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Sunday, September 5 @ 10:30 am - 11:30 am
How do we think about work? How is it different from play? What is the nature of our (mostly) volunteer labor at East Shore. Board President Mike Radow and Rev. Furrer will explore these matters with the awesome participation of Eric Lane Barnes.
how to attend
• To virtually attend, please Zoom in using room number 989 3107 9078, passcode: chalice.
• To phone into the service, call 669-900-6833, Meeting ID: 989 3107 9078.
For those joining, please mute as soon as you enter the room, so everyone can hear. Please note, the services will be recorded, but at this time, there are no plans to share the recording.
In the US, tomorrow is a Labor Day. A day for workers to rest and to honor them, or, in a more modern tradition, drive home from vacation, and while I have promised to talk about our volunteer work here at ESUC, I need to say several words about the organized labor movement and labor unions.
The rest of the world celebrates Labor Day in May, a day associated with an international labor movement, or Communism, and therefore not sanctioned here as a holiday.
The efforts of laborers to organize themselves, has come first and foremost to gain job security, to prevent wage cuts or firings for arbitrary reasons. Yes, bread and roses, but bread first, the 8-hour day, health benefits and sick leave come too, but later.
The constant threat to job security is competition from cheaper labor. And of course, there has always been a ready supply of cheaper labor here. The cheapest labor is free labor, by, by which I mean enslaved Africans a\who literally built this nation and its vast wealth.
I read recently read the history of the family is in part, the history of unpaid female labor. Think about that for a minute More exploitation.
Our whole national quest for empire, from sea to shining sea, was pushed along by those who wanted free soil, meaning a lack of competition from indigenous peoples, or from formerly enslaved people. The claims of non-white labor ‘taking our jobs’ have never really ceased. In the words of historian Walter Johnson “pitting white and Black workers against one another has been THE principle of industrial labor management. In wartime WWI, black workers were almost always employed in unskilled positions Discriminatory hiring and whites only contractors and whites only unions sent an unmistakable message about the wages of whiteness, the skin privilege.”
This didn’t change until World War 2 when a threatened march on Washington, like the one which did happen in 1963 forced Pres. Roos to ending discrimination in hiring into defense industries.
Thus, even on Labor Day, to discuss labor is a troubled and complicated undertaking, bringing up untold history and reminders of current conflicts. But the point must be made, when we celebrate those who labor we don’t count the developer or the investor, we count those closer to the actual production of goods. And yet we apportion wealth and value in almost reverse order…. Who gets the most out of amazon, the driver, the warehouse worker, or the ones who design the systems which then rely on these workers?
Most recently we were told who was essential and who wasn’t. Pretty enlightening. Essential for whom? Essential enough to be forced to work, in unsafe conditions, because they were told to and needed to in order to pay bills. These people are and were, those who care for the elderly, day care workers, doctors, nurses, dentists and the car mechanics, the electricians, the plumbers, [bus drivers] and especially, those plant, pick, process, pack, transport, and serve food. And there’s more.
There’s an attitude about toil. I was raised on what was called the protestant ethic. Idle hands are the devil’s playground, that hard work provides meaning and purpose to life, even happiness. We are asked what we do, and the inferred meaning is what do you do to earn money. There’s the notion that hard work is its own reward
But a counter narrative holds here too. What is thought to be the dignity of honest, sweaty toil – is also thought of as servile as if it is somehow demeaning to get your hands dirty. That attitude lingers. My organic farmer friend in tri cities says he cannot find asparagus pickers who aren’t immigrants. And so, when we celebrate Labor Day tomorrow, we might be thanking those who do what we don’t want to.
Labor, whether unionized or not, is naturally opposed to capital, and if labor gets one day, capital surely gets the other 364, it is after all called capitalism. Another moment of gratitude please
As important as all that is, for us now equally vital is OUR labor, our work at East Shore, what do we do? What might we do?
For me, the most critical element of our work is that it is not forced. not paid, not required, it is entirely voluntary, chosen, arbitrary. Some might say that makes all our work low stakes. What will happen if I don’t join a ministry team. What will happen if the board doesn’t fully monitor progress toward our church goals really nothing happens. Heads don’t roll. So why do anything, why does it even matter? What are we here for?
The notion of work is that something comes of it. In physics, work has a specific meaning. Work is done When force is applied to a mass, and it moves in the ‘intended, direction. if I try all day to pick up a two-hundred-pound rock and can’t budge it. No work has been done, if it tries to push it forward and it moves sideways, again, no work has been done.
I’d like to use that definition here. Work has a visible outcome, and it must be in the intended direction. The product of our work is supposed to be to fulfill, enhance, our mission to do more of it, to make the words of our covenant real.
So, it we are not intending that, we aren’t doing proper work, and if we aren’t making inroads in any of those directions, we aren’t doing work at all. Otherwise, we are just running around staying busy. Maybe even feeling virtuous for being active.
So, what work shall we choose? There is the do-nothing approach.
Those in this camp might feel their work is only to show up. BUT that is not nothing, “simply” being here does something real in creating a community, it reminds us that we are in this together, that we are not alone. And there is a lot of truth in that.
Again, there is something more. And this happens when we do show up, and act together,
One of my mentors, an educator known as Schauff would say, “Hey Redeye, (a tortured pronunciation of my last name) Can you pick up the other end of this board and help me carry it?
What a lesson. Something magical happens when we join forces. as the song we are about to sing says, many stones can build an arch singly none, singly none.
I have found that an experience unshared is less fulfilling than one shared. If I read a great book and have no one to tell about it, what is accomplished? So, I suggest for us that what we do together is ultimately more satisfying. And more effective.
Working together: co-labor, it is where our word collaborate comes from, not just going along, but actively participating, helping in the solution, partnerships like that are what I am striving for among us and with the broader community.
This fall, I, we will be asked by the ministerial search team, to show up together.
To show up on the first and second of October, for a UUA workshop Beyond Categorical Thinking. Chance to open our minds about who we might accept as a called minister for ESUC.
- We’ll be asked to show up and complete a survey
- To show up for a cottage meeting, which is likely to be virtual
- To show up at a focus group
Please do It all
All summer long we got advice,
- Janine said build trust and then address a social justice issue
- Bill Graves said we should Influence the shapers of the commonwealth to do the common good
- Rev bailey asked us why there aren’t 3 million UUs, not 300,000 and what we could do to make real inroads, real connections outside our doors.
Rev. Steve says, Nicole can get them in these doors, I might be able to keep them for three or four more weeks with good sermons, but if they are going to stay, it is because I, you, we, US, the members, collaborate in creating something that keeps people wanting to show up. What is that something? And how can I do/prepare for it.
I’ll close by suggesting my work is to take the words of our mission to heart. Doing something new is risky and uncomfortable. Being willing to be changed or putting ourselves in situations where we might change takes courage. So, stay for coffee hour and meet someone new. as Plato says, anything worth doing is seldom easy.
And when people ask us what we do, maybe we can say with MLK, we try to uplift humanity,
Maybe we will say we try to practice more love, explore more spirituality, build more community, promote more justice.
Thank you and enjoy your Labor Day.