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The Summer of Sabbath

Bishop Carlye Hughes

Bishop Hughes invites the whole diocese – clergy, staff, lay leaders, people in the pews – to partake in a "Summer of Sabbath." And since we Episcopalians sometimes don't quite know how to approach Sabbath, she offers three specific ways for us to think about it. (Time: 5:32.)

Video Transcript

This is Bishop Hughes in the Diocese of Newark. And as we head into the summer, I'm asking our entire diocese to think about and to practice Sabbath. I'm going so far is calling this the "Summer of Sabbath" from July 1st until Labor Day weekend.

Let me tell you why I think this is important and what it will look like in our diocese. When we read our creation story – and even if you don't read it, and just think over it, and remember the essentials – that God created heaven and the earth, and then brought forth the land and seas, and fishes, and animals and trees, and all kinds of things into being. Each day as God created something, God got to the end of the day and said, "This is good." And then went on to the next day calling forth more things until that sixth day, when God called humankind into being. Everything else got called good, but humankind God called very good. And after that sixth day, God looked at everything that God had created, said, "This is good," and then said, "I think I'm going to rest." And God took the very first Sabbath.

From my point of view, this sense of working and working hard, and then taking a Sabbath is established to us by a God who created us and created us in God's own image – that there is a need for rest after one has worked hard. I am not going to say that the Episcopal Diocese of Newark has created and called things into being this year that we could – that are as big as the planet and the sun, the moon, the stars and all people. But we have been working hard at reinventing church. And some of us have been working hard at the same tasks that got us back up on our feet as pandemic began. I know in some of our churches, we have people who've been running the online function, and taking care of that for more than three years. Our clergy, our staff, our lay leaders, even our people sitting in the pews – all of us need a time of rest.

And I'm going to ask you to take a look back at the last year and say, "Hey, this was good work." We know we don't have all the answers yet. We know God is calling us into a new way of being church, and that we keep reinventing and tinkering and trying new things. And some work and some don't work. But we keep working on new things. And as we do that, things are changing and shaping into something else. And when you work and work hard, you do get tired.

So I've asked that the parishes of our diocese take things down to the essentials over summer. This is not unusual. Many vestries don't meet in July and August, the governing bodies of the diocese do not meet in July and August. Please note, I'm not saying do nothing, we will still have Sunday services, churches will still have picnics or particular gatherings that they do in the summer. But it's not the time to launch a new programming series this summer. It is the time for Sabbath.

Now for some of us, thinking about Sabbath is something that we don't quite know how to do – we like using the word but we don't know what to do with it. So I'm going to ask you to think of Sabbath in three specific ways. One is rest. Make sure you're getting good sleep, make sure that you're taking some time off, make sure that you have a chance to do some daydreaming or wandering and to give your mind and body a piece of rest. So one part of it is rest.

Another part of it is gratitude. To look at the things that you have done or look at the things that are around you or in your life, and to be grateful, To do exactly what God does in the creation story, to look at these things and say, "This is good." The effort that we made at work or at home or with our family or in our church. This is good. It may not be the whole answer. But it has been a start and we did it to the best of our ability.

So rest, then gratitude, and finally the last thing: to do those things this summer that bring you great joy. Folks that know me, or have heard me talk about what my great joy is, is you put me in my kitchen with a whole ton of cookbooks – sometimes I don't have to get to the cooking part. I'm just happy to look through the cookbooks. But I love looking through my cookbooks and finding the recipe to start and then bringing that recipe to the table, with my husband and with our friends. That is one of my greatest joys. It's not just enough sometimes to say, "I'm going to relax." Sometimes we have to do the things that bring us joy in order to know that we've had Sabbath.

We're also going to offer some books for you to read this summer. Things that are simple reads, easy reads, but things that can help you think about your spiritual life. [See Summer of Sabbath: Suggested reading.]

It is summer Sabbath in the Diocese of Newark. And wherever you go and however you experience it, I hope you know that God created you good, that the efforts that you have made for those you love and for your church are good. And now it is time to have a rest. You've earned it.

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