The writing life includes, oddly enough, speaking. While they are two different skills, being an author means connecting with readers through a variety of media, including face-to-face interaction.
After speaking about social media marketing at the MacGregor Literary Marketing seminar in Chicago, I flew to Buffalo New York, then crossed the border to Ontario, where I’d been invited to preach at the Niagara United Mennonite church, located in the Niagara on the Lake area not far from the famous falls.
If you’d like to listen to my message, you can find the church’s audio archive here—my name’s at the end of the list. Click on it to listen to my message, The Gift of Sabbath. I explored the theology of Sabbath.
Listen to the short intro from associate pastor Stephen Cox, and you’ll hear why they invited me to speak: the couple that pastors the church recently left on a sabbatical, the first ever in the church’s long history. The Sabbatical committee read my book Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity, and decided that to help the whole church learn about Sabbath, they’d have me come and speak.
So the first Sunday the pastors were gone, I was in the pulpit. Yes, that felt a bit pressured, but I was warmly welcomed by the congregation, which has been meeting in the same red brick church since 1937.
The Mennonites, especially in that area, are hard-working, simple people, farmers or sons and daughters of farmers, many of German or Russian descent (some first or second generation immigrants). The church still holds one of its Sunday services in German. A zealous work ethic makes it hard for some of them to practice Sabbath at all. For others, that same ethic makes it hard to let go of legalism about the Sabbath—they wanted rules.
In addition to preaching at the main service, I did two informal, interactive sessions, where I taught in short bursts, allowing for discussion and questions in between. I love the opportunity to answer questions, to have to think on my feet. Often the questions went far beyond the scope of my topic, and I found myself responding, “That’s really a church culture issue.” I was only an hour over the border, but in many ways, in a completely different culture than my own.
For example, the people who teach Sunday School each week would love to take a sabbatical as well. I agreed that would be great, and told them that at my church, we actually give our youth ministry volunteers a summer break. To allow that, we need to have a church culture that values that, and a call to those who don’t normally lead children to cover one group for one Sunday. They looked at me with a mixture of incredulity and longing.
How would you describe your church culture? Does your church support your efforts to keep Sabbath? To balance ministry and times of rest? Is “rest” a value in your church? In your life?