Like the Jewish people, Mennonites, Amish, and Anabaptists generally make a practice of setting aside a specific day for rest and worship. In keeping with church tradition, most Mennonites observe Sunday as their day to attend services and abstain from typical weekday activities. While practices differ based on individual convictions and denominations, it is not uncommon for people to abstain from spending money on Sunday or doing extensive physical labor beyond the necessities of life. Generally, they try to find a way to make the day ‘set-apart’ from the rest of the week.
I grew up in a Mennonite home in Northern Indiana, and a typical Sunday for our family might have looked something like this…
On Sunday morning there really isn’t much of a schedule. My dad is the pastor of the church, so he is usually the first one up, starting the coffee and putting the finishing touches on his message for the morning service. Mom would usually be up reading over her Sunday School lesson and making preparations for the afternoon meal. Getting everyone awake and into the kitchen at the same time on a Sunday morning is not an easy task, so breakfast usually happens in shifts. Sometimes, mom brings out a pan of her fresh cinnamon rolls, which are quickly devoured.
By 9:30 you should be in your seat waiting for the song leader to begin the singing, which usually consists of two hymns. There are several popular Hymn Books that many Mennonite Churches use, such as The Mennonite Hymnal, Songs of Faith and Praise, and Hymns of the Church.
The song leader has the liberty to pick whatever he wants, but will often try to pick selections that go along with the Sunday School lesson or Sermon. In our church families sit together, while the single youth usually sit in several rows in the front on the right side of the church. After the hymns, the children and teachers are dismissed to attend their Sunday School class, and then the youth and adults.
A few minutes before 10:30 the first “warning bell” will sound, alerting the teachers that they need to start wrapping up their lessons, and by 10:30 the song leader is back in his place leading a song as last minute stragglers make their way to their seats. Then comes announcements and the offering after which the song leader returns for the start of the worship service. Our church does not follow a given liturgy, so this time usually consists of whatever songs and scripture readings the man would feel God would have us sing. Interspersed with these songs there is usually a time for individuals to give prayer requests or share personal testimonies. At about 11:00 the pastor will come to the front and share his prepared message for the week, and this usually lasts until 11:45, after which there is typically a prayer, chorus, and then dismissal.
After the conclusion of the service people usually mingle and fellowship for various amounts of time before returning to their homes for the afternoon meal. This noon meal is the most important of the day and often will consist of typical hearty Mennonite fare such as meat, mashed potatoes, home-canned vegetables, homemade bread, and often a homemade pie. Usually in our church, every Sunday there is a designated family referred to as the “host and hostess” who are responsible to make sure that any visitors have a place to go for the afternoon meal.
The afternoon is typically spent in fellowship, rest, and relaxation. Some churches will have a shorter evening service, while others do not. Our church has a Sunday evening service on every first and third Sunday of the month. Sometimes when there is no official service the youth group of the church might meet for games, or various groups might gather for informal fellowship. At our house instead of a sit-down meal in the evening, we would often have popcorn, grape juice, and fried egg sandwiches, while just relaxing together. Many Mennonite families would have similar Sunday evening rituals.
In contrast to the strict rules of orthodox Judaism regarding the Sabbath, many Anabaptists regard the Sunday day of rest, as a matter of the heart. In my family and church we attempt to promote, not legalism, but the guarding of the spirit of the commandment and principle to set aside a day of rest and a time to focus our hearts on worship and commemoration of what Jesus has done for us.
Here is a recipe for traditional shoofly pie! A dessert one might find at the Sunday table of a Lancaster Mennonite.