Receiving rest and direction from God

College conference workshop gives participants practices for delighting in Sabbath

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Having formed facing circles, workshop participants told stories about their faith formation. (Photo by Mike Ferguson)

MONTREAT, North Carolina — It was Friday’s happy task for the Rev. Rachel Hébert and A Williams of Williamsburg (Virginia) Presbyterian Church to help busy college students find delight in Sabbath-keeping.

The two — Hébert is the church’s associate pastor of community care and Williams is director of education ministries — used at least three approaches during a Friday workshop for about 20 of the 900 people attending the College Conference at Montreat, which runs through Sunday.

First, Hébert led the group through a Lectio Divina reading of Isaiah 43:15-19. Since it was raining outside during the workshop, Hébert played outdoor noises she’d recorded earlier that morning. She read the passage three times, asking workshop participants to listen in turn with the knowledge they are God’s created and that they can listen contemplatively.

“Sabbath isn’t just a delightful rest,” Williams said. “It’s a way of being delightful in all our forms of rest, and it starts with quieting the other parts of ourselves.”

The Rev. Rachel Hébert

Next, the two led workshop participants in what Hébert called “a safe form or story-telling.” With an inside circle facing out and an outside circle facing in, students paused for a while, then told the student facing them a two-minute story of something that happened to them that was important to their faith development. After hearing from their counterpart, one circle would shift so that eventually, everybody heard everyone else’s story.

“It takes being comfortable with silence, being willing to tell your story and the ability to listen,” Williams said. “All are required for Sabbath.”

He recalled a rabbi who once wrote that without rest and without the joy God derived from Creation, God would not have been ready when humanity soon began failing.

Then the two offered workshop participants the opportunity to “get your creative juices flowing,” as Hébert put it. They could rub tiny wooden crosses with essential oil, make a friendship bracelet, decorate a rock in honor of Creation or create a collage — “a delight to your eye,” Hébert said.

A Williams

Williams said the workshop came about “after we’d been digging around for what Sabbath means.”

They found that the God of Creation who rests is a God of both artistry and science. The word for “good” in Genesis 1 “is the idea of beholding a beauty — an artist who has just finished a painting, or a scientist who has just made a discovery,” Williams said.

Sabbath is best understood, he said, by people taking it in from multiple angles, similar to the way “God sees how the world is working together from all perspectives.”

“It’s about being intentional in remembering Sabbath’s purpose,” he said. “It’s about receiving rest and direction from God.”

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