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Minute for Mission: Labor Day; A Social Creed for the 21st Century


September 6, 2021

“That all may have life … and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10

Riviera Presbyterian Church Jesus Art Series (Photo credit: Martha (Missy) Shiverick, Riviera Presbyterian Church)

It seems that everywhere we turn there are “help wanted” signs displayed in merchant windows. Employers are offering enticements like higher wages, better benefits and flexible work hours, all with the hope of attracting workers to fill needed jobs. As our country moves away from COVID-19-related lockdowns and opens up again for business, many employers seem to be having a labor problem.

Labor problems aren’t new to the U.S. or to the world. In the late 1880s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, the average American worked 12-hour days seven days a week just to get by. Children as young as 5 or 6 years old worked in mills, factories and mines earning a fraction of adult wages. Many workers faced unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices. In 1908, in response to these labor challenges, U.S. churches adopted a short, pithy “Social Creed” that called for fair employment practices, safe working conditions, rights to organize and an end to poverty.

One hundred years later, in 2008, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joined the National Council of Churches in adopting an updated social creed for the globalized age of the 21st century. The Social Creed for the 21st Century states: “In our era of globalization we offer a vision of a society that shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and equality over domination, and finds security in joined hands rather than in massed arms.”

The Creed makes for great reading. It is brief and beautifully written and, in an era of division and discord, it speaks in a non-doctrinal fashion to many matters of social justice upon which we can all agree. It calls us as individuals, congregations and denominations to seek the common good by working for a fairer society and a healthier world, to treat all people equally and to care most deeply for the weakest among us. I encourage you to make the reading of the Creed a part of your Labor Day “practice.” You’ll be glad you did.

Speaking of social statements, I was recently contacted by Riviera Presbyterian Church in Miami about a social justice art project they are doing this year. It is a series of five large canvases, each depicting a different social justice ethic of Jesus. They have a “Love Jesus,” a “Peace Jesus,” an “Earth-Keeping Jesus,” a “Justice Jesus” and an “LGBTQ Jesus.” The finished products will hang in the church and I think these images of Jesus for the 21st century would be good companions to the words of the Social Creed for the 21st Century. Maybe they could hang them in the church’s windows with the caption “Help Wanted.”

Carl Horton serves as coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and interim coordinator for the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy in the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministry area of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Today’s Focus: Labor Day; A Social Creed for the 21st Century

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Bryan Taylor, Administrative II, Presbyterian Foundation
Nancy Taylor, Executive Director, Presbyterian Historical Society

Let us pray

O God, on this Labor Day, help us remember the work that Jesus did and the ways that we can be the “help needed” to ensure that your world is a just, fair, inclusive and equitable one for all people. Amen.

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