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The Day Off

One of the questions I get most often is “When IS your day off?” I know that many of my colleagues take Mondays off, following the busy-ness of Sundays. I don’t. I spend Mondays doing a care home bible study, some pastoral visiting, and celebrating our weekly worship in one of the communities. Mondays are good days, but they’re not off days.

I try to take Fridays. That way, I can have a full day, sometimes even two if Saturday is a slow day. But, of course, life happens, and that can change. Some weeks there will be meetings, or calls to the hospital, or a funeral. So, I try, but I’m not always successful. When that happens, I try to take another day in the near future. I know that I need to take time off, to recharge my batteries, to make sure I don’t burn out.

When I started serving in my present parish, I promised them that I would not let myself burn out – if I needed to take some time, I would do just that. So I have taken time for retreats, I make up my down time. I pay attention to myself to know when I’m doing too much, to recognise when I’m so busy that I’m not doing things well. And I am supported in this by the folks I serve – if I miss a day off, I’m asked when I will be making up that time. We joke that I sometimes get “the warden eye” – a friendly and compassionate glare when others are seeing me get a bit tired. We recognise that burnout would be negative for me but for the wider parish as well, and so we work together to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Sometimes my day off isn’t an entire day. That doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial, though. The purpose of the day off is for recreation, re-creating the peaceful person that God intended. It’s a time for re-energising and re-connecting with God. It’s not just a day away from the work, but Sabbath. I learned some time ago that Sabbath doesn’t have to be measured in quantity of time, but in quality. There are times when Sabbath is a full day, there are times when it is an hour. What is important to me is that it happens.

And so I have Sabbath plans. I have learned over time how to bring myself into a Sabbath place. It varies, depending on my mood and the time of year: on summer days I might canoe around a local lake, in winter I might venture out snowshoeing, I might try a new prayer devotional or return to a well-loved book. But I always get there – no phone, no meetings, no agenda – just a space to be. To be present and delight in the connection with God. To be re-fuelled and rejuvenated and re-grounded. To prepare myself to engage with the world in the best way I can – having benefitted from taking my day off.

How do you fit Sabbath into your life? What are your Sabbath practices?

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.
http://everydaychristianityblog.blogspot.ca

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3 Responses to The Day Off

  1. I’m glad you decided to tackle Sabbath living, Laura Marie. It’s something I’ve struggled with for years, trying to find a practice that doesn’t rely on unhelpful assumptions like “clergy only work one day a week,” or “Sunday worship isn’t work… it IS your day off!”

    In fact, by the final year of my seminary career I found myself exhausted, so I shaped my learning goals around balance and healthy periods of rest. That year, I adopted a number of practices that forced me to slow down: shining my shoes once a week, shaving with a straight edge… silly things. Life stuff. Repetitive, meditative actions that needed to be done anyhow, but could be done in a way that wasn’t rushed or stressful.

    I still struggle with finding (or rather, making) time for Sabbath living, but when it has been simply impossible to leave town or turn off the phone, I’ve found ways of transforming the stuff of life into more restful actions. I think you and I both do food preparation this way. I wonder if others have found similar solutions?

  2. Kyle Norman

    Thanks LauraMarie.  I think the issue of days off is huge for clergy.  It’s amazing how many times I have heard colleuges lament their lack of days off as if it is some type of badge of honour.

    When I was in Seminary, I decided that I needed to cultivate a sabaath.  I decided that I would do NO work (reading, essays, studies, preparations .. ) on Saturday.  Interestingly, I always found myself ahead, always found myself refreshed, always found myself ready to tackle my tasks when I needed to.

    One question I have regarding sabaath:  We clergy are pretty used to declaring Sundays as a work day, thus sabaath is a day other than that, but what about for non-clerical types?   Do Lay-people still see Sunday as their sabaath?  Or, if they are in a space that believe it is a chore or duty to go to suffer through another church service,  does the day of re-creations and nourishment shift to another venue and another place?

    Even if Sunday is not sabaath for us, how do we promote/encourage it to be so for others?

  3. Good questions, Kyle.  I think it depends where you start: if we think about Sunday=Sabbath, we might all be in a pickle. But the early Church gathered to worship on the first day of the week (Sunday), then went out to go about their daily lives and ministries. I think that says something really amazing about starting the week off on the right foot. And of course, that same community (because the early Christians were Jews) would end their week (Friday evening-Saturday evening) with a day of rest, before waking up to start the new week by breaking bread together.

    Does thinking of the week early-Church-style change the conversation?

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