Saturday, August 5, 2017


I can't help compare this sad essay from an Episcopal priestess writing for the Augusta Chronicle's Saturday morning religion page this morning, with my beachside Mass two weeks ago with 1,500 vacationing families from all over the USA and world. In fact a young Croatian man took a selfie with me after Mass to prove to his parents in Croatia he had gone to Mass!

But here is Father, no Mother, maybe not, the Reverend Cynthia:

Lessons from month without Sundays

C›››››› T›››››
Faith Columnist
Christians are supposed to go to church, especially if the Christian in question is a priest. I haven’t been to church in a month of Sundays. I didn’t plan this, it just kind of happened.

I was on the front end of a three-month sabbatical from my parish. The first Sunday away, I decided to experience worship in one of the most popular churches on the planet – St. Mattress-by-the-Springs. I slept late. When I got up, I read the Sunday morning paper with several cups of freshly brewed coffee as company and even did the crossword puzzle.

I watched Meet the Press and Super Soul Sunday, which are other, popular places of Sunday worship. Then I treated myself to a late Sunday brunch. I was so exhausted by all of this that I took a long nap in the afternoon. If I had been at the beach, all of this would have been considered normal behavior. This was only one Sunday away, surely that was OK, wasn’t it?

The next Sunday, I resolved to go to church, preferably one in which I wasn’t known and one that I wanted to experience. I chose a nearby parish and got ready to go. Except that I didn’t. I felt overcome by the same kind of fear that all newcomers experience. What if they didn’t like me? What if I didn’t know what to do and did the wrong thing?

Because I wanted to go an African-American church and I am Caucasian, I also worried about standing out. Strange, I didn’t feel that way when African-Americans worship in my predominately white church. Stranger still that I had never let that truly permeate my consciousness before. Strange and shameful. I was beginning to realize that Jesus was teaching me some new things on this month without Sundays.

I didn’t go to church the next two Sundays either. I found myself engaging with people for whom Sunday is a work day. My cable and AC went out on Sundays and the only time available for repairs was during worship. You can understand the need for AC during the misery we call summer here in Augusta. You may even understand the necessity of having cable to watch the season premier of Game of Thrones. In each instance, I needed to be home for the repairs.

More unexpected learnings. People don’t schedule around worship anymore. Christians may rail against the intrusion of soccer practice on Sunday mornings, but what about things that aren’t so optional? If you’re the one who works on the Sabbath, does that mean you’re not a Christian or not even spiritual?

When you enjoy a Sunday brunch, do you look upon the servers who couldn’t attend church, even if they wanted, because they are working for you?

Just asking.

I’ve come away from this month without Sundays with a new insight. I understand the allure of St. Mattress-by-the Springs, but it doesn’t work for me. The Sabbath sets my week and without it, one day is hardly indistinguishable from another.

Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy says God in the Ten Commandments. And in remembering that, I am remembering that I too am meant to be holy, made in God’s image. At a bare minimum, I need a day to reflect on that gift and give thanks to the Giver.

I rediscovered that worship is what grounds me. That I need the faith community that surrounds and upholds me, loves me and challenges me. It’s the community that enables me to go out and do the same for others in the name of Jesus. I need the sacraments on a regular basis; to be fed the body of Christ, the bread of heaven. It’s spiritual food for my soul.

And I rediscovered just how scary it can be to go to church. To walk into a new place, especially by yourself, is an act of courage not to be taken lightly. I will continue to work on the hospitality of welcome, not just in church, but in all the sacred encounters of life.

I’m still on my sabbatical but I will be in church this Sunday. I’ll be sitting in a pew with my family – something that is as rare for me as the upcoming solar eclipse.

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Taylor is pastor of Church of the Holy Comforter.


John Nolan said...

An African-American church? Is segregation alive and well?

Carlton said...

"British society is increasingly dividing along ethnic lines – with segregation in schools, neighbourhoods and workplaces – that risks fuelling prejudice, according to one of the country’s leading experts on race and integration."

"Nightclubs, those supposed bastions of multiculturalism, are a case in point. They blast black music, they usually employ some black DJ’s, bar staff and of course doormen, but take a long look at their cleintele...  At many of the top clubs across the country, club managements are operating apartheid-like door policies that regulate the number of black people in their clubs at anyone time.  Clubs scenes in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, and London to name but a few, all suffer to some extent from this cultural apartheid."

"The figures show a number of English local authorities have particularly segregated primary schools, with ethnic minority children in Blackburn, Bradford, Birmingham, Oldham, Kirklees, Calderdale and Rochdale having the highest levels of separation from the White British population."

Seems so...

rcg said...

I don't know if our foreign readers know but there are some fairly old, by American standards, congregations of various denominations that were founded by or to serve specific wards of ethnic groups. Some were segregated offshoots of other, larger groups, such as the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church that caters to the African American communities around the country. I live only a few miles from a church and college founded to serve blacks escaped from slavery and named for the British abolishionist, Wilberforce. There are two Historically Black Colleges and universities there within, literally, a stones throw of each other.

Back to the article, it struck me that this was written by one of those housewife bloggers who has begun to explore her spiritual needs as she matures into the requirements of a good mother and not from an actual cleric.

Mark Thoimas said...

"The Sabbath sets my week and without it, one day is hardly indistinguishable from another. Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy says God in the Ten Commandments. And in remembering that, I am remembering that I too am meant to be holy, made in God’s image. At a bare minimum, I need a day to reflect on that gift and give thanks to the Giver.

I wonder about the following in regard to keeping Sunday holy:

As the National Football League's 2017 A.D. regular season approaches (actually, the following applies to all violent "entertainment"), should Catholics play/watch NFL games on Sunday (or any day)?

From The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:

285. "Sunday is a day that should be made holy...believers should distinguish themselves on this day too by their moderation, avoiding the excesses and certainly the violence that mass entertainment sometimes occasions.[614]"

Footnote 614 referenced the Catechism of the Catholic Church #2187, which noted that we are to avoid any "leisure activity" that involves violence.

On Sundays (or any time), should we avoid watching football (all violent "entertainment) games?

The following component is also involved:

A professional sporting event on a Sunday involves servile work.

Players, coaches, officials, ushers, stadium parking lot attendants, concession stand employees, security guards, TV network crews, and news media personnel must work on Sunday so that we may attend/watch a football game (or any major sporting event on a Sunday).

Nearby restaurants, bars, and additional businesses will open as they will be tempted by the presence of tens of thousands of potential customers.

How can Catholics combat materialism when we help to ensure that Sunday, at least in the United States, will remain a day filled with business activity?

From there, why not open every business on Sunday? We should open malls, restaurants, grocery stores, bars...every that Christians are free to spend Sundays buying and selling.

If it's acceptable for Christians to spend their Sundays watching violent money-making professional sports (professional sports is just big business), then are we not free to spend Sundays engaged in non-violent business activities?


Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

Some good church at 30327 actually had softball games going on Sunday mornings (Atlanta Catholic softball league), and what may have put an end to it was not the Sabbath, but the competition for scarce parking spots in the morning during Masses...and, uh, perhaps the chance a foul ball could smash someone's car in the parking lot!

But we also have a lot of people in the Atlanta area who are not Christians---a large Jewish population for instance. As one Jewish friend of mine asked one time, why should I not be able to buy alcohol on Sundays? (Well, thanks to a change in state law, you can now---but you have to wait until 12:30 for some reason.) You'll see lots of people at Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza on Sundays here in Buckhead---obviously the marketplace is responding to demands. If there were no demand for it, there would be no supply....Atlanta is also a convention city; not uncommon for conventions to start on the weekend (or end) and then run a few days---it isn't realistic to expect everything is going to shut down (or so called "non essential" services) in this day and age---certainly not the world's busiest airport!

As for the NFL, they have been playing on Sundays since as long as I can remember---high schools at least in Dixie usually play on Friday nights, and college games are on Saturdays. When else could pro football games be played?

But there are some who take a stricter view of the Sabbath----the Eastern Orthodox discourage Saturday night dances or other social functions on the concept that since the Sabbath runs sundown to sundown, not midnight to midnight, then Saturday night really is Sunday the liturgical day, and thus that night we should be in preparation for Mass the next morning.

Finally, the Chronicle needs to get its Episcopal knowledge on track---the pastor of an Episcopal parish is called the rector---sounds more formal and less Protestant than "pastor", which sounds pretty Baptist to me!