In Loma Linda, Postman Now Rings
U.S. Postal Service cancels 80-year era of Sunday delivery
BY JENNIFER FREHN
, Adventist News Network
esidents of Loma Linda, California, United States, who have been accustomed to weekend mail service on Sunday for 80 years, in late April began receiving mail on Saturdays.
Since the early 1930s the agency today known as the U.S. Postal Service, as a courtesy to the largely Seventh-day Adventist community of about 20,000, has had mail delivered on Sunday instead of Saturday, a practice Postal Service officials have said will have to go, as the agency is trying to cut costs to alleviate a deficit.
Eva M. Jackson, a Postal Service spokeswoman in San Diego, California, told Adventist Review, “There were two reasons for making this change: Sunday delivery delays mail in both the processing and delivery cycle [and the] reduction of costs.”
Jackson added, “The U.S. Postal Service lost $8.5 billion in fiscal year 2010. Mail volume has declined by 43.1 billion pieces in the past five years—from an all-time high of 213 billion in 2006 to 170 billion in 2010. We are doing everything possible to reduce costs and save money—this involves consolidating operations wherever possible, adjusting delivery routes, transportation and networks, and restructuring administrative and processing functions.”
She said, “Changing Loma Linda delivery from Sunday to Saturday will alleviate Sunday premium pay for employees as well as save on additional transportation costs.”
SUNDAY MAIL DELIVERY ENDS: A tradition spanning more than eight decades ended in April 2011, when the United States Postal Service discontinued Sunday mail delivery in Loma Linda, California, a largely Seventh-day Adventist enclave. Budgetary reasons were cited. [PHOTO: USPS]
Acting postmaster Dan Mesa told Patch.com the response he’s gotten has been mostly positive.
“I got a couple of complaints, but also a lot of compliments,” Mesa said.
As one online commenter wrote, the one-day delay can mean a big difference for certain time-sensitive mail, such as child support and unemployment checks.
Residents and Adventist leaders in the area have voiced a range of responses.
“The city was bought by Seventh-day Adventists. It’s been kept by Seventh-day Adventists. . . . I am just appalled at this change,” Loma Linda resident Sylvia Shepphard told Patch.com. “I’m ready to go up and stand at the post office with a petition.”
Loma Linda mayor Rhodes Rigsby, an Adventist, told Patch.com that for the city government the change is not an issue.
“To me, it’s kind of nice, but not required [to have Sunday delivery],” he said. “Some Adventists get their mail on Saturday all around the world without being horribly offended.”
Resident Dru Turner, who is not an Adventist, told the Redlands Daily Facts, an area newspaper, that the change is long overdue.
“I think this should have stopped when the city incorporated [in 1970],” she said. “I believe in separation of church and state. I don’t see how we in good conscience can ask a federal agency not to do what they do in other cities.”
A major point of worry for some is whether this change will result in job loss for workers, as the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March that letter carriers might be fired for refusing to work on Saturdays, even if the refusal is grounded in religious belief.
The Loma Linda University Seventh-day Adventist Church echoed this apprehension in a statement on Facebook: “[We] wish to express our appreciation to the United States Postal Service for honoring our members in the Loma Linda community by not delivering mail on Saturday, the Bible Sabbath, for the past 80 years. Our concern is now for those of our members or members of other local Seventh-day Adventist churches who may be forced to choose between honoring God and keeping their employment by this recent change in schedule.”
Dan Mesa, acting postmaster in Loma Linda, told Redlands Daily Facts all 18 of his employees have worked in other post offices where Saturday work was required, and most have responded positively to the new schedule.
“You have to treat them all the same,” he said. “Contractually, you can’t [allow shift changes]. There’s always people who don’t want to work Saturday or Sunday.”
While that may be true, the Adventist position has long been that employers, even governmental ones, should make reasonable accommodations to workers who want to observe the Bible Sabbath day, or Saturday.
The two largest Adventist churches in the area count 11,000 members. There are about a dozen Adventist churches in the city of Loma Linda.
At least two other cities in the U.S., including the Adventist college towns of Angwin, California, and Collegedale, Tennessee, have contracts guaranteeing no mail is delivered on Saturdays.
—with additional reporting by
Adventist Review staff