UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Quote Unquote

‘Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday.’

By David Giuliano

As a student minister, I served the tiny congregation in Crane Valley, Sask. (pop. 65). One of the legends told there was about the preacher who shut down a Sunday baseball game. It happened in the early 1950s. The final game in the tournament had been rained out on Saturday night and resumed on Sunday morning. The Crane Valley Blues were playing.

The preacher took note of his diminished flock that morning. He saddled-up and rode his horse to the ball diamond, situated in the shadow of the grain elevator on the edge of town. From his high horse, the incensed reverend harangued players and spectators alike until they abandoned the game and returned to the pews.

Following the service, two amendments were negotiated regarding local Sabbath conventions. First, baseball could be played on Sunday afternoons, but not mornings. Second, a place on the Crane Valley Blues’ roster would be henceforth reserved for the preacher. That’s how, in the summer of 1985, I found myself warming the Crane Valley Blues’ bench, sometimes on a Sunday afternoon.

They seem quaint now, those stultifying Sabbath restrictions our parents and grandparents endured. No card playing or dancing or car washing or shopping or laundry or lawn cutting. Sunday was the day of rest, for picnics, courting, quiet walks and family dinners.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20/Deuteronomy 5). It’s right there in the Ten Commandments. Imagine if we were as cavalier about killing or stealing or coveting as we are about the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not one of the “Ten Suggestions.” Yes, Jesus worked on the Sabbath occasionally but he was healing the sick, not shopping for liquorice whips and televisions at Walmart. Jesus said that the Sabbath is a blessing not a burden.

With shift work, 24-7 shopping, the omnipresence of social media and frenetic recreational schedules, hardly anyone, including me, stops or even slows down to keep the Sabbath anymore. Who has time?

Conscious of his mortality, John Ames, the aging preacher in Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, writes to his seven-year-old son. “Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday. It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain. You can feel the silent and invisible life. All it needs from you is that you take care not to trample on it.”

With those words, Robinson captures the blessing of Sabbath keeping. The day of rest reminds us that there is a “silent and invisible life” at work in us, and in the world, that does not depend on our machinations or productivity or busyness. There is a mysterious creative force that is more powerful than anything we do.

Sabbath, in that sense, is revolutionary. To stop. To rest. It is subversive to defy the false urgency of cell phones, iPads, Snapchats, tweets and the relentless Facebook feed with photos of our friends’ lunches, kittens and kids, to instead be fully present to God in Creation and with the person across the table from us.

This is not a wholesale rejection of the modern world or of social media or even of busyness. It is a call to rest from accomplishment, competition, consumption and the often banal distractions of technology. It is an invitation to rest; to rest our bodies, minds and souls so that we can find our proper place in the world.

We aren’t all Christians. The times of a whole day of legislated common rest are over. We can keep Sabbath moments, though. We can rest and notice the remarkable green that awakens — not by any accomplishment or effort on our part. We can notice the warm rain in spring and take care not to trample on the life it is calling up.

Very Rev. David Giuliano is a former United Church moderator and a minister with St. John’s United in Marathon, Ont.

Author's photo
David Giuliano is the former moderator of The United Church of Canada, an award-winning writer and author of "Postcards from the Valley: Encounters with Fear, Faith and God." He lives with his wife, Pearl, in Marathon, Ont.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

by Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

Promotional Image


Editor/Publisher of The Observer, Jocelyn Bell.

Observations: The rewards of letting go

by Jocelyn Bell

Editor Jocelyn Bell reflects on the upcoming changes for The United Church of Canada, the magazine and in her own life.

Promotional Image


ObserverDocs: Two nurses tackle Vancouver's opioid crisis

Richard Moore is a resident of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. In this poignant interview, he explains the important work of nurses Evanna Brennan and Susan Giles.

Promotional Image


July 2018

250 United Church leaders have a message for Doug Ford

by Emma Prestwich

They're urging the new Ontario premier to remember those in need as he carries out promised economic reform.


July 2018

Tracing Nelson Mandela’s path a century after his birth

by Tim Johnson

A travel writer visits some of the places that shaped the anti-apartheid icon’s life.


July 2018

Jamil Jivani sheds light on why young men radicalize

by Suzanne Bowness

In his book 'Why Young Men,' Jamil Jivani talks about his own experience as a troubled youth.

Promotional Image