Saturday, 14 April 2012

Saturday Night

You might from time-to-time hear people talk about not staying up late on a "school night", of course meaning that one shouldn't be up/out late when you have to go to work the following morning.

I have been thinking a bit about Saturday night recently- and the battle for how we observe Sunday begins Saturday night. We talk about not staying up late on a "school night", so why not on a "church night"? I know that if I have been up late on a Saturday then I am zonked and grumpy on the Sunday morning, and not totally focussed on the church service.

But should we go further than that? We sometimes hear that the early church switched the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday to reflect the fact that Jesus rose on a Sunday. It is clear from parts of the New Testament, such as Acts 20:7 and I Corinthians 16:2 that Christian worship was "the first day of the week". Ah, Sunday. But is it?

Sometimes, you might encounter students who have atill been studying up to nearly midnight Saturday evening as to avoid studying on a Sunday. Hmm, is that actually healthy for them, when it means they get little sleep before church the next day?

When I was an undergraduate, what I came across often was that students would stop studying prior to the CU meeting (7 on a Saturday evening) and then return to the library after the chapel service (starting 6 on a Sunday evening and lasting for about an hour). I suggest this is probably better than the above paragraph for the following reasons:

  • stopping studying on a Saturday early evening and having an early night keeps you more awake and alert for the Sunday
  • the Jews didn't have Saturday as the Sabbath. They had Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. Would the early church have suddenly decided to have a midnight to midnight Sabbath or continue with a sunset to sunset one?
  • Tbe thing about Sunday evening services is that- even if I don't go out to the pub quiz later on- by the time I've hung around and had coffee and chatted to people it's getting on for 1/2 past 8 and then it's about 3/4 hour walk home.

    OK, now for the radical bit- should we change service times so they match a sunset-sunset Sabbath? Would this be more Biblical, reflecting "the first day of the week"? And how could this be done?

    One way is to keep the evening services, but move the day. This could be holding a Saturday evening one from September-ish to April-ish and a Sunday evening one during the summer. There is a Catholic church near me which has its "First Mass of Sunday" on Saturday evening.

    Or, how about Sunday afternoon services? I know there are a couple of churches near me that hold 3pm services about once a month. And, when I lived for a while at my parents' and attended the local Anglican church, they experimented with monthly informal Sunday afternoon services at the daughter church, which were scrapped due to low attendance.

    During winter, I expect an afternoon service would draw people who would not attend an evening one- I am thinking of elderly people who would probably prefer to get out and back during daylight.

    So, should churches move the Sunday evening services for some/all of the year?

    1 comment:

    1. I think by moving the Sabbath to a Sunday, the Church missed the whole theological point of what Jesus' appearances on a Sunday signified. Jesus was saying... "God is at work, the day of rest has ended... the old week has gone, the new week begins... get to work".

      I also think that the way the world is changing, the Church needs to adapt. In a working world that shows less and less respect for people's right to worship on a Sunday, it seems clear to me that churches should strive to put on more services at different points in the week in order that anyone who will come, can come. In my area the only services in the week tend to be in the daytime midweek for pensioners... but we need to be mindful of people who cannot come to services on account of work.

      Some would say... ah but a Christian should rest on THE Sabbath and yet we are the ones who worship a God who reminded us that the Sabbath was made for man and not the man for Sabbath.

      I once new a preacher who sometimes found his work required him to work more than seven days straight. He prayed about it and pondered whether or not he was disobeying God by his work ethic. In the end he decided that if he could not take a Sabbath in one week, he would take two in the following week. Maintaining the spirit and intent of the day if not the strict timing.