Adventists decry loss of Sunday mail deliveries

LOMA LINDA, Calif. — For 81 years, postal authorities have served Loma Linda’s large Seventh-day Adventist population, forgoing Saturday service — their Sabbath — and delivering mail on Sundays.

That is about to change.

The 15 mail carriers serving Loma Linda’s 8,000 homes will make their final Sunday delivery this weekend. Saturday delivery starts April 23.

Loma Linda is one of only three communities in the country with Sunday delivery. The other two, Angwin in northern California and Collegedale, Texas, will continue Sunday service. Post offices lease their buildings from Adventist churches there, and provisions in those leases prohibit Saturday service.

The Postal Service announced two years ago that it was considering ending Loma Linda’s Sunday delivery, and weighing whether to close hundreds of postal stations across the country, to trim a $7 billion deficit.

“I know that we are a lot more financially strapped nowadays than we were back then,” Loma Linda Postmaster Dan Mesa said Wednesday.

Saturday mail delivery is a blow to a community that has embraced Adventist values for more than a century. Some restaurants serve vegetarian meals and no hard liquor in recognition of church values. Youth baseball teams don’t play on Saturday. The town’s two largest Adventist churches boast 11,000 members and there are separate Adventist churches for Chinese, Romanians and Filipinos, among others.

“We don’t want mailmen running around the city on the Sabbath,” said Sylvia Sheppard, 67. “We don’t want our mail sitting on mailboxes on the Sabbath. We are asking, ‘Please don’t do this.’ “

Sheppard has lived in Loma Linda since she was a high school student in the town’s Adventist academy.

While Mesa and Postal Service spokeswoman Eva Jackson contend that Adventists are no longer the majority of Loma Linda’s population as medical professionals of other faiths have moved in, Sheppard said the city “is still a Seventh-day Adventist town.”

She and Councilman Ovidiu Popescu said they have heard complaints that at least two or three of the 15 Loma Linda mail carriers are Adventists who could be forced to work Saturdays.

Jackson said Adventist carriers have the option of using vacation days to take Saturday off or they could apply for other jobs in the Postal Service, such as clerks or custodians, that don’t require working Saturday.

“I think it would be the same for employees who are Jewish or Catholic or any other religion,” she said. “When you hire on with the post office as a letter carrier, you know that you will be working Saturdays.”

Ending Sunday service will save money, Mesa said, because workers are paid more for working Sundays. Not delivering on Sunday will save transportation costs as well, although he said he did not know how much.

“It’s a service issue also,” Mesa said. “If you mail a letter, in most places you get it delivered on Saturday. But in Loma Linda it’s a day late.”

He said letters mailed in Loma Linda on Sunday are stored at the Loma Linda Post Office until Monday, when the regional processing center in Redlands is open. Letters mailed in other communities on Saturday are processed and shipped on the same day.

Fliers were placed in Loma Linda residents’ mailboxes March 31 announcing the change, Mesa said.

Reaction has been mixed, he said.

“Some people like it, some don’t,” he said. “We accept that. I’ve had a couple of complaints, but then I’ve had quite a few compliments. A lot of people understand. They say, ‘It’s about time.’ “

Popescu said some city officials are annoyed that they were not warned sooner.

“It’s obviously a decision that they have to make,” he said. “I’m not sure I quite understand how they are going to be saving money by switching days, which is what they are claiming.”

The Postal Service will not make a final decision on the closure for four to six months, Jackson said. Once the decision is made, the station will remain open at least another four months.

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