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Covid-19: Re-learning Sabbath

This Covid-19 pandemic is an incredible opportunity for recognizing and reconsidering how we do life and church. There are some lessons to be learnt. Some, buoyed by the strength of small groups during isolation, are wondering about different models of church. None of us has been through a pandemic of this magnitude, and none of us will ever be the same again. Some churches in Australia have recommenced meeting, other churches are working towards reconvening soon, and still others are considering their way forward. But no person or church will be returning to ‘normal,’ whatever that is.


For some, our hectic pace of life and ministry has come to a screeching halt with this pandemic. For others, it has involved intense busyness and scrambling to adjust work patterns, places and modes (e.g. online). This season is a timely reminder that we are persons, not machines, who have been created by God for rest, enjoyment and worship, as well as fruitful work. The danger for so many of us (especially men) is that that we over-identify ourselves with and gain our sense of self from our work.

Remember Sabbath is an attitude, rather than a list of activities. It is not another thing that you have to do. It is a gift that will help you live life more joyfully and connect with God and people you love. What we choose to do on the Sabbath needs to bring us rest and life over time.

For Reflection:

Do I have a 24-hour period each week where I cease working in order that I may replenish my reserves and relationships (including with God)?

Do I regularly take at least three weeks in a row as holidays each year? (taking holidays as they fall due is the #1 prevention for burnout – NCLS Research).

Are there times of longer breaks where I do something that is different to my regular life (de-role) and pause, reflect and gain clarity for the way ahead (maybe some form of retreat)?

© 2020 Ian Duncum. All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Rev Dr Ian Duncum is an author (The Impact of Church Consultancy is available here, and a consultant with 20 years experience of working with non-profit enterprises and churches across a number of denominations. This has included denominational leadership in church health and development, and research positions. Ian also trains church consultants, facilitates training for ministers and leaders, and provides coaching, mentoring and supervision for pastors and other leaders. He can be contacted through or

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