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Sabbath in the Suburbs

“When you get to the heart of it, we were looking for a way to cheat time.”  My attention was grabbed with the opening words of MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s debut book, Sabbath In the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time.  This book chronicles a year in the life of a suburban family as they struggle to find more time for what is important.  The Dana family committed to a year of practicing Sabbath one day a week, one week at a time.  What potentially could have been a book about how this family became the Joneses we need to keep up with was, in fact, the opposite.  The Dana household created a flexible Sabbath that was “imperfect and cobbled together” as they tried to reclaim some of their lives from a world with increasing pressure and demands on their family time.

Divided into a chapter for each month, this book is a refreshing look at how one family put the pieces together.  There are ideas for practices, acknowledgements that some of the rules are made up as they went along, and a sense of experimentation that ran throughout.  As each month progresses, the family moves deeper into this practice, and the reader gets a sense of how Sabbath can happen in a world of busy-ness.  Unlike other books about Sabbath, this one provides concrete ways to make Sabbath possible in the context  many of us live in today.

Sabbath in the Suburbs may be written from the perspective of a dual career family in the Suburbs trying to cheat time, but it is for a much broader audience.  The discussion of Sabbath is theologically grounded and explained without feeling like a re-read of a textbook.   Dana’s style is peppered with good humor, song lyrics, quotations, humility, and grace.  From a pastoral perspective, I wish the book had come out last spring when the Sunday School class I was teaching studied Sabbath.  We said over and over again that we needed something more practical and down to earth than the book we were reading.  Dana’s book solves that problem.  Written with beautiful storytelling  and a good dose of reality, Sabbath in the Suburbs is approachable enough for a Sunday School class discussion, a parent’s group, or a book club in general.  Each chapter had a gift inside that offered a way to slow down, appreciate where we are in our lives, and claim (or reclaim) the practice Sabbath in a busy, modern world.

Note:  Chalice Press provided me with copy of the book to review.  There were no directions, or expectations made on their part as to what the review contained once the book was received.

Rev. Julie A. Jensen is the Associate Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Cartersville, GA.  She serves on the Community Board for TYCWP, as well as the conference committee.  When she is not pastoring, you will find her cooking, knitting, or planning a play date with friends.

Photo credit: Chalice Press

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