God at work

Commercial Chaplain's letter - October 2004

Revd David McCouloughPeople are rushing about their business in the city centre as usual. Off to work, shopping, business meetings, social gatherings, killing time, some hoping for a change in circumstances. Autumn is in the air and Goose Fair is here again. Summer holidays seem a distant memory and before we know it selling for Christmas will be all around us in the shops.

October is a time when the church traditionally celebrates harvest in a variety of ways. A time quite rightly to give thanks for the food which feeds and sustains us, for those who grow, deliver and sell it, and a time when we can focus also on those without enough food, and associated issues of world debt, fair trade and justice.

Whilst we have Festivals, Thanksgivings and special liturgies for harvest we don’t seem to connect very well with the wider world of work. Before the Industrial Revolution the various agricultural festivals of the church would have connected with the working lives of most people in our country. Somehow we have not been able to connect with people in any meaningful and consistent way with those who work in industry, commerce, providing professional services or technology.

The church is a bit better, occasionally, with those in health and education and the armed services, but most people with their wide variety of paid jobs have barely been touched by the liturgy and spirituality of the church. Here at St Peter’s over the past 15 years we have supported the ministry of the Commercial Chaplaincy, but I wonder how much the world of work enters into our thoughts when we worship together, or in our private devotions. Or for those in paid employment how much does our faith connect in some way with our daily working routines?

As we consider our vocation and mission in Nottingham City Centre, is it time for us to think how we can further connect what we do and think about inside our buildings with the world of work all around us? As a starting point why not pray for those who advertise in this parish magazine – the firms, the employees, the issues in their particular trade?

I suspect, for many people, work is a duty not a joy, rather mundane and not necessarily very enjoyable. Some people probably would feel uncomfortable with their working life being linked into their worship. Like leisure activities they treat worship as part of ‘getting away from it all’. This seems to me to be a dubious reaction in theological terms, compartmentalising their lives and, more importantly God. There is a challenge here about how we encourage a wholeness of life and worship in our churches. God is interested in the whole of our lives, including work (whatever it is), God is also present always and everywhere, including the workplace, and God longs to make whole all that is created, including where we work.

So many hours of so many of our lives and yet we tend to somehow deny that God seriously connects with us at work. If that’s how it is for so many who worship regularly, how much more distant does the church seem from people’s working lives to those who do not attend?

Workplace ministry and witness is something every Christian should and could be involved with in one way or another. I long for us to celebrate not just harvest but to celebrate the whole of work where so much of our God given gifts and creativity find their outlet.

David McCoulough

© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 9th October 2004