Brian Skyrms is a recent graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Tampa, Florida, Brian grew up in a Christian home. As a seventeen-year-old, in Venezuela, he surrendered to God’s call to a life of service in ministry. He then pursued a BS in Sociology with an emphasis in Social Services from Georgia Southern. Brian is married to Julie and they have two daughters: Leah (6) and Annabelle (18 mo), with a new son coming in July. Brian’s passions are for cross-cultural ministry, the holistic salvation of the Gospel, creation care, and discipleship. He and his wife are currently a part of the Offerings Community at First UMC Lexington. He graduated in May 2015 and will be staying in the Central Kentucky area. Read part two here.
What prompted your desire to start keeping a Sabbath?
Our group has been together over the past three years, and while we did not begin with a focus to practice Sabbath together, we certainly found it. We began with a group of men searching for accountability and a shared experience of transformation during our time here in seminary. We started meeting each week and asking some of Wesley’s questions to foster our growth together. As we became closer and got to know each other’s wives and girlfriends we desired to extend our experience to the couples, so that we could all benefit from the community we were experiencing. We then began meeting each Sunday to share a meal together and would break into gender-based groups for accountability. Over time, we also practiced worshiping together, praying together, and sharing some of the transformations God was working in our lives with the larger group.
We continued to grow closer, and began to experience the Sabbath rest from these times together. Group time became family time. We began to anticipate the relaxed atmosphere of an intimate community where there was safety, laughter, support, and an acknowledgment of God’s working in our lives. By rotating hosts, Sundays became a night where one family served the others to help them experience rest. This past semester we have been blessed by the community focus on Sabbath as we were able to name that as what we were receiving from the group. It also gave us the opportunity to lean into growing Sabbath practices as families with the support and accountability of the group.
What have been some of the biggest obstacles or challenges?
As with all groups of imperfect people, we have experienced our share of obstacles. Over these years we have been blessed to celebrate the birth of two more babies in the group. With more kids brings more mess, more loud screaming, and more rambunctious play. It can sometimes be a difficult atmosphere for sharing and digging deep into each other’s lives.
We have had other challenges with time. We have had to adjust time to be finished by the children’s bedtime. We also found we were struggling to allow space for everyone to share in the accountability time and had to make adjustments.
During football season, we found ourselves watching the games more than focused interaction time and had to make adjustments.
We have been blessed with marriages, but have also grieved the loss of others through graduation and moving away.
We have been defining ourselves as we go along, each semester having talks about what we envision the group to be and what we can do together to make changes that foster an environment that blesses everyone and works toward this vision. Some of these discussions have been difficult as opposing ideas are shared. Our commitment to one another has brought us through these struggles in mutual submission to each other and to the group.
And then Sundays are part of the weekend, so inevitably people are sometimes out of town and unable to be back in time.
With Sundays being such full days, even though we receive rest in the group, we have learned that there is a need for some of us to find additional time for Sabbath on Saturdays.
What scripture, community accountability, or practices have helped you overcome these challenges?
As the kids came, and we struggled to have enough time for accountability, the guys decided to meet at another time. This allowed them the space to experience Sabbath through play with the kids and the emotional work of accountability came during the week. At one point, the guys even split accountability into two smaller groups to better allow for the members’ schedules during that period. We also moved up our meeting time an hour to make sure the kids could get to bed on time. This change made Sunday afternoons, between church and group, shorter, but just long enough for a nap. Which some have frequently taken advantage of.
We also found that by scheduling in worship nights on a regular basis, we were all blessed by the kids’ presence, a night off from accountability, and a different kind of rest to be shared. This would often bring us back to focus if we had been distracted by football games, or simply felt the need for a shared connection. These times of worship in someone’s home with close friends can be deeply renewing, in a way that traditional Sunday morning church services are not able to be.
As we have all focused more on Sabbath, we found what many have said to be true: There is no prescription. We have all begun the practice outside the group in different ways. Some make a weekly trip to the grocery store as time set aside for just them. Others spend Saturday mornings in Lexington at the farmers market and go out to lunch. Some of our adventurers make trips to the Red River Gorge and spend Sabbath climbing, hiking, and swinging in hammocks. My family tends to set Saturdays aside as family days. During the winter, we enjoyed going sledding and doing crafts indoors. Now that it’s warmer we like to garden in the backyard, play on swing sets with our neighbors, have bonfires, and pretty much anything else we can do together outside as a family.