‘Keeping Sundays special is not just about religion’

Preserving Sunday rest as a “communal rhythm of life” has been praised by a theology professor.

James Eglinton, of the University of Edinburgh, was responding to the pressure to liberalise Sunday trading on the Isle of Lewis.

Many businesses there are closed on Sundays, along with the local swimming pool and golf course.

Day of rest

Writing in The Sunday Times, Eglinton spoke out in favour of keeping the day holy.

He said that media coverage of the debate has been “unimaginative, lampooning Sabbatarians as religious killjoys”.

“Advocates for change on Lewis cheer on the secularisation of island culture, asking why this weekly rest cannot become a private, individual affair. In reality such a shift makes intentional weekly rest a good deal less restful.

“It becomes a counter-cultural effort, a set of negotiations with new norms that simply assume willingness to work that Sunday shift, to take your child to that Sunday sports club, and so on”, added Eglinton.

‘Spiritual side’

He continued: “Mainlanders should not be surprised that many islanders dare to resist.”

Rev James Maciver of Stornoway Free Church said that Sundays give people time for the “spiritual side of their lives”.

He believes the decision for Stornoway’s arts centre to open on Sundays for “a trial period” will “put some people off” supporting it.

Rev Maciver added: “It should not open on Sundays and upset the spirituality of the Sabbath here. I hope they change their minds.”

Government defeat

In March 2016, MPs at Westminster defeated the Government over plans to extend Sunday shopping hours in England and Wales, where large shops are restricted to six hours between 10am and 6pm on a Sunday.

Last May, councillors voted against increasing Sunday trading in Belfast, following concerns that family life would suffer.

Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee rejected the proposal by twelve votes to three.

Shopworkers’ union Usdaw spoke out against the plans during a consultation period, saying members were concerned that all-day shopping would have a detrimental effect on families.