Attentiveness: Sabbath - Gordon Conwell

Attentiveness: Sabbath

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist

In my first year at Gordon-Conwell, we had just moved from Virginia with a 2 month old and a 2 year old. I took intensive Greek that summer and tried to get used to mosquitoes, greenhead flies, and working at night and in between classes on the campus. It seemed we were always tired and behind. I still hate greenheads. I will talk to God about this someday.

Naturally, having so little time, I decided to take off all day Sunday… every Sunday as a family Sabbath.

I began my 40-year practice of keeping a “religious” Sabbath in seminary. At that time, it meant putting away the books and the Greek cards at sunset on Saturday. I was devoted to Nancy and the kids, and took naps, and walks and trips to the beach on Sundays. Of course, we attended worship in the morning. We viewed worship (even with the difficulty of getting the girls cleaned up and dressed) as rest from work and refreshment with God. We still do.

There were times I had a Greek exam, or history research paper due on Monday. At these times I would often question the wisdom of my decision. However, even then with all the responsibilities of being a seminary student, working two jobs, with two (and then three children), the rhythm of disengaging on Saturday at sunset has been one of the great joys through my life.

Today, as I write this, it is Sunday and the sun is setting. So, I picked up my computer.

I have had time to rest today. We attended worship this morning. Then we came home and had a leisurely brunch. I read a biography on Saint Claire[1] and then took a nap. We took a long walk, and then I returned home to rest and reflect. I often listen to Christian music: poetry in the patterns and themes of Scripture.

With the joy of children and grandchildren there is added responsibility, but Sabbath is still a rhythm of rest from “work” and being attentive to one’s soul with times of silence, resting in God’s beautiful creation, and connecting with family. And there is always a refreshment from drawing near to God. “Taste and see,” takes time.

Sabbath is a different type “disconnecting” today than when I was a seminary student. Today there is no sabbath unto the Lord without disconnecting from email and social media, and probably Google searches and streaming the news. My computer is off, and my phone often left behind.

In all my years of turning off the computer and not answering email, it has never caused me harm. In fact, I have always begun the week refreshed and rested and with a certain peace.

I think we need more peace, less anxiety. More patience, and less anger. More kindness, and less aggressiveness. I believe being committed to Sabbath keeping is part of the answer to our internal and societal ills. It is not a panacea, a remedy for all our ills, but it is not irrelevant.

I would like to think that in the coming years Gordon-Conwell graduates would be known as people who are kind, patient, and attentive to others. I also like to think that as people inquire about this amazing by-product of graduate school, they find that much of it has to do with a culture of Sabbath keeping.

I rest my case.



[1] Wendy Murray, Clare of Assisi: Gentle Warrior (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2020).

Scott W. Sunquist, the new President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Monday morning on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses and good ideas.