What is a “weekend,” exactly?

“Have a nice weekend,” people say to each other in passing. Yet fewer and fewer people I know have “weekends,” anymore. Just speaking for myself, yesterday (Sunday) I had an evening meeting to facilitate, nothing major, but it still marks nine Sundays in a row I’ve worked in some way. And it’s not just minister-types like us — when we were in the hospital with our kid, everyone who worked there would say “it’s my Monday” or “it’s my Friday” when in fact it was some other day of the week altogether. So I guess they were still tracking an existing weekend in their lives — a “floating” weekend.

What’s been fascinating to me about the days of the week throughout my now almost 12 years actively working or serving in Churchlandia is that days of the week still do kind of hold their business-week cultural “essence.” It has always felt particularly apart-from-the-world to be working on a sermon studiously and solitarily late on a Friday night. And, no matter how my partner tries to make Monday into a sabbath day, it still feels to me like a day for getting things done, getting “back to business.”

But in particular lately I am curious about the notion and experience of The Weekend. What does it mean for people like my partner and I, for ministers, who hope for individuals and families to be able to come to some kind of service or gathering over the weekend, that fewer and fewer people have weekends? Many people are juggling two jobs, working non-9-to-5 schedules, catching up with office work on Saturdays and Sundays, or dealing with schedules that change from week-to-week, making it impossible to get into any kind of routine with other non-work activities.

One thing I’ve noticed in church life is a generational split between people who are working most of the time and struggling to manage the rest of their lives around their work schedule, and people who are retired or close to retired. Sometimes the retirees are frustrated with the working folks for not participating more in church life. They don’t fully comprehend how much work schedules and expectations have changed in recent decades, impacting people’s abilities to commit to regular meetings or non-work commitments.

Another concern I have is for people’s ongoing stress levels. When is anyone relaxing anymore? There used to be, I gather, more of a general cultural respite, a time when people collectively took a day, at least, off. Now it’s the great exception that something is closed on Sunday — banks and post offices, and that’s about it. I so appreciate that the library is open on Sunday afternoon, and…I know that it’s a drag for the people who have to work there then.

I don’t know what replaces the phrase “have a good weekend” in our culture and country, but I think it’s probably about time something did, because it just doesn’t honor the vast majority of people who don’t have a weekend to enjoy. Maybe we all need to support each other in figuring out how to have a little more rest in each of our days. Maybe the expression could become “Have a restful day,” or something like that. Something that is genuine and true for more people. And church? Maybe we should turn church into a Friday evening multi-generational dance and music party in the sanctuary. Because Friday night still means something.

  • Sue Magidson

    Heather,

    Your post brings up so many images…

    …My amazement when I lived in a country that takes a collective Sabbath, when nearly everything does close for 24 hours, including public transport. I went from annoyance at the limitations (I had no car — what was I going to do??) to gratitude for being forced to slow down once a week. My phone never rang on the Sabbath and no one ever expected me to work. It was really hard to return to the 24/7 U.S. — I so badly wanted to continue this wise spiritual practice and it was really really hard, since doing so comes at a (sometimes high) price of saying no to things that are important to me.

    …Working in the hospital now and greeting people in the hallways. The 24/7 workers often respond by saying “this is my Friday” or “this is my Monday” while the M-F 9-5ers say “It’s hump day! (Wednesday)” or “It’s Friday,” as if that explains everything. It’s wild to work with a mix of folks — those who get to take a holiday weekend and those who never get to celebrate holidays because they’re always working.

    …I want to invite you to Friday evenings at my Jewish Renewal congregation where yes, we do have a multi-generational music and dance party in the sanctuary, all in a prayerful context (where some prayers are quiet and others are full of energy and sound and movement). I LOVE this way of marking the end of the week (even if I do other kinds of work on the weekends), a ritual that helps us transition from one type of time into another. And I love having us all together, some adults deep in prayer while the toddlers run wild. Somehow it all works!

    Amen to the need for R&R, one way or another. And thank you for this provocative post.


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