Sabbath

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.

image

on the banks of the Payette

We drove up to the Payette River and Justin and Elliott kayaked while I read a book on the bank of the river.

Justin poses for camera while Elliott dutifully steers the course

Justin poses for camera while Elliott dutifully steers the course

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.

And I preached on Sabbath at those summer services. (Sermons are here and here).

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).

people at July service, washing away confessions in the font

people at July service, washing away confessions in the font

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.

food trucksWorship 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?

 

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23 thoughts on “Sabbath

  1. Our family loves Sabbath weekend. It lasts FOREVER. It feels like we get an extra day in the weekend.

    I think the Sunday School teachers are going to feel refreshed getting a week off each month which will really help with volunteer burn out. I’ve also gotten a few more volunteers than usual because 3 Sundays a month seems a lot less intimidating if you are new to volunteering.

  2. This is an outstanding idea. I often drive by the Catholic church in my neighborhood on Saturday evenings and think about how great it would be to worship then and have Sunday to yourself. When I was teaching elementary school and serving as an elder at church, I never had a Sunday off. I worked at school all week and then worked at church on Sunday. I often did school and church work on the weekends. It was exhausting and not at all restorative, which church and Sabbath should be. Wish we’d thought of this at my church!

  3. I enjoy Saturday worship so much, and am glad it’s continuing. The service seems a bit more relaxed and spontaneous. Also, the energy in the sanctuary is very lively, lots of laughter and connecting in a different way. Saturday following worship, a family invited us to join them for dinner out.

  4. I think the benefits to the professionals and paraprofessionals are huge. And I share the sentiment of “time seems expansive” — I think this is absolutely the goal. G-d rested from the work of creation and suddenly time doesn’t seem to be measured in days, anymore. For me, the sadness at the end of the sabbath is always palpable. It makes me want more Sabbath, more worship, and look forward to the next week.

  5. I love, love, love this idea but think it wouldn’t work in my context because of the issue of visitors – we are located in a university town across the street from central campus and from a hotel, and we tend to get worship visitors who are on town just for the weekend, etc. We would worry about not being open/available when newcomers expected to be able to drop in. How have you addressed the issue of newcomers getting the word about this? Have you had people show up on a Sunday expecting to worship when you weren’t having a service?

    • We talked a lot about this issue. Most people find us from our website anyway, so if they looked at worship times, hopefully they would notice the change (and we try to make it clearly visible).
      If you just showed up without doing research ahead of time, you’d miss us anyway if you expect worship at 11. (Ours is regularly at 9:30). After the Sabbath service, we do put a big sign up on the doors saying something like, “sorry you missed us this weekend. We worshiped last night and are spending today in Sabbath rest. We hope you will join us next week on Sunday at 9:30 and will be able to enjoy the gift of this day today.”

  6. Hi Marci- this is such a great model! We are just starting the New Beginnings process this month as my two congregations begin a merger. They’re about .5 mile from one another and both UCC. This is an idea that I really believe would create energy (AND sabbath for us all!)

  7. My family and I love it. We still haven’t mastered the art of really taking our “free” Sabbath for rest yet, but we are working on it.

  8. I met Kara at our CREDO conference last spring when she shared this at dinner one night. I LOVE this and am excited to read your experience with it. I think there are many, many church communities that might like to rediscover Sabbath. Including us clergy. Please keep writing about the experiences and what God is teaching you and the community. Shalom!

  9. I like the idea of occasionally having worship on Saturday. Some people who don’t get there on Sunday might make it. But I am thinking that instead of just taking Sunday off, why not use that time to *be* the church by taking on some kind of short community project?

    • Yes, I know other churches who use a fifth Sunday as a service Sunday.
      For us, though, we “do” lots of things. We don’t rest well, however. And we were tired and wishing we had more energy for all of the things we want to do.
      So this monthly practice of stopping, and resting, has been really helpful for us and is changing our sense of time and our understanding of why God rested on the 7th day. Sabbath rest has been a gift.
      Thanks for your comment.

      • I really laud this impulse (speaking from the Jewish perspective, in which Sabbath *rest* is a way of praising G-d, a reminder of the work of creation which involved divine rest on the last day).

  10. Yes. It is a sacred reminder to me that if God could stop work for a day, and if Jesus could leave the crowds who needed healing and go off by himself to pray, then surely I can stop for a day too.

      • Well, for Sunday school teachers, the tech volunteers, the coffee makers, the choir, the worship leadership, it is a lot of work and takes a lot of time. People are in the building around 8 or 8:30 am and we leave around 12:30. So some people can show up and just worship, but many others did a lot of work to make that happen.

  11. Pingback: Reflections on a Year of Pleasure | Glass Overflowing

  12. Pingback: Ask the Matriarch: Hello, Summer Worship! | RevGalBlogPals

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