In the Christian faith, the Fourth Commandment - one of the 10 cornerstones of the faith - states that we should remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.
But in an increasingly secular society with Sabbath Observance facing so much competition from the digital revolution, what in practical and spiritual terms do we mean by keeping Sundays holy?
The Gospel of Mark pulls no punches in its telling of the conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees and Scribes over what can and cannot be permissible on the Sabbath.
As well as the spiritual guidance given in the Fourth Commandment, we can also rely on St Mark Chapter 2 verses 27 and 28 for words of advice from Jesus Himself: “Then he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (New International Version)
Being the son of a Presbyterian minister, Sundays growing up in the heart of the North Antrim Bible Belt were all about worshipping God. A typical Sunday for me in the Seventies as a young Christian was - 10 am Sunday school or Bible class; Noon - morning service; 3 pm Independent Sunday school; 7 pm evening service; 8 pm Youth Fellowship.
And as for music, well the Presbyterian hymnal, the Scottish psalms and later a book of songs known as Mission Praise were the order of the day. Woe betide me if some old bitch came to the Presbyterian Manse and there was Black Sabbath or AC/DC roaring out of my room on 200 watt speakers!
I haven’t lived in the Presbyterian Manse since 1978. It has now been rebuilt so I took a trip down memory lane when the congregation had a tour of the new Manse earlier this month. My old bedroom which once rocked to the sound of Ozzy Osbourne and Bon Scott is now a bathroom!
Maybe that’s to wash away the sound of the devil’s music from the times John ‘Budgie’ Coulter would play his guitar, pretending he was Angus Young’s double. I even formed my own heavy metal band - The Clergy.
Although I’m told I came close to a modern day ‘burning at the stake as a heretic’ when I converted one of the five upstairs bedrooms in the old Manse into a recording studio and a photograph was taken of me attempting to do my own version of the famous Black Sabbath single, Paranoid! I quickly learned to keep the guitar well hidden on Sundays to avoid the numerous visitors to the Manse.
I also loved horror movies, especially the Hammer Horror late night Saturday double-bill specials which spilled over into the Sabbath. But how to watch them was the challenge.
As Sundays were such busy days for my parents, it was early to bed on Saturday evenings - but I could get up if Arsenal was being screened on Match of the Day.
But mostly it was a case of deliberately lying awake until mum, dad, and sis were asleep; then sneak down to the small living room and watching Hammer Horror until 2 am or 3 am.
I’d even drawn a map of the creaky Victorian staircase in the Manse, marking out which ones made the most noise so that they could be avoided on the way down and up to the ‘wee TV room’ as it was affectionately known.
My parents wondered for years how I managed to be so tired on Sundays when I had supposedly gone to sleep at eight o’clock on Saturdays! It would be years later that I would confess my sin of watching the horror flicks.
Indeed, it would be the early Noughties (2002 to be exact) that this confession took place when I became a horror film critic at the Irish Daily Star and my parents would quiz me about my fascination with the horror genre!
In many homes, too, the only book to be read was the Bible. The only exceptions were made if we had a Monday exam and revision was needed. I recall getting the mother of all tellings-off in the Sixties when I visited the home of a fundamentalist family - so strict they didn’t even have television - and began reading a traditional print comic.
During my time at Sunday News, I recall getting a dressing down from an elder who criticised me for working on the Sabbath. It did not seem to register with him that my shift at the Sunday News finished at 11 pm on the Saturday and by midnight, I was safely home.
During the summer time, our Youth Fellowship would visit the famous annual Portstewart Convention tent mission. After the service, it was a time to walk along the town’s promenade to chat to the girls.
On one occasion, myself and one of my best chums were ‘successfully’ chatting up two girls, when I suggested getting them ice creams. But the chatting up fell apart when my fundamentalist chum refused to buy his ‘date’ an ice cream because it was a Sunday!
I recall stories of the children’s swings being chained up in parks in areas run by the DUP to prevent the children playing on them on Sundays. There were so many man-made traditions and rules that I could not find Scriptural basis for.
One of the ironies was that fundamentalists would not slam the security forces, Fire Service, or health workers who had to work on Sundays. Ironically, too, one of my first jobs as a young reporter was to write the weekly Boys’ Brigade notes for the Ballymena Guardian.
That would involve interviewing people on Sundays at BB enrolment services - but that was seen as okay.
Perhaps as a Christian community, we need to take a step back and seriously differentiate between what God made the Sabbath for, and what we as a society have turned it into.
Listen to religious commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.30 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online at www.thisissunshine.com