Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stories of Life-giving change

So there is this new ebook that just came out, which is filled with creative ideas for renewing the church - ideas that come from the experiences and insights of 50 different contributors from 15 different faith traditions.  A bit of our story from Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church is in this book, alongside so many other wonderful ideas and stories!

 You can get Renew 52, for FREE by following the link.

Read an introduction to the book by David Lose

Finally, here is LNPC's contribution from the book.

Make space for sabbath
byKaraK Root

Our small, 90-year-old congregation has found new life and vitality. Our secret? We’ve stopped having worship services every Sunday. A couple of years ago we made the decision as a congregation to embrace the Sabbath and practice it communally.

Actually, the secret was a process of intentional discernment—exploring the question: Who are we now, and who are we called to be for this time and place? This meant grieving and letting go of the way we were in the past—when the congregation was ten times the size it is now and much younger. But it also meant letting go of all the messages that we’re bombarded with that tell us how we should be doing church in order to be “successful.”

Instead, we asked ourselves: Where is God already moving in and among us? How do we already embody the mission of God here and now? Our new understanding of our identity became centered in worship, hospitality, and Sabbath. We recognized and celebrated all the myriad ways we worship and experience God’s presence—and while sitting in a pew on Sundays made the list, it isn’t by any means the only way. We learned that hospitality is the practice of intentionally living inside God’s abundant welcome, and welcoming others authentically and mutually. But the big shocker for us was Sabbath.

Sabbath, we discovered, is a revolutionary, counter-cultural practice that reorients us to God’s presence and promi- nence in our lives and the world. It helps us notice and remember whose we are—that we belong to a living God for whom resting is part of creating, and whose Spirit is moving in our lives and the world, even when we are too dis- tracted or busy to notice. And Sabbath reminds us who we are—individually and communally. We are created in God’s image, set free to live out our particularity instead of being enslaved and defined by production or consumption.

For several months we read about Sabbath, we retreated with some Sabbath-keeping nuns, and we had lots of discussions about the needs in our busy communities and our own lives. And we asked ourselves: How can our life and faith come from our being and not our doing?

Thus began an experiment of keeping Sabbath as a community, an experiment that has altered us remarkably. On the first and third Sundays we worship on Sunday mornings in all our Presbyterian glory. On the 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 which have become life-giving. Simple, TaizĂ©- like 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—lingering together around warm food and conversation. 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 crowded. To make the day different than our ordinary days. To pay attention to what our souls need. And to rest.

Practicing Sabbath in this way has infected our whole communal life. Our session (church board) meetings are full of worship, we retreat more as a community, we remind each other to rest, we say “no” more, and “yes” more too. Sabbath is continuing to teach us who we are and remind us whose we are. And our one-year experiment has become a way of life for our church community.
t hasn’t always been easy, and we’ve had our ups and downs, but Sabbath-keeping has become a communal rhythm that grounds us, feeds us, and offers respite for our community. It has opened us up to encounter God more candidly throughout our week, un-anchoring worship from Sunday mornings and placing it within our souls and the community instead. It has also expanded our hospitality and our encounter of others. Whenever we have a fifth Sunday, for example, we worship at a nearby county emergency children’s facility, sharing/leading chapel with and for the kids there as our own worship service.

Anxiety no longer rules around here; we’re more settled and joyful. Most importantly, though, I think we’d all say we no longer go to church; we are the church. I suspect that Sabbath has taught us that.

Kara K. Root is pastor of Lake Nokomis Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, Minn. She has an M.Div. from Fuller Seminary, and is a Minister of Word and Sacrament and Certified Educator in the PCUSA. As mom to two entertaining kids (and two unruly dogs), and wife and proofreader to a wily theologian, she is fully immersed in life. She’s written for Sparkhouse’s re:form curriculum, Homily Service Journal,, and Patheos. She blogs about ministry and motherhood at “in the hereandnow.” 


Jordanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

hi. i am also a sabbath keeper and have been thinking about the direction i want to take my life. for i while i was thinking of becoming a buddhist nun but since that time ive become deeply convicted of the truth of the messiah. although buddhism is not as appealing the monastic life still is. becoming a nun is a path im seriously considering and joining an order that keeps the sabbath is extremely important to me because of , as youve come to now, the blessings that only the sabbath can give. I did a search and was not able to find many results about sabbath keeping nun orders expect for the brief mention here in your blog. im hoping that you can provide more information about this sabbath keeping nun retreat as this is a avenue that im seriously considering of going down. thank you , happy sabbath and all the best for 2016.

Anonymous said...

oops i forgot to include my email...if you or anyone has information for me i can be reached at please keep me in your prayers.

Kara said...

Hi Jordanna, the nuns from whom I've learned about sabbath are the Sisters of Saint Francis. Here in Minnesota it's
Blessings on your journey! I will be keeping you in prayer, and may 2016 be a meaningful chapter for you.

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