Surrey-based Hogs Back Brewery is celebrating its annual hop blessing despite lockdown, with a virtual vicar conducting a socially distanced ceremony shared via the brewery’s website and social media channels.

Reverend Claire Holt, of St Paul’s Church in Tongham, where Hogs Back is based, officiated from the hop garden next to the brewery, accompanied – at a safe distance – by owner Rupert Thompson and a handful of team members who recorded the ceremony.

The hop blessing was broadcast on Ascension Day (21 May), which was traditionally a day when crop blessings were held.

Last year, around 200 people gathered at the brewery for the celebration.

Holt said: “Like everyone else, St Paul’s Church has adapted to lockdown, and I’ve become a virtual vicar to my congregation. I was pleased that Hogs Back were able to adapt their hop blessing, and happy to lead prayers for the hop garden, the brewery, and all who work in them.

“Ascension Day was traditionally chosen for crop blessings as by this time in the year, new growth would be shooting up – as we can see in the hop garden today. Traditionally, a group of young and old people, usually led by the priest, would walk round the boundaries of the parish, stopping at each boundary post to pray for the protection of the crops.”

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