As you and I prepare for a period of sabbatical this July through September, I’d like us to consider what things will make for a real rest for our tired bodies, minds, souls, and spirits. Sabbath and sabbatical come from the same Hebrew word, and they both are about integrating the rhythms of rest and work into our lives so that they’re in balance. In this new series of columns on Sabbath, we explore the gift of God in the practices of letting-go and resting in God and Creation.
The Jan. 20 issue of the Christian Science Monitor tells a news story about people in Britain who have struggled to heat their homes this winter. Out of the common need, community spaces opened up to encourage social interaction and community connection. “What gets people in is that it’s NOT a church. It’s NOT a charity,” says Maff Potts, who founded Camerados, a social movement that’s been opening public living rooms in communities across the United Kingdom since 2015. “There’s no fixing, no answer. There’s just permission.”
This is the power of simply GATHERING, which I believe is as important a Sabbath practice as any of the individual practices that get so much attention in media stories about the resurgence of interest in Sabbath.
Gathering is also the clear favorite among those of you who filled out a Sabbatical Planning Survey in the fall—simply to be together, maybe share a meal together, conversation, play, laughter. It’s part of what made the Talent Show in November such a success, and it’s why so many more of you came to the rescheduled Mardi Gras party, after church this past Sunday. I was away for the weekend, but Katie and others tell me that more of you actually came to Mardi Gras than were in worship.
Does that tell you something?
As the Monitor story about heating and gathering spaces shows, warmth is about so much more than how many BTU’s our furnaces put out. It’s about what gets us out of our homes, out of our isolation, and is a hedge against the “epidemic of loneliness” we see well-covered in the news these days.
This summer, one of the things our congregational sabbatical plans should include is something we’re calling “meetups”—organized by one or two people, who set a date, a time, and a place to meet up and do something fun, like a bike ride, a walk through a park or the Zoo or an arboretum, or a jam session where you bring your own instruments. And the idea is that whoever shows up is exactly the right number of people.
What do you think would happen if we simply gathered to do things for no other purpose than to be together? Is that worthy of a church that all too often is very concerned about purpose, goals, and objectives?