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The Practice and Experience of the Sabbath among Seventh-day Adventist Pastors

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Abstract

Clergy stress and burnout are concerns across denominational lines. But one response—encouraging Sabbath keeping among clergy—raises multiple issues for Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) pastors. This study examines the question: How do SDA pastors practice and experience the Sabbath? Using a phenomenological approach, the study sought a thick, in-depth description of Sabbath keeping. For the SDA pastors interviewed, the Sabbath was paradoxical, and contextual clues emerged as key factors in establishing boundaries between work and rest.

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... The main topics of research involving rabbis have been their views of interfaith marriage, outreach, and Jewish identity" (590). As for the Christian side of the equation, with the exception of a substantial mixed methods study of SDAs in 51 countries by Colón (2003Colón ( , 2008, as well as a qualitative study I conducted on how SDA clergy practice and experience the Sabbath (Carter 2013), the results are the same: There are virtually no empirical studies of Christian clergy, representing a specific denomination or sect, practicing Sabbath as a twenty-four-hour period of time. In view of this gap in the research, I suggest that if Christians are serious in learning about the Sabbath and how it is lived, what is needed is the incorporation of empirical research into Christian theological reflection-a practical theological examination of the Sabbath. ...
... As for selecting SDA pastors, they represent the largest Christian denomination observing the Sabbath as an entire day, and, as such, are, therefore, unique practitioners of the Sabbath among Christian clergy. Secondly, I wanted to utilize a similar research methodology and purposive sample for comparative purposes (Carter 2013(Carter , 2015b. Any future project of a similar nature would most certainly need to expand my initial sample to include female clergy and religious professionals from other Christian denominations, such as the Seventh Day Baptist and Church of God (Seventh Day). ...
... In terms of the empirical connections of Sabbath practice between SDA pastors and the rabbis I interviewed, there were many (Carter 2013). First, the pastors I interviewed divided their Sabbath into the same increments of time as the rabbis (i.e., a full twenty-four-hour period of time), and articulated their conception of the Sabbath in a similar fashion. ...
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Given the tenuous relationship Christians have had with Jews over the centuries, not to mention division among Christianity on points of doctrine and practice, a contemporary examination of the Sabbath could be an opportunity to bring Jews and Christians into further dialogue with each other, not on the basis of a shared written text, but rather the living texts of religious experience. However, a review of the literature reveals a scarcity of empirical research on the Sabbath, especially how religious professionals practice Sabbath as exemplars in their spheres of influence. In this study, I, therefore, offer a comparative description of my findings with respect to two practical theological studies I conducted on Shabbat/Sabbath practice, one with American pulpit rabbis and the other Seventh-day Adventist pastors. As a practical theological project, I offer a theological reflection of the data, followed by implications for theological (re)construction and revised praxis for the Church and Jewish-Christian relations.
... A notable exception is members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (a Protestant Christian denomination), who view the Sabbath as central to the faith and a sacred covenant. Indeed, the church "has embedded in its very name the importance of observing the seventh day of the week" (Carter 2013). For Seventh-day Adventists, the week leading up to the Sabbath includes completing all household tasks, such as buying and preparing food and laundering clothes, before sundown Friday (Seventh-day Adventist Church 1990). ...
... For Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) clergy, keeping the Sabbath can be challenging. Carter (2013) interviewed five SDA clergy regarding their practice and experience of the Sabbath. One primary tenet of the SDA church is that the Sabbath can only be observed on the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday (Carter 2013). ...
... Carter (2013) interviewed five SDA clergy regarding their practice and experience of the Sabbath. One primary tenet of the SDA church is that the Sabbath can only be observed on the seventh day of the week, which is Saturday (Carter 2013). However, Saturday is also the day when SDA religious services and other activities take place, including the weekly worship service and pastoral visitations. ...
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Keeping the Sabbath, that is, setting a day apart for rest and spiritual rejuvenation, has been related to better mental health and less stress in cross-sectional studies. However, for clergy, keeping Sabbath can be complicated by needing to work on Sundays and the round-the-clock nature of clergy work. Nevertheless, numerous studies demonstrating high depression rates in clergy populations suggest clergy need to attend to their mental health. Religious denomination officials interested in preventing depression in clergy may be tempted to recommend Sabbath-keeping, although recommending other forms of rest and rejuvenation, including connecting with others, is also possible. This study examined the relationships of Sabbath-keeping as well as multiple other forms of rest and rejuvenation (vacation, sleep, relaxing activities, and social support) to mental and physical health and spiritual well-being using survey data from 1316 United Methodist clergy. Appropriate regression analyses (logistic, linear, and Poisson) were used to determine which clergy were more likely to keep the Sabbath and examined the relationships between Sabbath-keeping and multiple well-being outcomes. Receiving more social support was strongly associated with Sabbath-keeping. Sabbath-keeping was not significantly related to mental or physical health, after adjusting for covariates such as social support, although Sabbath-keeping was significantly related to higher quality of life and spiritual well-being—the original purpose of Sabbath-keeping—in clergy. To adequately test whether Sabbath-keeping could promote mental health for clergy beyond other forms of rejuvenation, intervention studies are needed.
... A Sabbath provides unrushed time for communion with all that is sacred (Dawn 1999;Dein and Loewenthal 2013;Heschel 1951Heschel /2005Muller 2000;Ringwald 2009) and offers a means to turn away from materialism (Brueggemann 2014;Dawn 1999;Heschel 1951Heschel /2005Muller 2000;Shulevitz 2011). Sabbath can foster gratitude (Carter 2013;Dein and Loewenthal 2013) and provides time for serving others, and in doing so, also serving God (Brueggemann 2014;Gaiser 2016;Ringwald 2009). Sabbath is not just a time for rest but a time to reimagine public life free from oppression and competition and an opportunity for remembering the most vulnerable in society with compassion (Brueggemann 2014). ...
... The literature includes many theoretical writings about Sabbath, and several Sabbath-keepers have shared their stories. Empirical research studies focusing on the practice or impacts of Sabbath-keeping are limited (Boyd 1999;Carter 2013;Dein and Loewenthal 2013;Lee et al. 2009;Rosenberg et al. 2016;Superville et al. 2014;White et al. 2015). All but one of these studies focus on Orthodox Jews or Seventhday Adventists-communities in which Sabbath-keeping is very common. ...
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Sabbath-keeping has several holistic health benefits when done for intrinsic reasons. Most research on Sabbath-keeping is about individuals where Sabbath-keeping is customary. This organic inquiry describes how a Sabbath promoted transformation for ten women where Sabbath-keeping was not the norm. Six themes emerged: Sabbath-keeping enhanced self-awareness, improved self-care, enriched relationships, developed spirituality, positively affected the rest of a Sabbath-keeper’s week, and Sabbath-keeping practices and philosophies also evolved over time. The author argues that reviving the best parts of Sabbath-keeping is an effective, accessible, holistic practice that can contribute to the well-being of individuals, communities, and the earth.
... In terms of mental health, Sabbath-keeping has the potential to guide people to focus on what is most important in life (Dein & Loewenthal, 2013), temporarily opt-out of an otherwise pervasive "anxiety system" (Brueggemann, 2014), and enable individuals to reflect on the actions they take in a complicated, changing world (Muller, 2000). Sabbath-keeping can foster gratitude (Carter, 2013;Dein & Loewenthal, 2013). Greater Sabbath-keeping has been associated with mental health benefits, including reduced depressive symptoms (Pargament, 2011), better self-control (Dein & Loewenthal, 2013), and promotion of a sense of personal empowerment (Goldberg, 1986). ...
Article
Work-related stress is experienced at a high level in the United States. Clergy are particularly likely to over-extend themselves to act on their sacred call. Sabbath-keeping may offer a practice that is beneficial for mental health, yet many Protestant clergy do not keep a regular Sabbath. We examined whether United Methodist clergy who attended informative Sabbath-keeping workshops reported changes in spiritual well-being and mental health post-workshop. Compared to baseline, at 3 and 9 months post-workshop, participants reported an increase in Sabbath-keeping. In adjusted random effects and Poisson models, compared to not changing Sabbath-keeping frequency, increasing Sabbath-keeping was related to only one outcome: greater feelings of personal accomplishment at work. Decreasing Sabbath-keeping was related to worse anxiety symptoms, lower spiritual well-being in ministry scores, and a higher probability of having less than flourishing mental health. For four outcomes, there were no significant associations with changes in Sabbath-keeping over time. Although lacking a control group, this study adds to cross-sectional Sabbath-keeping studies by correlating changes in Sabbath-keeping with changes in mental health outcomes over time.
Article
focuses on 7 philosophical assumptions of phenomenology [knowledge is socially constructed and therefore inherently tentative and incomplete; researchers are not separate from the phenomena they study; knowledge can be gained from art as well as science; bias is inherent in all research regardless of method used; common, everyday knowledge about family worlds is epistemologically important; language and meaning of everyday life are significant and objects, events or situations can mean a variety of things to a variety of people] / discuss how research is shaped by these assumptions and what phenomenology is not / focus on how to do phenomenological [family therapy] research / discuss issues of ethics (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Studies of clergy stress have addressed the demands made by the ministry environment on the minister’s personal and family life. Most of the research has been conducted using the individual responses of male pastors. Comparatively little empirical research has been done with pastors’ wives, and still less where both the husbands’ and the wives’ responses are matched and compared. The present study utilizes Hill’s (Families under stress, Harper, New York, 1949) ABC-X model of family stress to examine differences between spouses in how demand, support, and perception relate to personal and ministry outcomes. Survey results from a sample of 147 male Seventh-Day Adventist clergy and their wives indicated that while there were some consistent differences in levels of demand and support, the most salient variable was their satisfaction with available social support, and this was true of both pastors and wives.
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