The Christian Church of Loudon County hosted its third annual 24-hour Sabbath Friday-Saturday for members and non-members to find rest.
Participants stayed in cabins at Smoky Mountain Christian Camp in Tellico Plains. The $20 attendance fees covered all lodging costs and food for the entire stay.
The camp is situated on six acres of wooded, lakefront property with no internet or cellular service so attendees have the opportunity to escape and relax.
The Sabbath is typically planned for the spring in preparation for the busy summer season, but COVID-19 pushed planning back into August, the Rev. Dustin Cooper, lead pastor, said.
“I feel like the season everyone has been through in the last couple months has brought about a need for rest that everyone is emotionally tired, and they’re worried about things and struggling to find sleep, to find peace just with their regular life,” Cooper said. “So what it is, biblically there’s this call to find a Sabbath, and in America we call Sunday the Sabbath day, but what Sabbath really is is an eternal, spiritual rest. In that, you allow yourself to let go of everything and let God provide the things. You’re supposed to just stop working and let God take care of you.”
The schedule is simple to keep the experience as relaxed as possible. Attendees met at 6 p.m. Friday at the camp, had dinner at 6:30 p.m., attended worship at 7 p.m. and were released at 7:30 p.m. to rest however they wanted until they went to bed. Saturday followed a similar schedule — a meal together, worship together, three hours of individual rest and repeat. The Sabbath ended at 6 p.m. Saturday.
How those in attendance chose to spend rest time depended on what they found restful. Some listened to music, while others read a book or sat by the lake.
“There’s a number of different things you could do, and we do that for 24 hours — eat, spend time worshipping together and then find rest,” Cooper said. “When you do that for 24 hours, you find that you fill yourself with things that are good, things that are positive, things that are reminders of things that don’t end, while the things that are temporary and burdensome kind of fade away into the background.”
For some youth, rest meant finding joy in “just being a kid,” Cooper said.
Bobby Braziel, family pastor, helps youth, families and young adults find rest on the Sabbath. He said young children often enjoy activities like ziplining and spending time on the lake.
The Sabbath is especially important for young adults.
“As a young adult, it was really difficult for me to find rest all the time with all the expectations of school, work, family, and trying to figure out the balance between those things can be very stressful as you’re kind of stepping into adulthood,” Braziel said. “So being able to get away and really seek the Lord is super, super important and really learning how you do that best. I think it’s different for every person, so I think for our young adults being able to get away from cellphone service and internet and just be able to be with friends, be with people and not worry about all of those expectations is super important.
“I believe some of our young adults definitely opened up,” he added. “… So sometimes you have an opportunity to seek rest but you don’t truly seek it but watching them go off on their own and read Scripture and saying that was a really good time and they really enjoyed doing nothing, which sounds weird, but it really is rest. So I was really proud of them, and I really think that they learned a lot.”
Staying for the entire 24 hours is not required. Kelly Colyer, office assistant and worship leader, joined later, but said she was excited to be a part of her first CCLC Sabbath experience.
However, this was not Colyer’s first Sabbath experience. She is Jewish and used to attend a Messianic synagogue. She looked forward to having a Sabbath experience again.
“I’m definitely interested in the different atmosphere of worship with the church family,” Colyer said. “Just because when you’re at church sometimes it can be, you know, you’re on that schedule, and it’s just nice to be able to relax with worship and relax in general. Again, from the Jewish standpoint, there’s a big focus on Sabbath, and you’re actually commanded to delight in it and to rest. We’re bad about it.”