Sunday, 20 December 2009

Let down by a Mennonite.

In the England of my youth all but a few retail businesses were forbidden by law to do business on Sundays.
“Newsagents”   those little shops which sold newspapers, magazines, tobacco products and sweets (candy) were allowed to open at least on Sunday mornings.
Then there were the “Off Licences”.  These shops were those which were licenced by the local authority to sell beer and spirits for “consumption off the premises”.   
Off Licences” also carried a limited inventory of those other products which under law could be sold on Sundays.  I cannot remember the details, but I do remember that the list of “approved products” was entirely inconsistent.
Pubs were allowed to open for a few hours at lunch time, and for evening hours. 
Some of those pubs also had an additional door leading to a little counter at what was called a “jug and bottle”. There you could purchase beer or ale which was drawn from barrels in the cellar to the jug or bottle you bought with you!
These Sunday trading laws reflected the fact that the England of my youth was a nominally and predominately Christian (and Protestant) country.  The Churches had a vested interest in supporting the laws.    So did the Trades Unions who were firm in their support of a common day of rest. (I have a fond remembrance of the sense of peace and quiet which permeated the Sundays of my youth)
Much of the English Sunday trading law has been swept away, though there are still (I think) restrictions on the allowable Sunday hours of business for supermarkets, departmental stores and “big box” stores.
Sunday trading laws vary from State to State in these United States.  To this day in Florida, stores and restaurants may not sell beer, wine or liquor until Noon on Sundays.
 Civil law is one thing, but personal behaviours are another. 
So it was that my parents, for religious reasons, eschewed shopping on the “Lord’s Day”. 
Although that stance could easily lead into religious legalism, there was something good and wholesome about having one day each week during which “normal activity” ceased.
Such are the inheritances of my up-bringing that I still have a twinge of conscience regarding shopping on Sundays.  So it has been with a certain kind of nostalgic pleasure that I have noted that Amish and Mennonite businesses are closed on Sundays in Sarasota.  “Good for them” I have thought, “they hang on to some healthy counter-cultural traditions”.
I hoved up to “Sam’s Club” this afternoon, to buy some catfish (at a good price). (The store was out of stock!).
As I entered the store I saw a 70-something Mennonite woman (easily identifiable by her attire) as she left “Sam’s Club” with a full cart/trolley.
I felt betrayed. 
“Dammit”, I thought, “even if I do not desist from shopping on Sundays I wish that Mennonites did!”
True enough.  Many of us want “others” to uphold standards which we have long abandoned.


  1. Could there be extenuating circumstances? Could this Mennonite woman have found out that a neighbor was destitute, and went out on Sunday to buy groceries for them? After all, the Old
    Testament does justify a person pulling their ox out of the ditch on the Sabbath; and Christ proclaims that He is Lord of the Sabbath.
    There could be several “right” answers to this normally “wrong” choice of activity. Methinks this blog writer was looking for opportunity for offense against a Mennonite.
    Not all Mennonites are truly Christian, that is true. Some are not as faithful as they ought to be. Others are "flames of fire" for Christ -- living lives that put potshots to shame.
    Mr. Povey, how's YOUR walk?
    --A Mennonite by choice, not by birth.

  2. Isn't it amazing;... none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. That Menn. lady did realize or didn't care that she was a disappointment to you. You both will give account as to why you shopped on the Lord's Day. Everything we do and say influences someone either towards heaven or towards hell. ..a heavy responsibility.