How you’ll feel in the spring….

9 Oct

This reflection by Dave Glenn Burns was written in April.  It’s a good reminder of getting started this year with Sabbath…


“Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.”

— Alice Walker


“Sabbath, in the first instance, is not about worship. It is about work stoppage. It is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.”

― Walter Brueggemann


“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”

― Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House


It could be that it’s been a long semester and I’m just tired, but I’ve been thinking a lot about sabbath as a spiritual discipline and as an act of resistance.  My wife and I decided to commit to observing a sabbath each week of Lent this year.  I struggled to fit it into my busy schedule initially.  After one week where I had neglected to keep our sabbath, we agreed that we both were struggling with this new practice.  I kept being aware of what I “should” be doing instead of this 24 hour period of sabbath.  I have a long list of important projects that I want to get finished.  I realized that I was trying to fit sabbath time into my schedule.

Simultaneously, I’ve become aware of how many things/opportunities exist for our students to choose, from service projects, academic opportunities, employment to campus ministry things, social opportunities, family expectations, self care and probably many others.  Our campus counseling center reports higher than normal (already higher) incidents of depression, anxiety, other mental health diagnoses this year.  “I don’t have time for sabbath!  I’m a student.” and/or “I need a break!” are often heard.


Most haven’t articulated it in these words, but I hear repeatedly from students, faculty and staff a cry for a break of some kind.  Another invitation to seriously consider practicing sabbath?


First let me define how I am using/imagining sabbath.  It includes at least 4 features:

Sabbath 1)  connects us to God,

2)  connects us to Community

3)  connects us to our created selves

4)  is anticipated eagerly.

With only about 2 weeks left in this semester, we are already looking ahead to next fall.  This year we are considering what it would mean to organize our campus ministry offerings based on a concept of sabbath as an alternative act of resistance to the pressures and competitions of “normal” campus life.  I’m interested in stories of how others have included sabbath in the fabric of their campus ministries.

Here’s some questions we’re discussing  now:

1)  Does the 16 week academic/semester calendar necessarily fit neatly into a 7-day week?  With the pace of the academic workloads of students, staff and faculty, might a different “calendar” with sabbaths highlighted so as to look forward to them work better?

2)  Is bigger always better?  As tempting as measuring worth by size of group/attendance/budget, is there a different measure?  How do we translate that to those we receive funding from and those we are trying to serve?

3) Is what is best for my/our particular campus ministry always best?  Might we need to look at what’s best for the campus community?

4) Do I need to be available all of the time to all of the people?  What role in modeling/mentoring the students with whom I come into contact in practicing sabbath?

5) How cool might it be to deploy a community of sabbath observing folks into the community?  Has it happened at any of your campuses?
Now that Lent is over, I am planning to continue living into being a sabbath observer.  I have already looked through my calendar for the next several months and marked a 24 hour period in each week to only do those things which meet our criteria for sabbath.  I’m looking forward to it.  I think it will change me and how I go about campus ministry.  I know it will change how I go about leading our campus ministry center.  I pray for the patience and wisdom and openness to see what God is doing.



David Glenn-Burns    Dave Glenn-Burns is the United Methodist Campus Minister at the University of Northern Iowa.  Now in his 19th year, After graduating with a  BS in Education from Bowling Green and a MDiv from G-ETS, he has served  UMC congregations in the Iowa Conference since 1985.  Meeting his wife Jaymee in seminary, together they are parents of daughters Allyn and Magee.  Despite growing up in a campus ministry family, both have been involved in the campus ministry/religious life of their respective college and universities.



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