Keeping Sabbath With My Confirmation Class

By Keith Anderson, author of The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World

We are learning about the Ten Commandments in our Confirmation class this fall, and most recently the Third Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath and Keep It Holy” and Martin Luther’s explanation of it in the Small Catechism, “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s Word, but instead keep the Word holy and gladly hear and learn it.”

Inspired by the work we are doing in my class Catechism as Platform and conversations on experiential learning with Bethany Stolle, I decided to craft a Confirmation class that was an experience of Sabbath, rather than just a discussion about it. It turned out to be a great mashup of premodern and postmodern, ancient and digital.

Luther’s explanation of the third commandment, as I understand it, is about taking time to encounter the Word of God, whether that’s on the traditional Christian Sabbath of Sunday morning, where we gather for worship and engage with the Word in Scripture readings, sermons, and the liturgy, or simply time apart from our busy routines in order for rest and renewal so that we can encounter God in the Word—which, for me, can be Scripture, or another person, or nature, or any number of ways people encounter and experience God.

When I introduced the session and told the kids that I just wanted them to relax and there would be time for them just to chill, they were pretty shocked. They are so programmed, just like adults, they weren’t expecting to get permission just to be kids—really, just to be.

So, here’s what we did, including links and resources. The entire experience lasted 90 minutes.

How are you cultivating experiential learning in your ministry? Share your good ideas in the comments.

ARRIVAL TIME (10 MINUTES)

The physical space is rearranged from the usual set up. The tables and chairs facing the front of the room are gone. The lights are dimmed. An altar (card table with a tablecloth) stands in the middle of the fellowship hall, surrounded by a circle of chairs. Around the edges of the room are different stations: a comfortable sitting area with icons, two tables with art supplies, a table with candles to be lit. As usual, snacks are available by the kitchen. I played music by the Icelandic group Sigur Ros. Click here for the playlist I used on Spotify. I displayed a calming slide called Remembering Sabbath (pictured above). Click here for a picture of it that you can put on a slide. I got the picture from Flickr attribution license area, which is a great place to find pictures. You can use and edit them as long as you give credit. Credit here goes to Moyann Brenn.

SETTLING IN (15 MINS)

I read the Third Commadment and Luther’s explanation and then introduced Sabbath and our format for the night. We watched Rob Bell’s NOOMA video called Rhythm, which doesn’t talk about Sabbath per se, but talks about getting in tune, in rhythm, in the groove, with God’s song. At the end of the video, I elaborated a bit on that theme as it applies to keeping Sabbath and our lives.

SABBATH TIME, OPEN SPACE (20 MINS)

The next 20 minutes were an open, low key time for kids to relax. One group of kids hung out in the comfortable seating area and talked. (Some had their phones out. We recognized that was one way kids relax, so we let it go.) Most people lit a candle, so by the end of the time our table was fully lit, and many did some kind of art or writing. Others just chatted quietly and had a snack. I played more of the Sigur Ros playlist.

SMALL GROUPS DISCUSSION (25 MINS)

Then we broke into small groups and looked at scripture readings about Jesus going off on retreat, and we posed two questions: Why do you think Jesus went away by himself so often? Where do you find sabbath/rest/renewal in the midst of your busy life? I am increasingly drawn to the model that Pastor Paul Hoffman describes in Faith Forming Faith of people of deep faith and people relatively new to faith discussing Biblical texts. It’s not a new idea, I know. But often we try to fill the time or entertain that we looks the beautiful simplicity of the way the Word can work on us—and how we form one another in faith.Click here for the handout we used.

EUCHARIST (20 MINS)

Finally, we came back together and celebrated the Eucharist. We sang a Circle Song – a form of accapella singing that Bobby McFerrin teaches. We read prayers that people had written and put in baskets during the open time, and then continued with the Words of Institution. We communed each other around the circle and concluded with a blessing from the wonderful book, To Bless the Space Between Us.

Altogether, it was a very meaningful experience for the youth and our adult leaders. It reminded me of how desperately we need Sabbath in the midst of our always-on always-connected lives.

The Reverend Keith Anderson is a pastor at Upper Dublin Lutheran Church near Philadelphia, author of The Digital Cathedral: Networked Ministry in a Wireless World (Morehouse, 2015), and co-author with Elizabeth Drescher of Click2Save: The Digital Ministry Bible (Morehouse 2012).

An expert on digital ministry and sought after speaker and writer, his work on religion, new media, and popular culture has  appeared on The Huffington PostON ScriptureDay 1, and The New Media Project. Keith is co-editor with Elizabeth Drescher of The Narthex, an online magazine about the changing contours of American Christianity and serves on the editorial committee for Odyssey Network’s ON Scripture lectionary commentary series and the advisory board for the Day 1 radio program. He was the guest speaker at the Center for Lifelong Learning’s 2016 Thompson Scholars.

This is reposted from Keith’s blog. The original can be found here.

The Spirituality Program at the Center for Lifelong Learning will explore Practicing Sabbath on October 20-23, 2016 with Ryan Bonfiglio. The goal of this course is to re-discover the purpose, place, and practice of Sabbath in our Christian lives and spiritual formation. There’s still time to register!

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