I am reluctant to write this post. I am reluctant because I don’t want to start a movement. Nor, do I want others to judge. Faith is very personal. What builds up one is not the choice for another. Yet, here I am writing, praying that my words will perhaps inspire you to find your own way of Sabbath for this summer.
I have made a conscience decision to take a sabbatical from my church this summer. I know this might sound foolish to some, and even heretical to others, but let me explain. I love my church. It has built me up and challenged me. It allows me to use my gifts and skills. I call many of the people within its walls, friends. However, right now it feels like one more ‘thing’ that I have to do. Right now, it is one more ‘box’ on the calendar. We have had an incredibly busy year as a family and I am tired. Right now, what my soul requires is rest, and right now, my church is not providing that.
So, for two months this summer, I am taking a deliberate and planned Sabbatical from church. I know for our ordained clergy, we encourage time away. We encourage our ministers to take holidays, Sabbath, and study time; this is not a new concept. So, as a lay person, who serves within the Christian community and volunteers with the church, I see this as a similar practice. Often I find myself on Sunday mornings, even when I have no specific responsibilities, looking for ways to serve. For me, it is hard to just sit in church when I see a need, so sometimes church becomes only a place to serve, not to be filled.
Although the idea of sleeping in on a Sunday morning sounds delightful, that is not in the plans. This will be a time of spiritual discipline for me. Yes, Sunday mornings will be a time of rest, but not necessarily catching up on sleep. It will be a time to rest with God as I linger over a cup of coffee on my patio. It will be a time to read the scriptures—slowly and reflectively. It will also be a time to read a spiritual book or two—I have chosen Wayne Muller’s book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives as my first book to tackle during this time. This will be an intentional time, set aside for growth. This will be a time to refocus. This will be a time to pray for my church and my community, and how I fit into it. This will not be a break from God, just a break from one part—a very important part—of my faith life.
I know there will be challenges. I am unsure what the rest of my family will do. At present, I expect my husband and son will continue to attend, and my daughter, might choose to stay home and participate in Sabbath with me. I will be certain that my children both know that this is about me loving our church, loving God, and wanting to be ready to part of our church in the Fall again. (Yes, I do worry that I am setting a bad example for my kids.)
Sabbath can be lived out in countless ways. I am not suggesting and encouraging everyone to follow in my footsteps, I do not want to create a movement, but I am suggesting you find your own way to find spiritual rest this summer. Here are a few ideas you might want to try:
- Breath Prayer: Begin each morning with a breath prayer. Choose a short phrase or passage of scripture and focus on it as you inhale and exhale.
- Service: Look for a new and different way to serve God this summer.
- Hospitality: Summer is a wonderful time to provide hospitality. Invite friends to stay with you or invite neighbours in for a neighbourhood party.
- Journaling: Spend time this summer sharing your reflections on paper. There are so many ways to journal and a quick search online can give some creative ideas. If you are new to journaling, you can simply write three things you are thankful for and one prayer concern for each day.
- Learning: Consider listening to a spiritual blog. My new favourite is from Rev. Matthew Brough, Spirituality for Normal People (www.spiritualityfornormalpeople.com).
I want to stress that this is a not a permanent break. I do believe that being a Christian means being a part of a community of believers, so this is indeed temporary.