SABBATH HAS ALWAYS BEEN the highlight of my week. When I was a child, my mother took care to create a special atmosphere on Friday evening, at the very start of the Sabbath hours. As the sun set, casting its brilliant hues of magenta and purple across the horizon, Mom would light our Sabbath candles and Dad would choose a CD of calm, quiet music to set the tone for worship.
As I snuggled into my spot on the couch with a cozy blanket, Mom would begin reading: mission stories, Bible stories, angel stories, stories of God’s intervention. After story time, we sang together—sometimes accompanied by Mom’s guitar or the piano, sometimes a cappella. I felt God’s presence in a special way during those early Sabbath worship moments.
When I became an adult and had a family of my own, I tried to create that same atmosphere for my children: candles, quiet music, stories, and cozy blankets. I always wanted Sabbath to be as special to them as it was for me.
As I was growing up, Sabbath was different from other days. It was more than just going to church. We did special activities on the seventh day that we didn’t do throughout the rest of the week. We went to friends’ homes for lunch; we took walks together in nature; we visited and encouraged the elderly who were lonely. Sabbath, to me, has always been about fellowship with God and others—and that’s where I find the most fulfillment. Even today, “good” Sabbaths are marked not only by an inspiring church service and sermon but by fellowship with others afterward.
My husband transitioned from pastoring a district to working for the General Conference Ministerial Association several years ago. After we settled into our new home, we began looking for a church to attend. The greeters at the first church we visited welcomed us warmly. The sermon was sincere and the music engaging, but what really made us feel at home was the invitation we received to go on an afternoon excursion with several other families. We visited with our new friends until long after dark, and when we finally left, we looked at each other and said, “We’ve found our new church family.”
I believe God intended the Sabbath hours to fulfill a deep heart longing we each have for community, for fellowship. He created humans because He yearned for a relationship with someone, made in His own image, who could reciprocate love in an intelligent way. He set the Sabbath apart at the end of a busy week to enjoy His handiwork, including you and me. And during that 24-hour period, God invites us to put everything else aside and focus on reconnecting with Him and with one another.
Pastoral life and duties often seem overwhelming, especially on Sabbath. And with a global pandemic raging, it’s difficult, sometimes even impossible, to enjoy face-to-face fellowship. We hope this issue of The Journal will provide some ideas on how the Sabbath can be a delight and give encouragement in these challenging days.