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Monday, June 09, 2008

I. Have. Had. Enough!

Okay, so I tried to get my local town Rec. Department to be considerate of sports schedules on Sunday.

To an abysmal failure.

The apathy from my other Protestant and Roman Catholic colleagues was, well, overwhelming.

Now, I've just learned that Spring Break in the Town of Chatham is scheduled for Holy Week.

Okay, the next sound you hear is that of my last nerve being pulled.


This, after my staff and I have discerned and determined that the best way to learn about what it means to be Christian is to travel as a pilgrim in Holy Week. So, we have made it mandatory that staff, wardens and vestry, along with Confirmands, parents and sponsors attend all Holy Week services: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, The Great Vigil of Easter and Easter Day.

Here's the thing: I know that the folks in the Administration of the School Department are good people - most of them conscientious Christian people.

And, I know the complications involved.

It comes down to this: "What is the Sabbath?"

And this: "Whose Sabbath?"

Orthodox Jews claim the Sabbath from sundown Friday night to the rise of the first star on Saturday. I believe I'm right (but will be happily proven incorrect) if the Muslims consider the same time period as "Sabbath."

Conservative and Reformed Jews are a wee bit more lenient, I believe.

The Christians claim the Sabbath from sundown Saturday night to sundown Sunday night.

I get it. It's complicated.

And yet, I KNOW there is a solution to what seems, at least on the surface, like a religious-secular conundrum.

That being said, I suspect all of the above named diverse groups would not be unhappy with sport games being played after 1 PM on Sunday.

And, I also suspect that all of the same diverse groups would not only find the blatant disregard of any one's "Holy Week" to be an abomination, my hunch is that the secular - religious claims to the definition of 'Sabbath' would find sharp difference with the religious definition of "sacred time" in our frenetic, cultural lives which we give back to God.

I've tried fighting the good fight. Alone. It doesn't work.

Here's why: The argument that is given is this: "Well, I understand, but this puts us at a distinct disadvantage with the other teams in the league."

Okay. I understand, too.

So, here's what I'm thinking: What if we organized?

I'm thinking, an Interfaith organized effort.

Like, the New Jersey Council of Churches doing a little something with the generous contribution given to them, convention after convention, year after year, and taking a stand on this issue?

Hell, what if the National Council of Churches joined with the equivalent interfaith judicatory bodies about "Keeping Sabbath Holy"? Would that not be awesome?

Might we be able to make a statement in the midst of this cultural insanity which is overly concerned with "productivity" and political (secular) correctness?

Might we be able to make an impact - or, God knows - actually change the secular culture which does not "keep the Sabbath holy"?

If we, of the religious community, don't think the Sabbath is important enough to fight for, why should anyone else think it's important?

If we, as religious leaders, don't stand for something, is it any wonder our people will fall for anything?

Of course, I could be wrong.

What do you think?

Should we call on our local and national Council of Churches to work with other Interfatih Judicatories toward reclaiming the Sabbath?

Might this be a resolution for our diocesan and national conventions?


FranIAm said...

Oh thank God for voices of good sense.

Like yours.

I am sorry that my people were apathetic, I am not surprised.

Up here in the Albany suburbs, where I am a parishioner at the largest RC parish in the diocese, there is a common cry.

Mass is too long.

Um - like since when is 55 minutes too long?

Oh well it is too long if there is a sporting event and this town is sporting event central.

We are fortunate enough to have a brilliant -and I do not say this lightly - brilliant preacher/homilist/teacher for a pastor.

He does not go on too long - at least in my opinion, he is passionate and engaging, and a wee bit challenging as he should be.

But no- they liked the old pastor. Maybe he was duller but he was shorter.

Apparently people felt that he "got it" around sports.

Grrrr.... Can you tell that if I lived in your area, I would be arm in arm with you over this?

Even if I had a crappy priest. Does no one understand community?

(do i sound like a pedantic jerk? maybe.)

rick allen said...

With the Olympics coming up I happened to re-watch "Chariots of Fire" not too long ago. You may remember the scene near the beginning, when Eric Liddel is coming out of the wee kirk with his sister and father and a ball bounces in front of him. He picks it up and says to the young boy chasing after it, "The sabbath's not for football now, is it?" A vanished world.

It is strange to remember that not so long ago Sunday constituted a perceptible pause in the breathless haste of the commercial world. The blue laws were more responsible, I suppose, than church attendance. Their passing at first seemed liberating: we can go to the grocery store on Sunday! We can to go Home Depot, or Dillards, or Waldenbooks! But then there came that first time: "I have to go to work on Sunday." Or we started putting in so many hours during the remainder of the work week that Sunday became a regular time to shop for necessities. It was no longer the day without traffic.

I think it does bear keeping in mind that the Commandment is, in part, a labor regulation. And it is not just for masters; slaves too were to be released from labor at lesat one day per week. One would have thought that the easiest Commandment to keep. But the market is a jealous god.

fr craig said...

TS, I agree heartily. But I am also a pragmatist. The Church lost this battle a long time ago, just like we lost the battle over Advent vs. commercialism. The horse is out of the barn.

the larger battle is with the parents who obviously place their kids 'success' in sports and other activities as more important than going to church. I've beat my head against the wall my entire ordained life (admittedly, only 7 years) and have not a clue how to change this. Some folks take church seriously, some don't...

But I doubt very much if even an interfaith effort would work. My first churches were two small towns in rural Kansas, and even though the (way too many fundamentalist) churches were a power there, they couldn't fight the athletic leagues...

Long term, I think the only way to get young people seriously invested in Jesus is through hands on mission trips...

Jim said...

Here, Illinois, I recall the fight when the schools stopped having Spring break align with Holy Week. It had been in my youth: standard. The thesis seemed to be that the majority -- remember Chicago was the largest RC diocese until LA got all those immigrants -- would be to busy for school.

In fact, Good Friday is a State holiday. That was done as a response to school boards dropping the "traditional" alignment of Spring break and Holy Week.

Of course, as we became more mobile, the travel industry figured out it could sell to more than hormone overloaded college students and the break has become almost as heavy a vacation week as Christmas. ;;sigh;;

Just to complicate things, the Orthodox Paschal celebration was significantly later than ours this year. So, what week is a good week?

I have fought the schedule thing for years and years. For decades, the town had an agreement that it would avoid scheduling after school or evening events on Thursday. That allowed the faith communities to plan. The agreement is long gone. Now it is everyone for itself.

We have to find a way to do what we do within an ever more secular world. This is part of that problem.


susankay said...

I'm sorry Elizabeth+ but while I hope your people decide to stay home and honor Holy Week, I don't agree that civil authorities should be made to help in that. I so very firmly believe in the separation of church and state that I wish NO Christian/Jewish/Muslim/Hindu/or whatever holy day were EVER accorded civil recognition.

VTcrone said...

Elizabeth-One point that hasn't been touched on yet in your comments is the increasing cost of gas that is beginning to force some people to cut back on where they drive-including church. If you go to "Caminate, no hay camino" you'll find that she posted a good piece on her blog yesterday (June 9)about exactly that problem, which will no doubt get worse.

Bill said...

It’s sort of like the British Monarchy, nobody pays it much mind but they do like the tradition and they love to take it out and look at it occasionally.

With church attendance, you’re fighting the same battle. They want to get married at the altar, then they show up with the baby and want it baptized. They want the kids confirmed and it would be real nice to have you say something over the grave. Aside from that, soccer and baseball practice come first. They don’t want anything to do with the church unless it’s on their terms and to meet their needs. Then you have to be there for them or all hell breaks loose. The church has to be there to legitimize and affirm the important cultural aspects of their lives but they don’t want to have to give anything back. At least not until there’s a spiritual crisis in their lives. That’s when you get the telephone call at midnight. That’s the way of it. It’s not the first century anymore. Our lives don’t revolve around the church and the religious life as they once did. You know the ones I’m talking about. They fill the pews at Christmas and Easter. There the ones who say “thank you” at the Communion Rail.

Orgel56 said...

...and what's really sad is how seemingly more and more "Christian" Book-sellers and stores are open on Sundays as well, utilizing the logic of "We're under Grace, not the Law; and besides that, look at all the money we're making selling to Christian buyers and being a witness to non-believers!"


In my line of work (pipe/electronic organs and church sound systems), I have had the opportunity to be on the campuses of numerous denominations; and the one that had impressed me the most is the Seventh-Day Adventists. In the early-mid afternoon at their schools/offices, everything starts shutting down, and you can almost feel a spirit of calm and peace permeate the area. Their stores: closed at 4:30 or so - and stay closed until noon on Sunday.

Anybody for Seventh-Day Anglicans???