I’m going to share something about Sabbath House: our mission; what’s already happened; and some of our plans, hopes, and dreams for the coming year.
First, our mission: Sabbath House, a center for sacred activism, is a diverse and welcoming community that brings spiritual practices together with actions that bring peace and hope into the world. And I’ll be saying more about the actions later.
How did we get here?
In January 2014, a group of members, elders, and pastors gathered to discern a possible mission and future use of the historic manse of Plumsted Presbyterian Church following the presbytery’s move from New Egypt to a virtual office.
Our group noted that we live in times of disruption and uncertainty, which has gotten worse, in which we must deal with multiple crises, including economic, environmental, and energy.
At the same time, we saw the potential for profound personal, societal and global renewal; and we believe this is the time to bring spiritual practices together with actions that bring peace and hope into the world.
In such a time as this, we feel called to respond to Jesus’ recommendation to be at work in the garden and in the fields when the Master arrives.
We act on all the gospel stories that feature Jesus celebrating or commemorating how faithful workers and servants join one another to care for the Earth and all its inhabitants, especially for “the least of these,” including our human neighbors, all living creatures, and the Earth.
Sabbath House and the Gardens at Plumsted provide space to go inward and outward, where people can engage with themselves and others in essential life-giving activities. It is a place where people gather to reconnect:
We’ve been registered as one of 1001 New Worshiping Communities and have been holding regular worship services to mark the seasonal passages of the calendar year since 2014.
We celebrate the changing of the seasons and the four Celtic cross-quarter days (using Christian liturgy). In fact, I went to a February 1 service which celebrated St. Brigid, bringer of light.
If you’re wondering, why a New Worshiping Community?
The New Worshiping Community at Sabbath House offers participants a distinctly unique worship experience centered around the Gardens and caring for this place. Worship that is grounded in caring with and for God’s creation differs significantly from more traditional worship activities, and we want to reach out to members of the local community who would not otherwise want to be part of a more traditional worshiping community.
Something new for us since 2016 is the developing relationship with Princeton Seminary. We teach them, and they teach us.
We’re able to offer a somewhat unique opportunity to see and work in many off-the-grid possibilities for ministry that includes: how to work faithfully with a small congregation; and how to think imaginatively about new activities and structures the church may discover each day. We’ve also been helped through our relationship with the Farminary at Princeton, where our interns have taken classes.
This year we received a Vitality Grant from Monmouth Presbytery and an Innovation Grant from the Synod of the Northeast.
These grants make it possible reach more people in the local community as well as the local and regional church through our outreach and programs.
What’s next at Sabbath House? Come and see!
In 2017 we’re offering a wide variety of programs and retreats that are listed in our handout. These include: two monthly series: Spiritual Exploration and Spiritual Activism/Social Justice, including our recent Conversations on Race; learning opportunities and activities in the garden; arts and craft making as another kind of spiritual activism; seasonal and other celebrations of our New Worshiping Community, including three more this year: Autumn Equinox, Hallowe’en/All Saints/All Souls, Winter Solstice/Blue Christmas; Overnight and Daytime Retreats including: an overnight retreat, Working With Our Dreams; a Clergy Rest Day, after stewardship and before Advent; and two Advent retreat days on Mary
I’m a certified chaplain, and part of our re-certification process is sharing what we have done in the past year and how we have grown. I was so proud to share about Sabbath House and its unique and diverse opportunities for being together with other people of faith, times of learning and being challenged, and time of sharing fellowship. Offering a discussion group on “Waking Up White” and a workshop on how to make soap speaks for itself on the breadth of opportunities!
We want to share Sabbath House. We are “off the beaten path” but closer than you think—and it’s REALLY NICE when you get here.
It’s a great place to hold a meeting, church officer training, small group retreat, or other event - or just get away to a beautiful, peaceful place. We do request donations, but we really want to have you visit so every congregation is invited with no donation request.
Finally, I’d like to share something more about the New Worshiping Community at Sabbath House.
About a year ago we gathered with the presbytery’s New Communities Working Group. The first meeting I came to, Wendy was there. She had wonderful comments and insights to share, so for me, Sabbath House has been an important part of her legacy.
For those who haven’t heard of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities initiative, it’s a movement in the PC(USA) to do what the name says: begin 1001 New Worshiping Communities by 2022, using new and varied forms of church for our diverse and changing culture; and forming new disciples of Jesus, transforming our denomination, and impacting our world.
In our meetings with the New Communities Group, we: discussed the creation stories and various biblical farming stories to discern biblical experiences of worship; looked through the book Starting New Worshiping Communities; and enacted both new and familiar ways of worship.
After Wendy’s death, the New Communities Group finished its work with Sabbath House, and the Sabbath House group moved forward with further definition and application for a New Worshiping Communities Seed Grant.
I’m happy to tell you our Seed Grant proposal was approved, and we will receive $7,500 from the Office of Mission Program Grants that will help our ministry.
As a pastor, I would occasionally have Bring-a-Friend Sunday. And I suspected that most of these “friends” who were coming probably wouldn't back.
Since retiring, my friends are mostly “un-churched”. And as I look at the variety of events being held, I have already been inviting friends to them. And I think they may be back! I thought, “Hmmm--this is like Bring-a-Friend.” And doesn't that mean it's evangelism?
So please, go and tell: we have a 1-page handout with an overview of Sabbath House and a schedule of events for the remainder of 2017. Please share with your congregations.
Worship that is grounded in caring with and for God’s creation differs from the more traditional (and contemporary) worship found in most Presbyterian congregations. We want to offer a spiritual response to our present ecological crisis, and we are intentional in making a connection between our human selves and the “luminous web” of creation of which we are very much a part. This is something we know in our heads from both science and our faith traditions—but maybenot so much in our hearts.
As Presbyterians, we share the common goal of caring for God’s Creation. Recycling, reduction in energy costs, and divesting from fossil fuels are part of our agenda. But, much of the time, our commitment is half-hearted. We need to experience a reconnection with Creation at a deep level. With this in mind, we design our worship and our work to help worshipers experience this reconnection—with God, with our selves, with one another, and with all creation—in our hearts andour heads.
Part of being a NWC is the freedom to experiment and we’ve tried many different things. As humans who are part of the Earth, our worship honors our unity with the entire community of life as we circle the sun at a particular moment in time—whether we are entering into the phase of springtime renewal, summer ripeness, autumn inwardness, or winter pregnancy.
For our liturgy, sometimes we write our own; more often we borrow and piece together from whatever source we find with good liturgy and spiritual practices. These days, there are many including: