We are planning a worship service for Sunday with the theme of rest or sabbath. I suppose it coincides intentionally with the Labor Day weekend holiday, but more than that it is what we hope might be the first in a number of worship services around this same theme.
The idea comes out of a pastoral recognition that many of the people in our congregation are overworked, overtired, overextended--too busy for our own good. When asked the other week at a meeting if folks had had a restful summer, there was great scoffing and harumphing. So much so, that I had the feeling if someone had experienced a restful summer, there would be a sense of shame in admitting so.
The service we've designed is intended to allow people to experience a sense of rest, a feeling of sabbath in the midst of worship. Its form is inspired by a Lessons & Carols service--with lots of singing interspersed with brief words and some silence. As we repeat these Sabbath Sundays (as I've taken to calling them), we will slowly and gently lengthen the silences as we learn to keep silence together without experiencing heightened anxiety.
This year ahead, our church is going to be engaging in some processes of and exploring questions around self-definition. I realized, as we prepared for this service, that the theme of Sabbath is intimately related to the questions of self-definition. We will not be able to ask the difficult questions, engage in difficult conversations without learning how to be still, how to give up what is not in our control, how to listen, how to hear God's still, small voice in our midst. These are the gifts of sabbath.
I am truly looking forward to Sunday's service. Already, I feel God's presence in it.