The Rev. Dennis Metzger of Holy Trinity Catholic Parish runs a tiller through his garden at the Assumption church.
ASSUMPTION, Ohio - An ancient ceremony to bless the land at planting time is being revived by churches in the Evergreen area.
Sunday afternoon members of eight churches in the Evergreen Interfaith Association will dig soil from their farm, garden, or flower box that they will carry to Jeff and Theresa Simon's farm for a Rogation Day ceremony.
They will sing "For the Beauty of the Earth" and "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow," and ministers from each of the eight congregations will lead prayers for rain and a good harvest as well as giving thanks for the earth.
The samples of soil will be dumped in a wheelbarrow where the ground will be blessed, sprinkled with holy water, and mixed together before it is bagged for participants to return to their fields and gardens.
Rogation Day ceremonies, which date to the year 470 A.D. in the Christian church, were held by some rural Ohio Catholic churches until 1970, when the church calendar was reorganized, dropping some of the smaller feast days.
But last year, when the Evergreen-area ministers were considering a way to gather members from all eight churches for a spring event, the Rev. Dennis Metzger of Holy Trinity Catholic Parish in Assumption, suggested a Rogation Day rite. He remembered the service from his childhood in Richland County, Ohio.
There was snow and sleet the day the service was scheduled last year and ministers postponed it a week. On their second attempt, the weather was still cold and rainy, but 75 people came anyway.
Soil from Father Metzger's own large garden was in the mix that was blessed, and last year his tomato crop was one of his finest ever.
"It may have been Rogation prayers. It may have been the chicken manure compost I put on it. I like to think it was the Rogation," he said.
Although Rogation Day ceremonies are often identified with the Catholic Church, they are also used by Anglican and Lutheran churches, Father Metzger said.
Before that they were probably pagan.
The Major Rogation traditionally celebrated on April 25 is thought to have originated as a Christian festival in an effort to replace a pagan Roman festival. The latter included the sacrifice of a dog and a sheep in hopes of saving the crops from blight.