Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happy Sabbath Anniversary

This week I spent a day at Sabbath House, a home in the middle of the city, where some Sisters of St. Francis open up garden, bedrooms, library and lovely, airy porch to people in need of a respite.  I napped, read, listened to peaceful music while the breeze made the wind chimes ring outside the window, and ate a delicious meal with fresh garden goodies from their CSA.  I felt tucked away and hidden from the world, right in the middle of it, and it gave me a chance to reflect on the two years our church has spent intentionally practicing Sabbath.

It was here, at Sabbath House, that half our congregation gathered over two one-day retreats to learn about Sabbath from these Sisters, to experience a day of it and worship together in the context of Sabbath.  It was here that our dream of practicing Sabbath as a congregation began to grow real live roots and leaves, and become something we could nurture and grow and live into.  We had explored how, for us, worship went far beyond sitting in pews, and hospitality was about truly meeting God and others, and had decided we wanted to embrace a fuller, more expansive experience of worship and hospitality, that could maybe be explored if we practiced Sabbath together. 
 (I have shared about our congregation's transition to a Sabbath-keeping pattern of worship  over at Clayfire Curator.  You can find that article here).

In the two years now, that we have been practicing Sabbath as a community, we have settled into a rich and nurturing rhythm.  First and third Sundays we worship on Sunday mornings in all our Presbyterian glory.  Second and Fourth weekends we meet Saturday nights, by candlelight and harp, and sink into Sabbath rest together.  The “preached word” takes many forms, looser in format than the Sunday sermons, and often very interactive.  We hold silence each week, two whole minutes that sometimes stretch into eternity, but have become life-giving.  Simple, Taize-esque music is woven throughout the service, and we center our worship around shared prayer (something that has invaded our Sunday morning services as well).  
Our Saturday worship continues with a communal meal, prepared in love by a member whose large house and grown children are on the other side of the country.  She leaves her seminary dorm room to meditate in the warmth of the church kitchen for the day, feeding her own soul in the preparation to feed us.  Then we go home. 

And on Sunday, we spend the day in Sabbath.  Here and there, all over the city, individuals and families purposely stopping.  The guidelines we give ourselves are to try to do nothing from obligation, to pay attention to the struggle to stop and offer even that as a gift of gratitude, to get outside some, to play some, to do something that gives us delight.  To be with others if we’re alone a lot. To be alone if our lives are busy.  To make the day different than our ordinary days. To pay attention to what our souls need.  And it works for us.

Today I met with our music director to plan for the next few weeks, and together we marveled that we have reached the two year mark.  And we realized that neither one of us could ever go back to the pattern of life and worship we had known all of our lives. This way of worship has become who we are, and has fed us abundantly as a community and as individuals.  So, in gratitude we celebrate.  
Happy Sabbath Anniversary, Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church!

To read more about what Sabbath is and why we keep Sabbath, see an earlier article on Clayfire Curator here, and check out their many Sabbath reflections and resources this week.


Our Opening Sabbath Ritual is adapted from the Jewish Shabbat, and involves lighting two candles labeled “Observe” and “Remember,” drawn from the two places in Scripture (Exodus 20:8 & Deuteronomy 5:12) where the Sabbath command is given.

LNPC Sabbath Opening Ritual:

God meets us here as we come together.
We set aside our plans and open up our lives
to be nurtured in sacred time.

By resting from our labors and worries,
and delighting in that which gives us joy,
we discover who we are,
and in whose image we are made.
We are drawn into the rest of God,
we are refreshed and renewed,
and so we Observe the Sabbath.
(“Observe” candle is lit)

We meet God here as we come together.
We lift up our hearts and open up our lives
to recognize God in sacred time.

By resisting the rule of an anxious and fearful world,
and lingering in the wideness of God’s generosity and love,
we discover whose we are,
and in whom our life is found.
We give our trust and gratitude to God,
we are reoriented and reminded,
and so we Remember the Sabbath.
(“Remember” candle is lit)

God of creation and deliverance,
Christ with us in life and death,
Spirit of love, forgiveness and hope,
We meet you here,
and you meet us here,
as we come together in sacred time.
(liturgy copyright Kara K Root and Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church)

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