Reflective Blog

What does the Sabbath mean in Leeds?

timeWhat is the purpose of the Sabbath? What relevence does it have to our lives, our city and our culture? Dr Helen Reid Director of Leeds Church Institute reflects on what Sabbath could look like for us today...



Workers in the UK currently work the longest hours in Europe, take the shortest lunch breaks and enjoy the fewest public holidays, according to the TUC. Now put this in the context of what we do with our free time. If you find that you are food shopping for the family on your lunch break, scheduling in sports and leisure activities, using twitter on the bus as you travel to work, you are not the only one. We live in a 24/7 culture.


A Christian pastor, Maryann McKibben Dana, kept Sabbath for a whole year as a way to resist this culture of always working more, achieving more and getting more. She asked lots of questions during the year especially 'what is rest and what is work?' Admittedly these are complicated questions for a parent of three children under eight years old. She realised that while rest is sometimes a by product of Sabbath, it is not the primary purpose.


In a busy culture, simple rest sounds great and potentially a good in and of itself. However, think back to when the Commandments were first received, as recorded in Exodus 20: 1-17. Brueggemann comments on the fact that the Sabbath commandment comes after the first three commandments which focus on God and before the commandments that cover how to live well with your neighbours including do not steal and so on.


So, keeping the Sabbath commandment is the bridge between knowing God and living as God's people. Israel is instructed to know God who brought them out of slavery and freed them from the endless demands of the pharaoh; and as God who created and then rested. Knowing the nature of God enables God's people to treat others well.


Here in Leeds, a period of intentional rest focussed on God and neighbour, could send us out into the community to live well with our neighbours, resourcing our search for justice and peace. As Christians, we have relinquished many Sabbath practices – perhaps it is time to think what a sabbath could look for us here and now.


This article is based on Walter Brueggemann (2014) Sabbath as resistance. Saying No to the CULTURE OF NOW. WJK Books. It also references Maryann McKibben Dana (2012) Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family's Experiment with Holy Time.


For the full article visit the Leeds Church Institute website


Photo credit: h.koppdelaney / Foter / CC BY-ND

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