/story of a personal experience of food or food security. They will be invited to share those with the group.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
OPENING PRAYER, INTRODUCTIONS AND SHARING SYMBOLS
Click on the sections in the bullet list or scroll below:
- LEARN about climate change and food security from our volunteers and partners
- REFLECT on how scripture speaks to the issues of climate change and food security
- ACT in small and large ways to address climate change and food security issues
- GIVE to support the vital work of PWRDF partners who are addressing climate change and food security
Group Tip: Begin your session by saying together or in turn, the following prayer:
Seeds for Life (from the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance)
Voice to the Seed:
I hold you in my hands and hold you as my future.
As you grow so will my vision for a hunger-free world.
By your growth you will help us celebrate life.
Thanks for reminding me that I, too, am a sacred seed planted in God’s garden.
Voice about the Seed:
You look for a resting place
A place of silence, in the bosom of the earth.
Your patience makes you great
The womb of the earth nourishes you,
Your power is the source of life on earth.
May your willingness to die make us humble;
May your rising again to the sun give us hope.
Voice of the Seed:
I am a Seed
I need good soil to grow
I need the sun to glow
Water to refresh and replenish me,
Air for my leaves to breathe
Space for my roots to spread
Now, now I can be all that the Creator hopes for me.
If you are exploring this module individually, proceed to the Learn section.
Introductions and the Sharing of Symbols
Group Tip: Following the Opening Prayer, invite each participant to introduce themselves and to share their symbol/image/story. If your session is taking place online, invite participants to hold up their symbol so that others can see it. If your session is in person, invite participants to place those symbols on a table at the centre of the circle.
- Read “What Rogation Means to Me,” by Dorothy Marshall
- Read the Article from PWRDF partner, TSURO Trust in Zimbabwe
- View “Urban Gardening,” a video from St. Jude Family Project, a PWRDF partner in Uganda.
- Reflect on the questions in silence or by journaling your responses.
What Rogation Means to Me
by Dorothy Marshall, PWRDF Diocesan Representative, Diocese of Edmonton
I was not born a farmer, but in my soul, I felt inspired to live a rural life. My teen years were immersed in dog-eared copies of The Mother Earth News. When we bought our farm, we were full of ambition and excitement; great intentions coupled with zero experience.
I read books and took an organic livestock management course, but our best resource was our neighbours; old farmers who delighted in teaching us neophytes how to farm. We became a part of a rural community of support, and our family and our farm thrived and grew.
Author and Kentucky farmer, Wendell Berry, has written of the importance of belonging – of creating a relationship with your community and your land. As I tended the soil of my garden and fields this relationship of love grew naturally. We planted trees and nurtured our land; this was a gift from God to be treasured.
When I now meet young people from the city who aspire to farm, I am reminded of my own naiveité. I remember the first year, as the cycles of the seasons flowed, I came to the stark realization that the work was never done! From lambing and farrowing to planting to pasture management to fencing to haying to harvest to winter feeding, the annual rotation continued. We worked hard and I loved it all.
I also realized that farming is a lifestyle where there are no guarantees; you farm sustainably, seed at the right time, cut hay when the forecast is for hot dry weather, have a bumper crop of oats in the field…and in a few short hours you are completely undone by an unexpected downpour, or hailstorm…or even an early snow. Some years there was not enough moisture to grow a crop or enough grass on the pasture for the sheep or a single cut of hay. Other years have been so wet that we couldn’t get on the fields until it was late to seed, and the heavy crop of hay rotted in the swaths. As a farmer I have always felt intimately connected to my land and my God. In this season of Rogation, we plant, but it is God who makes it grow. We acknowledge that our creator God is the source of all our blessings: the soil, the sun, the rain. Through God’s grace we have been given this land to nurture, not for ourselves but for those who come after us; both a responsibility and a gift. Be it in a garden or a field, putting seeds in the soil is a sign of trust in God’s provision. Rogation is a season of planting hope.
Read the article and the videos below, then answer the questions.
Group Tip: Answer the discussion questions below, or you may also find some of your own questions or observations emerged as you read and watched. Discuss those too!
- What is one new thing you learned about farming in Canada, Zimbabwe and Uganda that you didn’t already know?
- Weather has always had an impact on farmers, but climate change is affecting them more often and more dramatically. What were some of those impacts that you were hearing from Dorothy and from PWRDF partners in Zimbabwe and Uganda?
- All farmers live and plant in hope. What are the instances of hope you heard? And what are the challenges to that hope?
- What other learnings or ideas have come to mind for you from these stories?
Read through the scripture passages and reflect in silence or by journaling your responses to the questions provided.
Group Tip: Read together or in turn, one or more of the following readings. Reading all three will help give the group the sense that agricultural imagery permeates the bible from beginning to end. Then discuss the reflection questions or others that the group might have.
A reading from Genesis 1:9-13
“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the waters that were gathered together God called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.”
A reading from the Gospel of John 12:23-26
Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their lives will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour one who serves me.
A reading from Revelation 22:1-3a
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more.
Agricultural imagery is everywhere in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. This in part reflects the predominantly agricultural societies in which the writers of scripture lived.
- If those same writers were writing today, what imagery might they use to describe planting and new life?
- What challenges would those writers of scripture pose to us about farming, food security and climate change?
- Can you think of one or more modern “prophets” who are speaking about these issues? What are they saying?
A number of activities are suggested below. Choose one or several to undertake now or following your time with this learning module.
Group Tip: The first activity, Planting of Seeds, lends itself well to being done during the session. Participants could undertake one or more of the other activities following the workshop.
Planting of seeds/beans (can be done online or as an in-person activity):
- Say a word of introduction about planting seeds and sprouting beans as symbols of hope for our time together…something to take home…
- Gather participants around a table with a large bag of potting soil and a bowl of beans or other seeds. (For quick results, choose beans!)
- Provide each participant with a small pot and invite them to fill their pots with soil and plant 5 or 6 seeds.
- Pass a small watering can for participants to water their seeds.
- Use the opportunity of the final prayer to bless the seeds.
- Invite participants to take their planted seeds home with them as a remembrance of this time together – and to eventually harvest their “crop.”
Digging deeper (beyond this learning module):
Planting a parish garden
If there is space and opportunity on the grounds of your parish, consider a similar activity to the “Planting of seeds” on a larger scale. Organize a parish garden that includes not only floral or ornamental plants, but also plants for food – vegetables and fruit.
- For tips on how to begin, have a look at Food Share’s website.
- For inspiration on what a parish garden can mean for one small community, read this article from the Anglican Journal.
- Still further inspiration can be found be viewing the movie “All Saints.” View the trailer here and watch the full film on Netflix.
It’s all about the pollinators!
- Learn about the role bees and other pollinators play in food security. Check out this resource from the Toronto Urban Growers.
What advocacy action can look like:
- Pepe Elwert was an intern with PWRDF in 2013. He shared how he became a corn farmer in his native Germany, together with thousands of other Germans who were concerned about genetically modified corn seeds entering the German agricultural market. Read his story here.
PWRDF is an active member of both the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and the ecumenical For the Love of Creation (FLC) campaign. Both organizations are encouraging people of faith to write letters to the Canadian government regarding food security and climate change respectively.
TSURO Trust, St. Jude Family Projects and other PWRDF partners are confronting climate change as they work to ensure food security for the communities they serve. Your gift to PWRDF supports their work. To make a donation go to pwrdf.org/give-today and click on the Climate Action button. You can also call Donor Relations Officer, Mike Ziemerink, at 416-822-9083 or leave a message toll free at 1-(866) 308-7973.
PWRDF also accepts cheques, which can be mailed to 80 Hayden St. Toronto, ON. M4Y 3G2. Please indicate “Climate Action” in the memo line to designate to this program.
Have a birthday or anniversary coming up? There are many ways to raise funds for PWRDF’s Climate Action work. If you are interested in learning more or setting up a personalized crowd-funding page, please contact Mike Ziemerink.
Conclude your time with this learning module in prayer.
Group Tip: If you have planted seeds, gather around them as you say together the closing prayer.
A Step Along the Way
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan, U.S.A., drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. It has also become known as “the Romero Prayer,” attributed on occasion to martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador.