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Beach Takeover in New Jersey Shows Why Sunday Shouldn’t Be a “Second Saturday”


For 155 years, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association has dedicated Sunday morning on its beach to prayer, worship, and Christian fellowship — until the secular state decided that the “right” to leisure was more important than religious freedom.

One of the reasons I love my local church is the leaders’ emphasis that Sunday is not meant to be a “Second Saturday.” Sunday is the Lord’s Day and should be dedicated to the Lord. My typical Lord’s Day involves a two-hour service in the morning, followed by a lunch with friends from church, a short interlude, an evening prayer meeting back at the church, and then dinner with friends from church.

I love the fact that Sunday isn’t just another day for leisure or doing chores around the home. Spending so much time worshiping the Lord, singing hymns, praying, hearing God’s Word preached, and enjoying fellowship with God’s people is glorifying to Christ and also, by God’s mercy, something that gives me and my fellow worshippers strength for the rest of the week.

Spending Sundays at church used to be something commonly accepted in America, at least before increasing waves of secularization. Church attendance has been steadily dropping — a trend exacerbated by the draconian COVID lockdowns — and this bodes ill for American society.

Consider the case of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Wesleyan organization that owns the Ocean Grove beach in New Jersey. Though the group has been meeting at the beach since 1870, dedicating what it calls “God’s Square Mile at the Jersey Shore” to prayer and worship every Sunday, it was recently forced to open the beach to the public by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The Meeting Association reasonably noted that sun-bathers can come to the beach “99.5% of the time” — the beach was only closed for worship before noon on Sunday — but the agency riposted:

“While [Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association’s] intent to comply with the Public Access Law during the majority of the calendar year is acknowledged, the association’s legal compliance at most times does not justify its illegal violations at other times.”

The beach was flooded with hundreds of people on May 26, and the Meeting Association noted its intention to fight the DEP’s order “to preserve our property rights and religious freedom.”

Hopefully they succeed, but regardless of the outcome of the legal battle, this sordid episode exemplifies the galloping secularization of American culture.

This explains why, for tens of millions of Americans, the rest of the week has “invaded” Sunday. When the Lord’s Day becomes just “Your Day,” why not use it as extra time to do the laundry, finish that project for work, or enjoy a relaxing day at the beach?

None of those things are bad in and of themselves, and indeed, it is not necessarily bad to do certain chores on Sunday or enjoy some leisure time. The problem comes when any one of these activities becomes the main focus.

Many Americans have exchanged their long-term spiritual gain for short-term personal benefit. As followers of Christ, we go to church because it is a Biblical commandment (Hebrews 10:25), it glorifies God, and it is necessary food for our souls — and also because of the community we enjoy, the sort of community that Americans are sacrificing.

The community that healthy churches provide cannot be matched by any other earthly institution — the joy of knowing that, whatever differences you may have with fellow congregants, you are all united in the most important aspect of your life: Your status as a sinner redeemed by Christ’s blood.

The way that community plays out, with Christians “count[ing] others more significant than [themselves]” (Philippians 2:3), encouraging each other with “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19), rejoicing “with those who rejoice,” and weeping “with those who weep (Romans 12:15), is a beautiful thing to behold. It grants you strength in your walk with Christ, exaltation in times of joy, and encouragement during trials and adversity.

That’s what America is missing out on when it desacralizes Sunday. Is it any wonder that depression is so high and that people feel like their lives lack purpose?

So don’t let Sunday become just a “Second Saturday” for you. Don’t be like the beachgoers who see Sunday as merely an extra day of leisure.

Let Sunday remain a day of worshipping and glorifying the Lord and embrace David’s joy when he writes in Psalm 122:1: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’”

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