What were Sundays really for?

I remember when growing up that Sundays were a different day. We didn't go to church I'm not from a religious background. A lot happened on Sundays though, gardening, housework, cleaning cars and bikes, visiting grandparents for Sunday tea or dinner, dressed up in our 'Sunday best'. There was the top 40 on radio 1. There weren't any shops open either, Sunday was considered a day of 'rest' hard to believe looking at the list above, but the meaning was... not working, not doing what we did for the other 5 or 6 days of the week.

Historically Sunday, Saturday or even parts of Friday have been reserved for religious purposes. A day when we take time out, the sabbath as I remember it being called. A day when no 'work' was to be done. Although 'work' appeared a very loose term to me as a kid. I seemed to get roped into a lot more 'work' on Sundays than any other day!

The church and other institutions have been historically opposed to the slow but nevertheless unavoidable erosion of the 'Sunday' concept. The pervasive growth of profit at all costs and the seeming waste of 1/7th of the week on some religious grounds has slowly but inevitably consigned the Sunday idea of a 'rest day' to the history books. But is it a good thing?

The reason I am writing this post today is because of a small but important epiphany moment. I have often had these thoughts before, but today I felt it was time to write them down.

The idea of a day away from what we do for the rest of the week has absolutely nothing to do with religion in my humble opinion. It is actually common sense. We can't just slave over the same thing every day of the week forever, we would become burnt out pretty soon. Going back centuries it would have made perfect sense to down tools on the same day, everyone could plan for that more easily. Somewhere along the line though this practical need and religious teachings have become amalgamated, then taught.

Pondering this I feel that perhaps the real needs of this 'day off' have been somewhat channeled away from their real benefit, towards religious goals (some of which are the same). In today's world where there is pressure to be open 24/7 and with profit, money and greed being the capitalistic primary drivers the significance of the church in people's lives has diminished. Along with this the 'day off' has ceased both in its original function and those promoted through the church. We are now bereft of what I personally believe was an essential component and building block of not only our own personal development but also something needed to maintain flourishing communities.

What this has done is basically leave us in no man's land. A rudderless ship in many cases. Stumbling from one thing to another with neither the structure (and control) of the religious organisations nor the memory of why these days are important. So why are these (Sun)days so important?

Time to reflect

We all lead incredibly busy lives, it's always been the same though. People have always been busy and in the past everything was more labour intensive too. Whilst we are busy doing often there is little time to reflect. Yes there are mundane tasks that require minimal consciousness and we can utilise these periods to think through things that have happened. But to release ourselves entirely to reflection is not something the modern person has time for.

I know myself that so much happens in a week. Decisions are made, ideas shared, conversations take place, introductions and connections... events, new people... how is it possible to make sense of it all without a few hours at least to reflect and understand why. Why things happened? What lessons are there from things that perhaps didn't go as planned... what went really well and a pat on the back. I know if I do not have time to reflect one week merges in with the next and life becomes just something that happens to us, a rudderless event... out of control.

Connection and Relationships

Human beings are a social species we need and thrive on connection with others. During our busy lives how much time do we really give to connection and relationships? Actually, how much time do we spend thinking about the significant others in our lives? What went well? what might have gone better? ... how could we have done things differently? ... and if we don't want too... then what does that actually mean?

Community Participation

We have lived in communities for ever. Humans do much better when working together and yet the very fabric of our communities is under threat. Sundays were a day to be in public to engage with others beyond the family a practice underwritten extensively by the church.

However, the purpose was not about being seen in public because, not being seen in public was worse (although on occasions you could be forgiven for having such thoughts). Sunday was an opportunity to engage with those we might not ordinarily meet, a chance to have conversations, find out what is going on, help out others and be part of something bigger than ourselves. A chance to give, build self esteem, self worth and be a valued contributor to society... in other words gain the respect of others in the community.

Final thoughts

Without a 'day of rest' and without the authority previously vested in the church to uphold these traditions, (albeit changed through religion) we are now caught between a rock and a hard place. With no time to reflect on our lives and what is happening, community degraded significantly, and little participation in our wider communities we are probably in the most lonely and divided place in the history of our species.

There is a lot wrong in our world right now. There has never been a time where reflection on what we are doing both as individuals and collectively is more needed. There has never been a greater set of challenges facing the human race than those we are about to encounter. There has never been more need for community, collaboration and co-operation than where we are today...

Sundays served a very important purpose, the church recognised this and adopted them as an integral part of their weekly schedule, but the Sunday (Saturday) remained as an important function. Today, Sunday has lost much of its significance it's almost now just another day (certainly in England this is true). With this development we have lost the time to stop, reflect, and have conversations... we have lost a big chunk from the rudder of our society... until now...

Link4Growth community networking events are making it easy for people to reconnect (ubiquitous throughout the UK), at a time convenient to you (when you want - different events at different times of the day),  and frequently, so for as much and as long as you want. Perhaps we can once again have conversations, find out who the amazing people living around us are... then we might just fall in love with community again.


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