A while ago I asked you to participate in a Shabbat survey (you still can chime in if you haven't) and a factor that came up again and again was loneliness. If you are someone who observes the seventh day sabbath, particularly as a believer in Yahusha, it can be hard not to feel isolated. Speaking for myself, I don't know a whole lot of people who are even aware that Shabbat falls on what society calls 'Saturday,' let alone who are actively setting that day apart. Fully a third of you reported not knowing or being connected to anyone else who is Shabbat observant. Another third of you reported knowing 10 people or less with similar beliefs. The rest were the in 15-50 person range, only one person reported connection to more than 50 others.
There's good news here though: you are not alone.
That doesn't make it a breeze, of course. A spread out subculture does not lend itself easily to networking. But imagine the irony, hearing from dozens of people with similar faith who all feel completely alone? It's simply not true friends. I wanted to share a few things you can try to get better connected because I don't think any of us need to do this alone.
10 ways to connect with others:
Embrace the community you do have. If you are someone who actually does know others observing seventh day Shabbat, wonderful! A couple people mentioned being the only one in their age group, and I totally get what that's like as my husband and I are the only ones in our twenties at the congregation we attend. Sure, it would be great to have others our age, but recognize that you're not completely alone. Try and cultivate positive relationships with those you know, regardless of age or other differences. The simplest way to do this is to start chatting before or after service. Organizing a potluck or meeting for coffee would be ways to take that further. If they aren't nearby make it a point to stay in touch, whether that's through phone calls, texting, social media, or snail mail.
Visit the nearest congregation. Do some searching online to see about finding a fellowship with similar beliefs to yours, then plan a trip! Even if it's a bit of a hike I think it's definitely worth the time to get to worship YHWH with others. Chances are if it's one of the few Hebrew congregations around others have a long drive as well and - who knows? - could possibly live near you. Even if you can't go regularly it's still nice to have been in a place like that. If nothing else, it could be a good place to visit during a feast. If you're having trouble finding a place, this fellowship finder could be helpful.
Look for a place to celebrate the feasts! Scripture talks about saving part of our money to use to celebrate YHWH's feasts. What if we used those finances to take time off work and to travel to a place where we could observe Sukkot or Matzah Week with others? Seriously consider setting aside time and money so that you're able to attend at least one feast a year with others. You will meet friends, your kids can meet friends, and you can grow in your faith.
Utilize social media. The huge popularity of social media shows our deep desire for connection. Obviously there are some drawbacks to the Internet and excessive time spent on it, but for those of us using sites to stay in touch with friends why not use it to build up our faith by connecting with others? Social media is how I've found the majority of ministries I learn from, where feasts are being celebrated, and different products like tzitzits and Hebrew home decor. I've given a few pointers for the platforms I use below. Brushing up your security settings isn't a bad idea if you're concerned with online privacy.
-Instagram. This has been a great way for me to connect with others of like-minded faith. Browsing #shabbatshalom and #messianic has made me part of the Torah observant community on Instagram and I love that. I get to see how others keep Shabbat, get encouraged by women and men who are serious scholars of the Bible, and see what Passover is like around the world. By following, I can regularly connect with others of similar beliefs. We often ask questions (How did you make that? Will you share the recipe? What are your thoughts on this verse?) and wish each other chag sameach. Even if you want your account set to private you can still put something about faith in your public bio and accept follow requests from those with similar interests as a way to connect.
-Facebook. Following five or 10 Hebraic pages is an easy way to get inspired to live as YHWH commanded. Through Facebook I've found out about Messianic conferences happening this summer, heard new music from Hebrew artists, and discussed all sorts of questions about faith. My favorite thing is Fridays though when people starting wishing others Shabbat shalom from wherever they are. Don't be afraid to join in the conversation. Land of Honey's page and Torah Sisters Magazine would be good places to start if you're not currently following anything like this.
-Pinterest. While not quite as personal, it's fun to see others pinning crafts, recipes, and teachings related to a Torah observant lifestyle and a great way to inspire yourself to do so. Start your own board/s for Scriptures, Passover inspiration, and more. You can also search boards and follow others for Shabbat and recipes for a Biblical diet. In addition to following me, I would recommend this group board where you'll find a wide variety of people and pins.
See what's out there. I like to browse the Messianic Directory occasionally to see what's going on with others. It's basically works like a free classified service so you'll see ads for books, Hebrew owned businesses, events and more. In fact, just now when I visited to get the link, I learned of a congregation a few hours from me I hadn't heard of.
Serve or travel with a group. I know of several ministries to Israel that work similarly to mission trips, often involving people from all over working and spending time together. Joy from Blog of Joy was gracious enough to share some of her experiences in Israel serving with Hands to the Land and it sounded just incredible! This might not be a doable thing for everyone but would be worth looking into. For teens, a stay at Camp Yeshua might be an option.
Sign up for newsletters. Through the mail or just by email staying connected to ministries and blogs you believe in keeps you in the loop about the happenings in the Hebrew community at large. More and more of these ministries are popping up with workshops and events across the country and more people are participating! But if you don't know about it you don't have that opportunity.
Watch something. Even if it's just on a computer screen seeing a face adds something to written or spoken words. Try live streaming a Shabbat service (I usually catch Torah to the Tribes), look for something on the Hebraic Roots Network, or check out The Way documentary, to literally get to see others living out their beliefs.
Surround yourself with what helps. Does texting far away friends 'Shabbat shalom' make you feel like part of the group? Do you feel like you belong when you read certain books or listen to a Hebrew artist? Is listening weekly to a Shabbat service better than studying by yourself all the time? Figure out what makes you feel connected and then do those things.
Invite friends to join you. Some will respond better than others certainly, but some friends may be very receptive to hearing your story of why you started observing Shabbat if you invite them over for Friday night dinner. That might even clear up wrong ideas they've had about what Shabbat keeping looks like. A Passover Seder can be a powerful experience for those who don't yet understand the Hebrew identity of the Messiah. You can invite others to join in.
What other suggestions would you give to someone who feels isolated? What has helped you connect with others who keep Shabbat? Please join the conversation!