Major denominations are also catching on. Pope John Paul II issued "Dies Domini" in 1998, urging Roman Catholics to reconnect to the Sabbath and limit recreational activities on Sundays. (Read a summary.)
In June, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) approved a report inviting its 3.6 million members to take the Sabbath more seriously. The paper, An Invitation to Sabbath: Rediscovering a Gift, includes a study guide that will be distributed to the more than 11,000 churches allied with the denomination.
"I think people really would like to keep a Sabbath, although they may not call it a Sabbath," said John Fisher of McLean, Va., a retired math teacher and management consultant who helped draft the document and belongs to a "Sabbath keepers" group at his church. "They would like to have some private time, some rest, and they're afraid to do it" because they fear losing productivity. "I think people are looking for permission to stop and think and reflect."
Fisher and his wife light a candle at sundown each Saturday to mark a period of reflection that ends Sunday evening, "just to remind us of God's presence and of peacefulness," he said. After a quiet dinner together, they go for a walk, do crossword puzzles, or read--mundane practices that Fisher says help rejuvenate him for the busy week ahead.
"We found the Jewish understanding of Sabbath greatly informed and enriched us," said the Rev. Steve Doughty of Kalamazoo, Mich., referring to a Jewish prayer highlighted in the Presbyterian report: "Days pass, years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles."
The writers of the report realized "just how incredibly driven everyone is," Doughty said. "Even with our so-called labor-saving devices, we are leading fractured lives, and the chance to enjoy goodness and beauty is slipping away from us."
Doughty, who observes his Sabbath on Saturday because Sunday is jammed with church activities, believes the report has struck a chord, and carries an important message for a culture obsessed with productivity and speed.
"We spend six days working and working hard, and that's good and we're trying to make things better," he said. "But on the seventh day we have a chance to see the goodness that already is."