Last year (seems I’m not an early adopter since they have over 40,000 likes on Facebook already) I started seeing these really cool posts about a Sabbath Sofa. A Sabbath Sofa…what’s a Sabbath Sofa? I was pretty curious, as it seemed lots of my Facebook friends were already in the know about it. In the end, I clicked on the Facebook page and eventually the website. I was a bit blown away by the creativity in presenting the idea of the Sabbath so I reached out to Sam Gungaloo, one of the presenters to get an insider’s look at Sabbath Sofa. Listen in on our conversation…
How did the idea for Sabbath Sofa begin? Did the experience of the coffee shop, which was mentioned in your first video, have anything to do with it?
Yes. A lot to do with it. Seeing that lady walk into the coffee shop and for a few moments drop her shopping bags and sip her drink was one of the defining moments. Watching someone travel to another world of peace and tranquility within the rush and craziness of life turned on the light bulb in my head. God has an answer to an exhausted and stressed out world. And that answer is the Sabbath. Many times when I hang out with my friends who don’t understand and appreciate the Sabbath, I sincerely wish that they could experience this relief of the Sabbath that I do.
The very core of the Sabbath is a message that gives people the permission to ‘drop their shopping bags’ for 24 hours and experience true rest? It was that light bulb moment which helped to commence the journey of the Sabbath Sofa. The symbol of the sofa naturally represented rest and helped to create an environment of novelty and peace.
I love the phrase, “You’re not a machine. Experience the Sabbath.” Personally, what does this mean for you? How did this tagline develop?
A dear friend of mine and personal mentor, who is also one of the main founders of the Sabbath Sofa, came up with this tagline, “You’re not a machine. Experience the Sabbath.” This tagline is honestly one that resonates in society at large, especially those who live in the cities. The problem is that most of us feel like machines because of what life is like. But the solution is not that people hear about this thing called the Sabbath but that people take time to experience it. If you are in a dark cave it’s grand to hear about this concept called light. But to actually experience it is nothing short of mindblowing!
We see the hosts for Sabbath Sofa on the videos. Who are they?
Ana Costescu and myself are the hosts. She recently finished her bachelors in psychology and is going to be progressing in her field. She has a passion for media and is great fun to work with. She is a good friend, and it wouldn’t be the same without her energy and passion in the videos
I am an intern pastor, and I love opportunities like this to put my creativity to use. All who are on the team are A-Players. They are brilliant at what they do. It really helps us to gel because we all seek to give our all in our commitment.
In one of your videos, we see Andrew explaining his experience with the Sabbath and his renewed understanding of the day. Do you think a lot of people, even Adventists or former Adventists, reject the Sabbath because they don’t understand it.
Andrew is actually a friend and supporter of the Sabbath Sofa project who shared some very real struggles that I can relate to. I do think that has a lot to do with it.
We as Adventists use the word Sabbath so fluidly because it has become common nomenclature and practice that unfortunately causes its meaning to become quite bland. I never fully engaged with the Sabbath due to my lack of understanding and therefore I understand why others may not resonate with it.
The aim of this project is to provide a richer understanding and to expose the beauty of the Sabbath bringing colour back to peoples lives. We are convinced that if everyone chose to intentionally implement the Sabbath in their own lives they would enjoy the amazing things that it has to offer and be enriched by the change that it offers them.
What is it that people should understand about the Sabbath?
This is not just about a 7th day observance that the Bible talks about. It’s so much more than that. It’s not just about putting down physical and mental struggles. It’s about the peace of the greatest rest that was ever given to us. The greatest Sabbath that was given to mankind. God.
The Sabbath day is the crown jewels of creation for mankind to know that all that is good comes from God. And it is God who wants us to experience him in a very real way. That’s why he created it. It’s a day to forget about troubles and worries, pains and issues and rest in the knowledge that God provides relief for us.
The Sabbath’s biblical significance is emphasized even more in a world that is machine-like, selfish, destructive, money-hungry and chaotic –all because the Sabbath shows how God can calm a person and live with fulfillment inspite of these challenges.
How does the Sabbath Sofa work? Can you explain the premise behind it?
We take a white IKEA sofa and place in a well-researched busy area with a camera and two signs that say “Are you tired? Have a seat.”
We invite random members of the public to respond to the signs by approaching them. Many are reluctant at first; this is quite funny to watch especially in British reserved culture. But once the first few take a seat the buzz begins to rise and people are interested.
There are five aims of the conversation on the sofa with the visitor.
1. Make someone laugh (This breaks down barriers)
2. Convince them of their exhaustion
3. Inspire them to imagine a solution called the Sabbath
4. Educate them with a brief intro to a community of Sabbath keepers
5. Challenge them to begin the journey of experiencing the Sabbath for themselves.
At the end of the conversation an important photo is taken where we have the opportunity to tag the individual on Facebook. 90% are more than happy to give their Facebook contact and follow us. It is important to note that the visitor is not added to the Sabbath Sofa page, they are added to the interviewer’s Facebook page. This in essence is making a new disciple who now is beginning the journey of friendship with the interviewer. It is through this digital friendship that a physical one is formed by eventually another meetup in a coffee shop with friends.
In one of the videos, we watch a woman named Sonnje have an “ah ha” moment. Have you discovered many people like Sonnje having “ah ha” moments there on the couch?
Sonnje has become a good friend and we talk every now and again. In fact, she even changed her job so that she can begin her journey of the Sabbath.
Joshua* – A Jew came to sit down once, and I completely got rid of the script and asked him to tell me all about the Sabbath. Such an amazing interview.
Philip* – A transvestite came to sit down and blew my mind as to the fact that this project can touch all kinds of people.
Tony* – A man was moved to share that he’d lost his marriage to overworking like a machine and he didn’t have a solution to the problem
And the stories go on and on…
*The names have been changed to reserve anonymity.
It seems you challenge your online audience to participate with you. There are challenges about being cheerful and another for Mother’s Day. What’s the idea behind the challenges?
To date, we currently have an online audience of 38,456. The challenges are there to teach and inspire these people a tenant of the Sabbath that can be practiced in their own lives. In fact, it’s not just the challenges but all the info-graphics that act as motivational nuggets to reach the audience.
How can an average, everyday Seventh-day Adventist take the energy behind this idea and apply it to his or her life?
Our doctrines are very dear to us and we have an amazing theology that has been developed over the years. We are brilliant scholars and theologians. In fact, in the early stages of Adventism we were known as people of the book. We sometimes lack in practice. I think the energy and philosophy of this project is to put action to our words. At least, this is what this project has done to me. I hope and pray that we not only are a thinking church, but also a doing church.