Jenna Stephens—Staff Writer
Some grab a bucket of popcorn and enjoy Black Panther at the Cinema 5 Theatre in the Centre Mall. Others peer out of their living room windows and gossip about so-and-so shoveling the snow from their driveway on the Sabbath. Being the home of nearly 20 churches and a private Christian college, Sioux Center is a largely religious city. But however “traditional” the community seems, it has seen shifts in Sabbath observance in recent decades.
To see the shift, look back to a magazine article published 70 years ago.
An issue of LIFE magazine from 1948 highlighted Sioux Center’s conservative traditions. Much of the article focused on the fight to ban films and close the movie house in town. Reverend B.J. Haan (the namesake of Dordt’s auditorium) was quoted, saying that Hollywood is “a hindrance to the Kingdom of God and an enemy of Christ.”
The article included the following caption under a photograph: “Main Street in Sioux Center is almost deserted on a Sunday, when no place of business, not even the movie theater, is open. Nearly everybody in town attends two 90-minute church services. LIFE’s photographer was sharply criticized for taking this picture on Sabbath day. Some yelled angrily, ‘Don’t you know it’s Sunday?’”
While much of the community has loosened the reigns on Sunday dos and don’ts, many businesses and restaurants still keep their doors closed. Dordt joins in on the locked-door trend, keeping students out of the classroom building and library.
Dordt students come from a wide range of backgrounds. Some see this community’s Sunday observance as overly strict or legalistic, while others think it can be too lax.
Pam Regnerus attends two church services each Sunday, because she believes learning about God is a way to glorify Him. She tries to avoid activities such as watching television and working out on Sundays.
“They’re not bad things at all, but I don’t do them on Sunday because Sunday is all about worshiping God,” she said. “I don’t want it to be about myself. I want it to be about God.”
Not all students apply Sunday observance to this extent.
“Personally I view Sunday as a day set apart for God,” said Levi Yakubu, a freshman Graphic Design major. “Sunday is the day of the Lord. It’s the Sabbath.”
But when he needs to finish an assignment or his supervisor at Walmart needs him to work, Yakubu sees these tasks as necessities.
“It’s not something I feel guilty about,” he said.
He sees worship as a lifestyle—as something we are called to do every day of the week.
Yakubu’s community in Nigeria has been influenced by Dutch missionaries, so the doctrine is similar to that which is followed in many Sioux Center churches.
“Sioux Center is very much influenced by the church,” Yakubu said. “If you go to other cities, it’s different.”
Seven decades after LIFE published the magazine article, Sioux Center streets are still relatively quiet on Sundays. A number of businesses still observe this day of rest. And one of the biggest traffic jams of the week occurs between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m. on Sundays as people flock to church. Some people might observe the Sabbath differently now, but certain aspects of the Sioux Center community simply refuse to change with the times.