Church on Saturday Night

by Pr. Craig M. Mueller

Sleep in, read the paper on Sunday?

Going to church on Saturday night seems strange at first. Sure, Roman Catholics and some Protestant congregations have been offering worship services on Saturday evenings for several decades. But isn’t Sunday—the Lord’s Day—the official day for Christian worship?

Yes. And it depends on what you mean by Sunday. Jews observe Saturday as the Sabbath, but since the earliest times, Christians have worshipped on Sunday to mark the resurrection of Jesus. This first day of the week is also seen as the eighth day, God’s new creation.

Yet for both Jews and Christians, the day begins not at midnight or even at sunrise, but at sunset the evening before. Jews begin their Sabbath by kindling lights on Friday evening.

Christian observances on Christmas Eve and Easter Eve, for example, are vigil services the night before those great feasts. So Saturday evening services are really the first celebration of Sunday.

But if you go to church on Saturday, what do you do on Sunday? Sleep in? Read the New York Times?

Actually, yes. In a culture marked by workaholism, lack of sleep, and 24/7 digital stimulation, the Jewish practice of Sabbath as a day of rest and renewal could suggest creative ways for us to think about Sundays.

The below suggestions for a contemporary Shabbat (Sabbath) could help us reflect on Sunday as one day a week set apart to observe time in a qualitative rather than quantitative sense. Many of these may be difficult and countercultural for us, but they’re worth some thought and experimentation. Perhaps we could try one at a time.

  1. Stay at home and spend quality time, celebrating the goodness of life with family and friends.
  2. Read something that will edify, challenge, or make you grow.
  3. Spend time alone. Review your week. Reflect on where you are in your life.
  4. Avoid things that have to do with your work life. Don’t check work email, for example. In other words, no business. It can wait.
  5. Avoid shopping and enjoy one day separated from our commercial culture.
  6. Go screenless. Consider a day (or even a couple hours) without email, Facebook, computer games, television. See if you can focus on face-to-face encounters, nature and the outdoors, and simple, all-natural bodily experiences.

(adapted from Ten Commandments for a Contemporary Shabbat, Betsy Platkin Teutsch at ritualwell.org)

Worship—whether on Saturday night or Sunday morning—enables us to reflect on priorities in our lives. Whatever the day we gather in community, the Lord’s Day is a blessing, enabling us to give thanks for the gift of time itself.