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Anglican Priest Begins Keeping the Seventh-day Sabbath

Posted on June 24, 2019
Anglican Priest Begins Keeping the Seventh-day Sabbath

“Our digital society is in desperate need of rest, and to rediscover what it means to live as human beings in relationship with one another and with creation,” the Rev. Dr. Mark Scarlata, an Anglican priest, declared in a recent article in Britain’s Church Times newspaper, which offers independent coverage of the Church of England.

Along with his clerical duties leading a congregation in Cambridge, England, he’s also a lecturer at a well-known Anglican seminary, St. Mellitus College in London, whose faculty includes the Rt. Rev. Rowan Williams, a recent Archbishop of Canterbury, who is traditionally regarded as the head of the global Anglican family. Dr. Scarlata also writes books on Christian topics, including a 2018 commentary on Exodus.

Seeing the Sabbath arise again and again in the second book of the Old Testament, Dr. Scarlata got the message: This is something important to God, and it should be important to God’s people. While he still conducts worship on Sundays, that made the day “more work-focused for me,” he conceded.

“About two years ago, I decided to restructure my life around a sabbath day,” he wrote. “I decided to hold to the traditional Jewish practice of resting from Friday evening to Saturday evening.”

Making Sabbath Work

Making a decision is one thing; making a decision work can be quite another. Dr. Scarlata found that he had to make sure all his work was completed—and his other assignments covered—before the Sabbath began. Even then, the lure of social media and digital culture was a strong one.

“Week after week, I failed to protect my day of rest, until I realized that this was not going to be as easy as I thought,” he wrote. “I began to plan in advance, made sure I completed all my tasks, and turned off my devices for a complete digital rest.”

He began with his family. For the Scarlata clan, Sabbath begins with a meal—without Facebook. “I light a few candles, as a sign and reminder that the sabbath rest of Christ is breaking into the world and that we are now deliberately entering into that rest,” he noted. Reconnecting with nature also became a priority; he would take a bicycle ride or go for a walk on this new Sabbath day.

Dr. Scarlata’s experiences so touched his life that he wrote and published a 2019 book on the subject, Sabbath Rest: The Beauty of God's Rhythm for a Digital Age, which won praise from Susannah Heschel, a Jewish studies professor at Dartmouth College and daughter of the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whose writings on the Sabbath have influenced generations of Jewish and Christian thinkers.

The author’s conclusion is simple and meaningful: “It might seem outlandish that ceasing from work one day a week and partaking in God’s holy rest would achieve anything,” he wrote, yet “the ever-unfolding beauty of the sabbath: what begins in each of us as a small grain of mustard seed grows into the tallest tree in the garden that offers the world a place to rest.”

While Dr. Scarlata’s Sabbath experience may not line up with that of other Sabbathkeepers around the world—as noted, he still observes weekly worship on Sundays—it’s fascinating and encouraging to see many Christians from non-Sabbatarian backgrounds begin to embrace one of the Bible’s most essential teachings. During the past few years, more and more mainstream Christian ministers and leaders from denominations that cling to Sunday observance have found the blessings of a weekly Sabbath and have shared that message with others.

God’s Weekly Gift to Humankind

After all, the Sabbath was God’s gift to humankind at the end of the Creation week: In Genesis 2:1–3, we read, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

That word “sanctified” is important, as Dr. Scarlata discovered in his research on the book of Exodus: It means the day was set apart (made holy) for a specific purpose. And the Sabbath day was not made for God: “He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep,” we read in Psalm 121:4, meaning God doesn’t have to rest. Instead, the Sabbath was created for His children. As Jesus noted, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, 28).

If you’ve decided to keep the Sabbath day holy, as God commands (Exodus 20:8–11), then you might want some helpful guidelines. Check out “How should I honor it?” for some ideas.

Another free article, “Sabbath—A Family Day,” expands on a concept that Dr. Scarlata found: The Sabbath is a day for family togetherness, leading to family connectedness. As you’ll see, the entire Sabbath Truth website is a storehouse of knowledge and insight on how best to observe God’s weekly gift!

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