Monday, August 3, 2009

Working labor into our worship

It's hard to believe, but Labor Day is just a month away. For those of us who to help others understand the connection between faith and work, Labor Day weekend worship services are an ideal time to teach our fellow congregations members and help them to find ways to act for worker justice.
Congregations all across the country have found ways to work labor in their worship services. Here are some of the best ideas I've come across:

1) Encourage congregation members to wear their regular work clothes, and/or bring symbols of their work with them. If it's appropriate in your tradition, invite people to bring those symbols to the altar area as a symbol of offering their entire lives to God.

2) Use prayers and litanies that cry out for justice for workers. This year, WIN's national organization, Interfaith Worker Justice, has made a number of resources on both health care and wage theft available.

3) Offer a special adult education class that weekend that teaches what your faith tradition or denomination's contribution is to the struggle for worker justice. Not sure what that might be? Interfaith Worker Justice is another great place to find out. They have kits specific to Methodists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Buddhists.

4) Educate your congregation about wage theft by including an insert in your bulletin. WIN has put a half page insert together that offers a reflection on one side, and action steps on the opposite side. I know some clergy just hate putting in inserts, but people need something to read when they get to worship early! The insert is available in a version appropriate for Christian congregations, and one for Jewish congregations.

5) Set up a letter writing table where people can write short, handwritten postcards or letters to their members of Congress. When you've helped people connect faith and work, they're going to want to do something about it (well, many of them are!) If you'd like a sample letter on wage theft or raising the minimum wage, contact me and I'll draft one for your congregations.

6) If you have low-wage workers in your congregation, Labor Day weekend is a good time to provide them with some education about their rights. WIN can provide resources in English and in Spanish, or we can schedule a speaker for your congregation. Contact my co-worker Alfredo Pena for more information.

7) If you have a mid-week study group or an adult education class looking for a topic, what about showing a film related to workers' rights? A good one is Made in LA, which tells the story of three immigrant women in the garment industry struggling for their rights. Organizers have even made up a special kit for people of faith who want to host screenings.

8) And don't forget to invite folks to come to WIN's Faith and Labor Picnic on Labor Day! It's a blast and if our one annual fundraiser for the organization.

I'd love to hear what other ideas you have too about how to help congregations make the faith and labor connection this year!

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