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Asking the clergy: Required to work on days of rest

Father Alexander Garklavs, Orthodox Church in America, Syosset:

While it is important to observe holy days in a proper religious and spiritual manner, the tradition of the Orthodox Church is to be flexible on this. If a person absolutely has to go to work, or if the job is such that the well-being of others depends on it, then it should be done and that person should go to work.

It also could be a matter of economic necessity for someone and his or her family. We do have a responsibility to worship, thank and praise God; but we also have a responsibility to our families and our society. God understands this and understands if we must go to work on a day of religious observance. However, it is always possible to make some time for prayer and spiritual reflection, especially on religious holy days.

Religious people also should speak with their boss or supervisors about their personal religious obligations, in order to obtain time off for important holy days.


Zachary Konigsberg, cantor and spiritual leader, Jewish Center of the Moriches:

Certain professionals, such as doctors or police officers, may be involved in saving someone's life. They need to prioritize their work above the Sabbath. But, if you're able to schedule your life in such a way that you can be home on the Sabbath, it is a great way to enhance your life and your week. If not, you may want to find a way to recognize it is the Sabbath during your day of work. Take a break and read a passage or say a prayer or take a few minutes to stop and contemplate your spirituality.

I think the reason the Bible includes the concept of Sabbath is because it is something people need. We shouldn't be working seven days a week. If you work at a job where you have to work on a Sabbath, perhaps you can make your day off your personal, symbolic Sabbath.

The whole concept of God is that He is permanent. There is always the potential to connect with the sacredness and holiness within yourself, that place of meaning which you may call the Divine. I do think that praying together with the community brings an element that is not there when you worship by yourself, so, yes, we do encourage you to attend synagogue or church.

However, each individual needs to think about what works spiritually for himself or herself. Sometimes, meditating or praying on your own may be more meaningful. I wouldn't rule that out. As clergy people, it is important for us to realize that spirituality and holiness can come in many different forms.


Pastor Robert Walderman, Lynbrook Baptist Church:

According to Scripture, the Sabbath was part of the original creation, and, yes, we are to observe a day of worship and thanksgiving, resting from our work.

It is not wrong to do good (or work) on the Sabbath. It doesn't have to be a particular day. You can worship on whatever day you're off. Since Christ is our Sabbath rest, we can set aside our work on any day and "rest in him." The requirement of the Sabbath has been completely fulfilled in Christ. We "rest" in his redemptive work.

The Sabbath changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Jesus gives the Sabbath its authoritative interpretation when he states in Mark 2:27, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

Jesus was more concerned with healing and compassion than cold legalism. Once Jesus rebuked his critics (Luke 13:15), noting that they untie and lead their ox and donkeys to water on the Sabbath, should he not show compassion and heal?

St. Paul (Colossians 2:17) tells us that the Sabbath day was "a shadow of things to come; the reality, is found in Christ."

As Christians we observe Sabbath by "resting" fully in Christ's finished work of redemption and our "new creation" which comes by "grace through faith." Paul also states (Hebrews 4:10), "The one who has entered [by faith] [Christ's] rest has himself also rested from his work, as God did from His."

Having to work on a Sunday shows loving provision and compassion to one's family. If you have to work, you work. It is not always wrong to work on the Sabbath.


The Rev. Thomas D. Sutter, First Presbyterian Church of Babylon:

In counseling, I would ask if this is routine or the first time? Has the employer made reasonable efforts to accommodate your religious beliefs? Because I have not been trained in law, I would suggest that advice from a legal expert be sought. (There are plenty of free resources for this from the American Civil Liberties Union, aclu.org to the American Center for Law & Justice, aclj.org.)

Finally I would pray with the individual asking God to grant the individual grace and strength to endure to the end.

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