Guidelines for a Sabbath Experiment

[Adapted from The Sabbath Experiment by Rob Muthiah]

For this experiment, Sabbath observance will begin with the evening meal on Saturday and go through the evening meal on Sunday. However, if Sunday is not available to you as a Sabbath, then choose the day that suits you, beginning on the evening before until the evening of.

Please remember that following these guidelines is not the only way to observe the Sabbath. Consider this an experiment from which you may discover additions and deletions that might shape your Sabbath observances. The spirit of Sabbath diminishes when we get caught in the legalism of whether we can or cannot do something. Establish your own disciplines, and see where they take you.

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 Prepare for the Sabbath

  • Choose in advance one activity that will help this day be a celebration for you and write it down. (This is absolutely critical! Don’t skip this step!)
  • Clean your living space.
  • Buy all your groceries, gas, and other things on Saturday or earlier.
  • Invite family and friends that you would like to join with you.

 Begin Your Sabbath

  • Begin with a favorite meal with family and/or friends.
  • Before beginning the meal, light a chalice or candle. Our hymnal has many excellent chalice lightings, as does the UUA’s Worship Web. Here are two wonderful ones from the Rev. Cynthia Landrum:

“We light this chalice, the

beacon that calls us:

To love

To justice

To a deepening of the spirit.”


“For the wonder and inspiration

We seek from sun and stars

And all the lights of the heavens

We light this chalice.”

  • Read together the Sabbath liturgy provided here. Each reader can take a stanza or a single line.

Prayer to Welcome the Sabbath

(adapted from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals)

Spirit of Time

create in us a new rhythm of life

composed of hours that sustain rather than stress,

of days that deliver rather than destroy,

of time that tickles rather than tackles.


Spirit of Freedom

by the rhythm of your truth, set us free

from the bondage and baggage that break us,

from the Pharaohs and fellows who fail us,

from the plans and pursuits that prey upon us.


Spirit of Life

may we be raised into the rhythm of new life,

dead to deceitful calendars,

dead to fleeting friend requests,

dead to the empty space of our accomplishments.


To our packed-full planners, we bid, “Peace!”

To our over-caffeinated consciences, we say “Cease!”

To our suffocating selves, grant release.


Drowning in a sea of deadlines and death chimes,

we rest in one another, our lifelines.


By restful grace,

may we enter a sabbath rest

as sabbath rest enters into us.


Amen. May we live in blessing.

  • There is a wonderful Jewish tradition where the parents (or grandparents, or whatever adults are present) lay their hands on the head of  each child present and offer a blessing. Something like, “Greg, I pray rich blessings upon you. May you grow in your compassion for those in need, may you grow in kindness to love.” Or perhaps have each person say something they appreciate about the person to their left and to their right.
  • Enjoy the meal together!
  • After the meal, spend the rest of the evening doing something fun! Play a game. Dance in the kitchen. Read stories or poetry to one another. Make music together.

The Sabbath Day

Embrace the rest offered by the Sabbath.

  • Don’t work
  • Don’t do things for which you earn money.
  • Don’t clean the house.
  • Don’t wash your car.
  • Don’t do laundry.
  • Don’t organize your office/papers/books.
  • Don’t fix or repair anything.
  • Don’t study.
  • Don’t make lists of things to do in the coming week.
  •  Committed couples are invited to follow the ancient rabbinic encouragement to make love on the Sabbath.
  • Take a nap
  • Take a long walk
  • Be fully present to others.
  • Spend time in amazement and awe.
  • Be bored.
  • Do the thing that will make this day a celebration for you (see preparation notes above)

Worship with your church community (if your Sabbath is Sunday)

  • In preparation, start thinking about this as you begin the Sabbath observance on Saturday night – perhaps pray for others in your community who will be coming together on Sunday.
  • Plan to get to church a few minutes early and stay a few minutes late – build margins into your worship experience for preparation, conversations, and reflection.
  • Find a way to serve your church community in the spirit of freedom.

Choose to opt out from the economic system of buying and selling.

  • As a conscious way of confronting the idolatries of consumption and materialism, don’t use any money or credit cards.
  • Don’t browse online stores or walk the shopping centers.
  • Plan meals at home or in a park with family and friends rather than going out to eat.
  • Don’t pay any bills.
  • As already mentioned, buy your groceries, gas, etc. on Saturday.

Put aside mediated experiences and artificial units of time.

  • Turn off your cell phone for the day, except to call loved ones.
  • Keep your t.v. turned off (so, no movies or sports on t.v.).
  • Keep your computer turned off.
  • Don’t look at your email – it will be there waiting for you after the Sunday evening meal.
  • Don’t surf the internet.
  • Take off your watch during the worship service, or for the day.

End the Sabbath observance with a simple meal.

  • As part of your prayer before the concluding meal, offer a prayer of thanks for the Sabbath day.
  • At the end of the meal, give something sweet (like a chocolate chip or a caramel or a piece of fruit) to each person and as you do so, say something like this: “May the sweet taste of Sabbath stay in your mouth all week long!”
  • After the meal, you may choose to take some time and reflect on the experience of Sabbath — consider what worked, what was difficult, what was joyful, what was restful. Consider, too, those for whom Sabbath is not a choice and think of ways to make it possible for them.
  • Begin to plan for your next day. Check your email and your calendar. Write your to-do’s. Include plans for your next Sabbath.

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Originally presented as part of the sermon, “The Invitation to Rest,” on February 18, 2018 by Rev. Gregory Pelley.