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Ethics and Religion Talk: Sabbath Practices

From Mark: “I would like to know if each of the panelists have anything similar to a Sabbath and if so, how they observe that day?”

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“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at More recent columns can be found on by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

/The Rapidian

[Note: I have a lot to say about Sabbath observance, but due to space constraints, will have to wait for another opportunity.]

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“As it stands, there is no one special day of the week that is more sacred than another that all Hindus would agree on, though various sects do claim to hold one day or another in a higher esteem. This is not observed by refraining from work, but usually by partial or full fasting.

“That said, Hinduism in the West has taken to ‘borrowing’ Sunday as a day when temple attendance and religious education seem to make the most sense. My Sunday usually consists in rising early and meditating for about 2.5 hours. Then mid morning I will lead a one hour meditation worship service. Sometime after lunch I will spend 20-30 minutes practicing Hatha Yoga (which we consider prayer in motion). Finally, in early evening I will close with a meditation of about 30-45 minutes.

“I do not disallow myself any activity on Sundays. As long as I fulfill what I’d indicated above I’m happy to socialize, catch a movie, go out to dinner, etc. And if anything prevents me from my practice on a Sunday I can move it to any other day of the week.”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“I think our culture has largely lost the meaning of the Sabbath day. We often think the Sabbath day as a day of rest to prepare us for the upcoming week, actually our week should be to prepare for the Sabbath Day. Unitarian Universalists technically would call Sunday our Sabbath day because that is when we attend church. As a minister who spends Sundays fully engaged in my calling, I choose to make Wednesday my Sabbath Day. It is a day set aside in my week to remind myself what is most important in my life, my wife, my family and my faith.”

The Rev. Rachel J. Bahr, pastor of Plymouth UCC, responds:

“As a UCC Pastor, my sabbath is never on a Sunday. It’s often on a Friday, and sometimes a Saturday. Rest is a key element of my sabbath, so I sleep late or take a nap. And I often will go with my (Catholic) wife to midday Friday Mass. We sometimes go out to lunch or I’ll make food for the family. I often cook, something about making food for my family on my sabbath just fills me up.”

Father Michael Nasser, who writes from an Eastern Christian perspective and is Pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Church, responds:

“The early Christians transferred the honor of the Sabbath from the Saturday remembrance of their Jewish roots to Sunday, in honor of our Lord's Resurrection. Orthodox Christians have continued that practice from the earliest days of Christianity until now. Traditionally, the day is begun with worship, fellowship with the other members of the family of faith, then restful enjoyment in the company of family and friends. Of course, this rest is relative for those in charge of the cooking and cleaning for these family gatherings! But even this work seen more as enjoyment than effort. As a priest, Sunday is a busy day for me, but when the necessary work of leading the community in worship and celebrating any sacraments, I enjoy time with my family and if all goes well, a nap as well!”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“Once there was general agreement among Christians that ‘the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord’s Day’ (Westminster Confession, Ch. XXI.VII) is to be kept holy as the Christian Sabbath. That consensus broke up in the middle decades of the 20th century. Sabbath-keeping was decried as legalism by modernists and fundamentalists alike. ‘Blue laws’ protecting the sanctity of the Christian Sabbath were repealed or ignored as the ‘24/7’ culture of unhindered buying and selling, ever engaging in work or play, emerged in the land.

“Reformed and Presbyterian Christians still hold to their Sabbatarian convictions, albeit to varying degrees. The Presbyterian ideal is for Christians ‘to observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.’ You clear your agenda and disconnect from daily life in order to spend this day in communion with God and His people. Those who do so know that Sabbath-keeping is liberating, refreshing, and rewarding for body and soul, and no bondage at all.”


This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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