Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Sunday: pray, shop or both?
Planned changes to rules draw praise and criticism
As politicians debate expanding Sunday-shopping hours, faith leaders are quietly wondering if the move might be a mixed blessing.
"One of the things we're exploring is when is the right time to worship, and Sunday evening is coming up a lot," says Rev. Sharon Wilson of Windsor Park United Church.
"If Sunday morning is no longer sacrosanct, when is the right time?"
Last month, the provincial government introduced a bill that would loosen the current law by allowing retail outlets to open at 9 a.m. on Sundays and holidays such as Victoria Day, Thanksgiving and Louis Riel Day.
Currently, the law allows most retailers to open only between noon and 6 p.m. Sundays. Municipalities must pass bylaws to adopt Sunday shopping within their area.
The proposed legislation reflects the fact more and more Canadians view Sunday as a day of business or shopping instead of a day to worship, says Wilson.
"It's no longer the cultural time of worship in Canada," she says.
"As a national culture, we no longer set aside Sunday morning, because we are so multicultural in Canada."
Because worship in Protestant churches usually includes a wide range of volunteers to sing in the choir and lead children's programs, just implementing another service on Saturday or Sunday evening isn't easy, says Wilson, whose doctoral research focused on worship practices in commuter communities.
The proposed changes in Sunday-shopping hours won't have much of an effect for Roman Catholics, who are already comfortable with mass on Saturday or Sunday evenings, says Archdiocese of Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber. He says most parishes offer multiple worship times on the weekend.
What is more troubling for Weisgerber is how retail hours are eroding what little time families can spend together.
"We've usually had one day a week reserved for family," he says.
"Certainly retail sales shouldn't trump absolutely every other value."
The Jewish community welcomes expanded Sunday-shopping hours, because now they have a full day on Sunday after their Sabbath to run errands, says a Winnipeg rabbi.
"From a Jewish perspective, having Sunday shut down was always burdensome," says Rabbi Larry Pinsker of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue.
But what troubles Pinsker is a culture where there's no time when people can pause from their daily routines to rest, relax and reflect, no matter what day of the week.
"Use the day to study things you don't have time for the rest of the week," he says.
"Using our minds and our soul is the essential expression of what it means to be created in the image of God."
For Winnipeg's Hindu community, Sunday mornings have long been a time of prayers and community meals because it is a time when most people can gather at the temple, says Narendra Mathur, president of the Manitoba Hindu Society.
"Here (in Canada) it has been a practice. It's convenient because we are working from Monday to Friday," says Mathur.
But the legislation might help to promote understanding and discussion between Christians and other faith groups, now that no day in the week is officially sanctioned as sacred, says Brian Rochat of the Canadian Centre for Diversity.
"There's a great opportunity if you look at it from a bridge-building perspective, where you can appreciate (the struggles) of people coming from other countries," he says.
"Maybe there's some good opportunity for interfaith dialogue that could come out of it."
Wilson welcomes that opportunity, as well as the chance to intentionally discuss the idea of taking time to worship within her church and the larger Christian community."
"How can we continue to meet the spiritual needs of our community in the face of our open shopping time on Sundays?"
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 9, 2012 J13
(1 of 23 articles for today)