For Edwin Cole, Sundays have been the day to avoid the hustle and bustle of the rest of the week. As a child, he, eight siblings and his parents loaded into their station wagon every week and drove 10 or 15 miles to Mass in Arlington, Wash. It was a struggle to get nine kids organized on time, he said, but the family arrived early and wore their Sunday best.
“It was a big deal — we all dressed up and after Mass we’d usually stop to get something to eat or drink,” Cole said. “It was the main part of the day.”
Now, 50 years later, the Rev. Cole leads the congregation at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Columbia.
Over the years, many people, including Cole, have noticed a drop in church attendance and respect for Sunday as the Christian Sabbath. As Americans maintain busier lives of working, shopping, recreating or sleeping in, religion seems to be less of a priority. Cole said missing people at Mass because they are working is a “disappointment” to him.
“The whole concept of the Sabbath is that we single out one day of the week, not only as a day of rest, but as a day to worship our God. It’s intended to be a day to strengthen our relationship with God and with our faith community,” Cole said.
He would like to see people include faith in the balance of their busy lives.
“It’s necessary to have time set aside away from daily work,” he said. “I say that from a perspective of balance in our lives that helps create healthy people. I see that balance on three levels — work, prayer and leisure.”
More American adults struggle to balance their faith lives now than in the past. In 1991, 49 percent of American adults attended church in a typical weekend. In 2002, the number slid to 43 percent, according to studies conducted by the Barna Research Group of Ventura, Calif.
The Rev. Clyde Ruffin, interim pastor for the Second Missionary Baptist Church, said he believes the Sabbath is a day to spend time with family and friends and to relax.
“We believe that serving and worshipping God is not limited to the Sabbath. It should be a part of our lives every day,” Ruffin said. “Although we recognize the Sabbath, we do not condemn those who occasionally miss Sunday services.”
Some faiths have guidelines regarding Sabbath-day activities.
In Judaism, the Sabbath runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Jennifer Burkholz, a senior and past president of MU’s Jewish Student Organization, said varying degrees of commitment to traditional ritual separate the several Jewish movements, including Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.
Orthodox Jews “follow it (religious texts regarding the Sabbath) to the letter,” Burkholz said. Conservatives “follow some things strictly, but allow modern adaptations.”
Burkholz, a Reform Jew, says those who are Orthodox don’t use electricity, don’t cook, don’t drive, don’t answer the phone or turn on lights during the Sabbath.
“They believe you’re not supposed to do anything that starts something,” she said. “In Israel, you can buy pre-torn toilet paper. If you tear the paper, it gives you two things, and you made something new.”
Burkholz said many Jewish people have debated the use of cars on the Sabbath.
“The Bible doesn’t say anything about cars,”she said. “If you live too far away to walk to services, should you use electricity and drive or not go? Rabbis say you should walk if you can, but it’s OK to drive. It’s better you drive and go to service than not go at all.”
Burkholz does drive and use electricity on the Sabbath.
“(Not using electricity) is kind of impossible to do when you’re in college,” she said. “That day you’re supposed to spend relaxing, having fun and spending time with family. The point is taking a break from the rest of the week and focusing on what’s important.”