Our church changed our monthly worship ‘rhythm’ this summer. Once a month, we worship Saturday at 5 pm and then take Sunday as an intentional day of sabbath rest.
On the Sunday when we don’t worship, people are invited to be intentional about how they spend their “day off”. It is not another day to work. It is a day to be present and experience joy. It is a day to enjoy God’s creation and the relationships we treasure.
Yesterday, I went for a long bike ride and then read the Sunday New York Times at my favorite coffee shop.
We drove up to the Payette River and Justin and Elliott kayaked while I read a book on the bank of the river.
It was a great day. It seemed to last much longer than a normal day. We also watched a movie together and went for another bike ride.
Another family in the church is using the Sabbath day to have their college age daughter bring friends home from school and enjoy a meal together. Another person described a restful day that involved a hike and birding. Someone else invited someone she doesn’t get to see often to join her for lunch. Another person read a book on a hammock under a tree.
People have asked how and why we did this, so I’m writing it up here.
I shamelessly stole this idea from Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church in Minnesota. I heard a presentation from their pastor at the NEXT Conference last spring and immediately thought of the benefit for the congregation I serve.
We have just come through the New Beginnings visioning program offered by our denomination. It was a great process, involving small group conversations about who we are, how we relate to our neighborhood, and where do we see ourselves being helpful in our neighborhood in the future.
Two truths, somewhat contradictory truths, emerged.
1. There are a lot of things we know we are called to do.
2. We are too tired to do them.
So, when I heard the presentation from Rev Kara Root from Lake Nokomis, about how the congregation she serves practices Sabbath intentionally, I recognized the potential benefit for Southminster.
After much conversation with our Worship Committee and the Session (leadership of the congregation), we decided to try it for the summer and see how it went.
We recognized this would require the congregation to make some big changes to their habits and practices, so we spent two months talking about it before it happened.
I wrote about it in the newsletter.
I mentioned it in worship.
We publicized it as much as possible–on our church reader board, on the website, on facebook, by email. We had the deacons (our pastoral care leadership) call or write their church members to let them know of the schedule change.
We bought many copies of the book Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller and invited the congregation to read the book together.
In the current culture we’re in, we have had to re-define what “regular worship attendance” looks like. If it used to be 3-4 times a month, it now seems to be 2-3 times a month. I don’t say that with judgment–it is just observation. One of the observations made by an elder before we started this was “we all take a day off church now and then. I wonder if this would encourage people to all take the same day off so we might see each other more often?”
We started it as a temporary summer thing, but it was a huge success, so we are extending it into this upcoming program year. Our highest attendance at worship services this summer was on Saturday nights. We even had a big crowd on Labor Day Saturday! We expected that families with young kids would like the change, giving them a day to sleep in and rest on Sundays. (And they do like it).
We were surprised when some elderly members, who had not made it to worship much this past year, told us how much they loved it. 9:30 Sunday morning is just too early for them to be up and dressed and ready to be in worship, but 5 pm on Saturday is perfect.
In terms of the schedule, we are doing this one time a month, at the end of the month. It moves around a little bit for practical reasons. If the last weekend of the month also has the first Sunday of the month (when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper), the Sabbath service moves a week earlier. This year we will have a “First Saturday of Advent” at the end of November. We decided not to have a “Palm Saturday”, however and will have the Saturday service a full week before Holy Week begins.
If you are in the Boise area and would like to join us for one of these services, we gather on the Second Saturday of every month at 5 pm.
In terms of the service, it isn’t hugely different than a Sunday service, although it is more simple and relaxed and involves fewer people in leadership (the choir doesn’t sing, for example, giving them a week off each month from worship leadership).
It allows for fellowship with a different rhythm too. In July, after worship, we had some food trucks waiting in the parking lot and went outside and sat in the grove and ate dinner and enjoyed fellowship.
Worship was 5 to 6 pm, but the last people didn’t leave the church until 8:30. People from the neighborhood came over and bought dinner too. Time seemed expansive–we didn’t have anywhere else to go and we didn’t have to get up early the next morning for church, so we could be present together. It was great.
In September, we’ll have a potluck dinner after worship and a discussion about the Sabbath book we’ve all been reading. (It will be set up in a way that people who didn’t read the book can also participate).
In October, we are having another food truck night and combining it with our annual Trunk or Treat, where we invite the kids from the school next door to come ‘trick or treat’ in our parking lot. We hope there will be lots more conversations with the food trucks present! Some people are bringing their fire pits, and we’ll make a night of it.
In December, we’re going to view the Christmas light display at the Botanical Garden after the service.
This is a new experience for us. Ideas? Thoughts to add?
Southminsterians–do you want to share your experience of this new worship service and the Sunday Sabbath?