Originally created 01/24/04

For many people, the world slows down on the Sabbath



Restful Sabbaths don't just happen - they are made.

Fending off the lure of shopping, pressures from work or the squeeze from children's activities, many Augustans choose to kick back, visit family and go to worship services as a break from their workaday world.

William Thompson's Sundays are as quiet and pleasant as they are predictable. He has only one complaint: Sunday shopping.

Everyone, including store workers, "ought to have a day of rest so they can appreciate themselves, their children and grandchildren," said Mr. Thompson, who spent 50 of his 80 years in the jewelry business.

He and his wife, Virginia, never shop on Sunday unless it is a necessity. "Whatever you want you can get on Monday," he said.

The Thompsons start Sundays studying the Bible together, then end the day with relatives. "We have a very pleasant Sunday. We might sit back in recliners in a big den and take a nap," he said.

His son, Donnie Thompson, also likes a change of pace on Sundays, such as walks in the woods or riding a tractor on his land in Trenton, S.C.

"It gets you out and away from business and the phones ringing every minute. What you want to do is disconnect. Anytime you can disconnect, it helps," said the younger Thompson, owner of Windsor Jewelers. The store is closed on Sundays, except in November and December.

His father's "100 percent" churchgoing habit likely influenced the Windsor store hours, but the younger Thompson spends most Sundays catching up instead of sitting in a pew or walking his land, he said.

"Sunday is just the day that you try to get everything done that you need to do," Donnie Thompson said.

Debra and Raymon Johnson seldom shop on Sundays, preferring instead to stick close to their Barnwell, S.C., home. After church and the midday meal, she watches movies while he naps.

They seldom go out to eat. It would press them on getting back in time for evening services, she said.

Sunday should be focused on the Lord and doing what would please him, "but every day should be his day because, if it weren't for him, we wouldn't be here," she said.

Beth and Lorick Brooks of North Augusta take it easy on Sunday. Though they read their Bibles and have quiet time during the week, "Sunday is the day we try to put aside just for God," she said.

The Brooks try to pick up what they need on Saturdays to head off Sunday trips to the store. After Sunday school and services, they eat with his parents. Later they might ride around and look at houses. Though they are enthusiastic do-it-yourselfers, they resist picking up the power tools.

"It is not a day of work. We read the paper and stay around the house," play with the dogs or do what couldn't be done during the week, she said.

Mr. Brooks remembers his childhood years in Davisboro, Ga., when his mother invited preachers over for Sunday dinner. Instead of chores, young Lorick could ride his bike or play as long as he was quiet, he said.

Sunday "is a time of rest, a separate day from the other days of the week. I don't cut grass and rake leaves or those sorts of things on Sunday. I just set it aside and let (Sunday) be a little different," he said.

Ronald Blum got away from observing the Sabbath until he attended High Holidays about 11 years ago. After that, he became a regular at services.

Shortly before sundown on Fridays, he lights his Shabbat candles, a sign he is ending his work week and dedicating the Sabbath to the Lord.

The shorter days of winter can make him feel rushed sometimes.

"It is a bit harder" then, he said

He says a blessing over the wine, then over the bread as part of the ritual.

"Orthodox Jews don't cook on the Sabbath. So to have something hot, they have something (such as a stew) with potatoes and beans" made ahead of time, he said.

He attends community services on Saturday mornings, then stays to eat a meal and sing a couple of Sabbath songs before going home for a nap.

Setting aside the day means no work of any kind, no shopping or business transactions.

He closes the Sabbath with another ritual. After sundown, he has a last glass of wine, then douses a candle with some of the wine of blessing.

"You have prayed, you have rested and done what you are supposed to do. It gives you a good feeling for the rest of the week," he said.

BLUE LAWS

George Washington once was stopped in Connecticut for traveling on the Sabbath.

He was released, but not without a warning. He could go no farther than his stated destination - a worship service in a New York town, according to David Laband, author of Blue Laws: The History, Economics and Politics of Sunday Closing Laws.

Laws outlawing activities such as buying and selling or dancing on Sundays got their name from the paper they were printed on. What finally eroded their 300-year hold was less a softening of religious values than the power of a societal undertow - housewives entering the work force in large numbers.

No longer able to shop weekdays, they hit stores the only day they could, Saturday. Saturdays became more compressed, forcing Sunday openings.

Revenue-starved governments today are taking a second look at what is left of blue laws, mainly restrictions on Sunday alcohol sales. Aiken last year began licensing some outlets to sell beer and wine on Sundays.

Religion doesn't have much to do with it, Dr. Laband said. "It's purely economics."

- Virginia Norton

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.