“Sabbath” is Theme for Academic Year

August 28, 2019 / Andrea Wenger
Sabbath: To rest
Sabbath: To rest

How do we make time for rest and renewal when our world draws us into busy-ness of mind and body?

This is a question that Eastern Mennonite School students, faculty and staff will explore throughout the academic year 2019-20.

“Our high school students are dealing with a ton of pressure,” says Justin King, high school principal. “Whether it’s pressure academically, on the field or court, to get into the ‘right’ college or career path, or among friends and social circles, it’s real,” he continues. “We want to be honest about the toll that takes and think creatively about how we make time to rest and renew our bodies, minds and souls as God calls us to do.”

The word “Sabbath” comes from the book of Exodus in chapter 16, verse 23. On the seventh day of creation, it says, God rested. The literal Hebrew translation of “Sabbath” is “He rested.” In the Jewish tradition, families observe shabbat, meaning “to rest from labor”. A day of rest is honored in many faith traditions.

In the opening fall conference for faculty and staff, Joyce Peachey Lind read an excerpt from the book, Little House in the Big Woods, where Laura recounts the Ingalls’ family Sunday rules: no running shouting, laughter or play beyond reading and paper dolls.

That kind of Sabbath practice can be torturous for young children, she noted. So what is relevant and meaningful for us today – of all ages – as we honor God’s command to make time for rest and renewal?

A former first grade EMES teacher and current seminary student, Joyce passed out mathematic flash cards on the last day of the conference and invited staff to list things they hope to “add” as Sabbath practices in the coming year, as well as subtract. For herself, subtracting interaction with her cell phone for a Sunday was an exercise in Sabbath practice she found both challenging and revealing.

Sabbath is a discipline, a practice, she noted. “We won’t always succeed in the goals we may set for Sabbath. But we learn a bit each time and realize what can feed and nurture us.” She shared a word cloud of words staff listed in an earlier exercise highlighting ways they want to experience Sabbath that included naps, nature, music and time with family.

“It’s easy for a Sunday to go by and be busy all day with homework and other things,” says Liam Hughes ’21, a student member of chapel planning committee. “I think it’s really good we are talking about this as a school. It’s important to be reminded that this is something God wants us to do.”

The youngest community members will benefit from reminders about Sabbath practices too. Maria Archer, K-8 principal, read the students Psalm 46:10 when she introduced the concept during a weekly Gathering. “Be still and know that I am God,” and they sang the words in a song. She also read the book, Verdi, by Janelle Cannon. The book is about a snake that is always on the move, but is forced to take a break and rest, watch, and listen. (Watch a Youtube video of Verdi being read aloud).

Guests are welcome to join Chapel for grades 6-12 any Monday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the auditorium. Park in the front of the building at 801 Parkwood Drive and come in through the front doors to sign in and get a pass.

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