When I was in the Lamb of God (LOG) Community and its University Christian Outreach (UCO) offshoot, one thing that became a staple of our lives was the Saturday night "Lord's Day" celebrations. I was just telling Julia how the Lord's Day was a Christianized version of the Jewish shabbat.
(Note: My parents, sisters, and younger brothers were all part of LOG at one time or another. Bigbro never was.)
The Lord's Day ceremony as we knew it was drawn up by one Steve Clark, the brains behind the Catholic portion of the shepherding/discipleship movement that began in the late '60s. His authoritarian beliefs can be found in two of his many books, Man And Woman In Christ and Building Christian Communities.
Anyway, a glimpse at these two .pdf documents about celebrating the Lord's Day should give you a taste of what Clark had in mind:
A couple excerpts:
“Laborious work” is the regular work we do, and we are supposed to avoid that on the Lord’s Day and other feasts.Well, in my days in LOG, Sundays were anything BUT a day of rest! I was usually going from dawn to dusk with Mass, sound team setup, the Community Gathering (which was far more important than Mass), sound team takedown, singles activities at night, etc. I almost looked forward to Monday mornings!
You shall do no laborious work. (Lev 23:7, etc.)
– To worship God is a kind of work (“service”): Num 4:3; Jn 6:29. The kind of work that is forbidden is “laborious” work, sometimes called “menial” or “servile” work, the regular work we do for economic gain.
– The purpose is to set the day aside as a day for the Lord. We can do necessary work, but this is not a day to catch up on chores, to do our shopping, etc. Nor is it especially a day for recreation, although most Christians think that is permitted.
c. The Regional Council is requesting the communities to:Despite what he says in the last paragraph, do you see how little the family unit means to Clark, who, BTW, has never been married? Notice how the Lord's Day and the members of the community trump EVERYthing. Celebrate Grandma's birthday on a Saturday night? Not without massive quantities of guilt.
1) Encourage all the members to review their approach to the Lord’s Day and to see if they are observing it well.
2) Encourage all the members to be regular in their practice of celebrating the opening of the Lord’s Day, but also encourage them to close the Lord’s Day as well.
– Members should open and close the Lord’s Day normally, not sporadically. We need to honor the Lord’s Day by God’s command. We need to celebrate the opening and closing of the Lord’s Day because of our commitment as community members. It should be an exception not to do it, and we should always have a good reason (tiredness is not one).
d. The Regional Council is also encouraging the communities to:
1) Build regular celebrations of the Lord’s Day into the community schedule as a way to encourage the observance of the Lord’s Day. Some examples: community or districtwide Lord’s Days, small group Lord’s Days (men’s and women’s groups, clusters), “mix and match” Lord’s Days.
2) Encourage families to protect Saturday evening as a family night (Note: This does not mean that the family needs to be alone. It means that the family should be together, often with other community members. It also means that we are interested in protecting the entire evening, not just the Lord’s Day prayers and meal.)
In fact, my dad was planning a surprise 50th birthday party for my mom while I was in UCO and attending my weekly men's small group on Wednesday nights. When I mentioned my dad's plan and that my mom's birthday happened to fall on a Wednesday, the leader of my men's group actually asked, "Can he change it?" And I, like a dope (dupe?), asked him. My dad's response was "Not only no, but hell, no!"
I have to admit, some Lord's Day meals could be enjoyable; the challah bread that the girls of UCO baked was to die for. One summer evening on the farm in Timonuim where 23 of us UCO guys were spending the summer between two houses, each of our houses had Lord's Day ceremonies and dinners. Ours ran about 90 minutes, and afterward we went outside to play an improvised game of Frisbee golf. Meanwhile, the guys in the other house were being subjected to a reading/talk given by the head of UCO -- a member of the same celibate men's order as Clark known as the "Servants of the Word" -- for three hours after dinner! Two of my friends were fighting each other with a broken paper clip to stay awake.
Like many other aspects of life in covenant community, activities like the Lord's Day were of good intention, and as recently as last year my parents still celebrated a Lord's Day opening ceremony. I don't criticize them for that, and I willingly participated. But I do not celebrate it with LC, and have no intention of doing so anytime soon. This is not to say that I don't like to keep Sunday holy; I prefer not to have to work on Sundays, although I've done plenty of it. I'm just tired of all the control that megalomaniacs like Steve Clark want to wield over unsuspecting people in the name of living in "Christian community."
Oh, one more quote from Clark to make you shudder (emphasis added):
Having our lives in common also means sharing other personal aspects of our lives. In our culture, if we sin, if we are plagued by sexual temptations, if we are anxious or depressed, we keep these problems to ourselves. Victories over difficulties are similarly private. We might share our personal lives with our spouse or a very close friend. But most of us grow up with the firm conviction, perhaps arising from bitter experience, that our personal lives are strictly private.I know more people in Lamb of God whose lives were seriously damaged because information that was never intended for anyone else's ears made its way to the "coordinators." Whatever happened to, say, the confessional?
However, as brothers and sisters in Christian community nothing in our lives is entirely our own. My life belongs to my brother. I cannot construct elaborate strategies to keep him from finding out what I am really like. In fact, opening up our lives to our brothers and sisters in the Lord is usually necessary to begin overcoming our problems and experiencing the freedom that the Lord wants us to have.
Most people who belong to Christian communities where personal sharing is encouraged find quickly that they can be more free about their personal lives than they ever imagined. Personal sharing must be done with discretion and in the appropriate circumstances. But it should be done, for it is part of sharing our lives in Christian community.
I'll have much more to write about my growing up in covenant community in the future. It'll explain a lot about who I am today, for better and for worse.