Wise words and practical ideas from Trinity News readers and noted Sabbath authors. This article appears in the Sabbath edition of Trinity News. To receive a free subscription to the print edition of Trinity News, send your mailing address to email@example.com. (Please note that in doing so, we may use your email and mailing addresses to inform you of special parish events and resources available on this website).
The Busy Person's Sabbath
In my job at Trinity Church, I’m a person who thrives on interaction with others. My life is all about multi-tasking and managing a number of projects and people at once. I’m responsible for keeping the energy of a group in motion. I move fast, and I am the first to admit there is little downtime in my life. But that’s okay. I like it that way.
So here’s my confession: I have Sabbath anxiety. I see the appeal, but the thought of actually keeping a Sabbath routine has the same attraction to me as keeping a dentist appointment. While some might draw energy from doing nothing, being quiet, and staying in one place, I fear that complete cessation of activity just might result in my complete collapse.
Or so I thought.
Several years ago, my husband, Jeff, introduced me to a new way of “doing Sabbath.” It worked for me, and I’ll bet it would work for other Type-As of the world. For that matter, it might be a good idea for anyone involved in work projects that seem never-ending. All you need is solitude and a single task. The busy-person’s Sabbath is all about honing our energy and motion to a different effect.
Here’s how it works: you focus your energy on an activity that has a beginning, a middle, and a distinct end; an activity that results in a product you can see, touch, and treasure. It should involve a physical skill that uses your hands.
On my first “Sabbath vacation,” Jeff and I went to a rustic cabin in the Adirondack woods (realtors would say “charming”). Contact with the outside world was kept to a rational minimum. There was a telephone and little else. Jeff said to bring a project to work on, because there was not much else to do. I brought fabric, a sewing machine, and some quilting needles. He brought a collection of used boat oars, driftwood, and a toolbox. We spent the week working from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., side by side. There were no meetings, e-mails, or project schedules. We spoke very little while working, taking a midday break for lunch and a swim. At the end of the week, I had made a quilt and he had made a love seat.
But I had much more. I’d had a Sabbath when I’d said it couldn’t be done. It was the stillness of the setting and the busyness of my hands. My mind and spirit were released to wander, to rest, and to eventually find a deep focus. Today, as I look over the items we created over several Sabbath vacations, I see quilts, love seats, benches and chairs, each piece so much more than the sum of their parts, holding a memory of Sabbath wisdom learned.
-- Linda Hanick, Vice-President, Communications & Marketing
Keep it Simple: Prayer
Prayer is the most traditional of Sabbath keepers. Prayer practices the presence of God. It pays attention to God as part of life. Whether in grace before meals, or in morning and evening prayers, or in prayers for a specific purpose, prayer keeps Sabbath. It sets aside time for God in the midst of time for other purposes. It can be words of petition or praise, a breath, a sigh, or a laugh.
— from Sabbath Keeping by Donna Schaper
Pick an Appliance, Any Appliance
Sabbath can only begin if we close the factory, turn out the lights, turn off the computer, and withdraw from the concerns of the marketplace. Chose at least one heavily used appliance or device — the telephone, television, computer, washer/dryer — and don’t use it for a Sabbath period. Whether it is a morning, afternoon, or entire day, surrender to a quality of time when you will not be disturbed, seduced, or responsive to what our technologies have to offer. Notice how you respond to its absence.
— from Sabbath by Wayne Muller
I have come to realize that my workweek is dominated by generating words. Words I speak on the phone, in meetings and in public. Words I speak to God in intercessory prayers. Words I write in e-mails, church newsletter articles, handouts for classes I teach at church, articles for magazines, chapters for books. On the Sabbath I need freedom from producing words, both spoken and written.…I take time to notice the beauty of the world around me, thanking God in a wordless way for the wonder of his gifts to us.
— from Sabbath Keeping by Lynne M. Baab
Not Just You
To sanctify time through Sabbath, we need a community to keep it with: to eat with, to pray with, to relax with. Remembering the Sabbath is a commandment given to the whole people of God, not just individuals who feel like scheduling regular time off. The sacred time is a communal observance.
— Reader Pat Andrews, via e-mail
A True Sense of Sabbath Rest
Reading Jürgen Moltmann’s The Coming of God , the great theologian’s consideration of “last things, and things that last,” I came across the concept that the Sabbath is a foretaste of the ultimate end of all things: complete fulfillment. That’s the reason, says Moltmann, that the Bible tells us God took a Sabbath on the seventh day, and why we are enjoined to do so, as well. In that light I suddenly understood why I sometimes experience a true sense of Sabbath rest, and other times I don’t. For me, simply stopping work doesn’t necessarily mean I’m taking a Sabbath. My inner striving may easily continue through worry, planning, and so forth. Sabbath comes when I taste that sense of fulfillment by giving up striving. It may be quiet rest where my anxious mind disengages through meditation or prayer. It may also be an activity that feels complete in and of itself — playing music for pleasure, sports, reading, time with family. None of those things is automatically a Sabbath, but any and many more can be, when I enter it in the right spirit.
— Robert Owens Scott, Director, Trinity Institute
I dream of creating a summer chapel for travelers. There could be a lecture series on Friday nights, free pancake breakfasts after the Sunday service, and other ways of providing hospitality and nourishment for the mind and soul of travelers. I think travel typically gives people a chance to slow down, to reflect more deeply...and I’d like the chapel to respond to the spiritual needs that find room to bubble up to the surface when we're on the road, in the air, or otherwise away from our daily routine. And building ministries around the themes of travel and pilgrimage could really focus a parish on a useful ministry.
— Lisa Hamilton, Fairfield, CT
I have been giving thought to the sunset time on Saturday as a reminder to begin to wind down from my pursuits and warm up to the idea of rest on Sunday. In reality, I do work on Sunday, but I have a completely different focus as I begin the day. I don’t rush, I do not complain, I do not worry. I am open to the Holy Spirit and remind myself that each person I meet may be needing a “rest” even more than I do.
— Reader Tandy Maxfield, via e-mail
The Musician’s Sabbath When I come home at night, and even in the mornings, I never listen to music. I just like the silence. Because I compose and perform music for a living, I associate silence with rest. Maybe it’s just the sounds of the forest, or the beach (if you’re lucky enough to live near one). I hear silence as Sabbath.
— Owen Burdick, organist and choirmaster, Trinity Church