As I mentioned at Annual Meeting, your vestry has been talking a lot in recent months about the idea of having a parish Lenten Sabbath, and have proposed that we do this during Lent. As I’ve talked about it with many of you in meetings and informally, it seems to me more and more that embracing the idea of Sabbath for a season will be beneficial for us, both personally and as a faith community.
Why did the vestry think of this?
This fall, the vestry had in-depth discussions with several key committees, including the Church Community Team, Mission Committee, and Evangelism/Communication team. A common theme we heard from all of these hard-working lay leaders is that they are feeling stressed out and a bit burnt out. This is certainly not how we want our lay leaders to feel. So, we wondered together if setting aside some regular ministries and duties, for a 6 week season, would help us re-focus our energies and feel renewed. In addition, the vestry thought it would be an opportunity for us to evaluate our ministries and see if we are trying to do too much. If we put things down, then our passions and priorities can rise to the top. Let’s notice what we miss.
As individuals, I urge you not to use the time that you would have been at a church meeting to do more work elsewhere or surf social media. Let’s be deliberate about our time and use it in ways that are meaningful to us: in prayer, bible study, naps, long walks, and time with family, friends, self, and God. As a parish, we can take extra time to prepare for Holy Week in a meaningful way. Perhaps you want to be part of the Liturgy Team, assist the altar guild, or come to an adult forum or Bible study.
- Because church should not be about being more stressed out.
- Because we care about our lay leaders.
- Because God asked us to — it’s in the 10 Commandments.
- Because work is made holy by rest and reflection.
What will this look like?
Observing a Lenten sabbath will be an opportunity to focus on the essentials, the things that help us remain grounded in our identity as God’s beloved children. We will continue our usual formation and worship activities but cut back on committee meetings and other duties. There will be no vestry meeting or executive committee meeting during Lent, and we will not have a Committee Meeting Sunday. We encourage other committees not to meet, or to make meetings a time of mutual prayer and reflection, or to meet only for essential reasons. Adult formation in Lent will focus on the theme of sabbath (more details on that soon!). To give our coffee hour hosts a break, coffee hour refreshments will be simpler and more self-serve.
But what about…
I know… personally I am somewhat stressed out by not having a vestry meeting, executive committee meeting, or wardens’ meeting March. These meetings are important to my ministry and I feel like it’s a key part of my job to conduct helpful, productive meetings that further the goals and mission of the parish. Who am I as a priest and rector if I’m not running these meetings?? Well, maybe we are beloved children of God, and perhaps God loves us as we are and not for what we do. That’s not to say that vestry meetings are not important and we’ll never have them again – not at all! Our ministries are important, and setting them aside for a time does not mean they are not valuable. It’s just that setting them aside for a time gives us the opportunity to see that our true value, to God and to this community, is not in what we achieve or produce. So much of our culture communicates to us that we are only valuable for what we do or achieve, but that is not how God’s kingdom works. This can be a hard concept for us to grasp – that God loves us unconditionally no matter what – but Lent is an opportunity to sink into it and see what it means for our lives as individuals and our life together.
This week I’ve shared with you a bit of what we won’t be doing in Lent. In the coming weeks, I’ll share more about what we will be doing – more intentional and contemplative worship and prayer, and some enriching adult formation offerings on the theme of sabbath.