Work and Faith: The Prophetic Imperative

PRESCRIPT: Recently I published an article in Engage.Mail, the online journal of the Ethos Centre for Christianity and Society. This article was a response to a previous article published in the same journal on the subject of work and faith, and which contained what I think of as a number of flaws characteristic of modern approaches to the issue of work and faith. I reproduce the article as published.

Graham Hooper’s article (Engage.Mail 1/3/19) is an informative contribution to the discussion about the theology of work. Hooper helpfully begins with an insistence that theologies of work must be inclusive and accessible to people from all backgrounds and walks of life. He also identifies one of the key questions which any theology of work must answer: what does the Gospel mean within any specific working context? Likewise, Hooper identifies the diversity of working contexts, and the fact that any theology of work must take account of this diversity. Finally, his analysis identifies the need for solidarity across working contexts – and, in this respect, quite rightly argues that this must emerge from the ‘grass roots’ level of local faith communities. Continue reading “Work and Faith: The Prophetic Imperative”

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Exodus, Exile, and Migration: A Presentation to Texts and Traditions Teachers

PRESCRIPT: Recently, I was invited to give a presentation on the theme of “Welcoming the Stranger: Exodus, Exile, and Migration – Effects on the Current World” at the Annual Meeting of the Victorian Association of Texts and Traditions Teachers (VATTT). Texts and Traditions is a stream within the Religious Studies curriculum in Victorian high schools that examines religious traditions from the standpoint of their sacred texts, the literary forms in which those texts appear, and how those texts and their interpretation inform the historical and contemporary experience of different faith communities. Here is the text of my presentation; however, because the presentation itself was delivered in a less formal manner, there was some ad hoc editing and re-arranging of the text as I went along. This is, as it were, the “full and formal” version. Continue reading “Exodus, Exile, and Migration: A Presentation to Texts and Traditions Teachers”

A Litany For Labour Day

This weekend in Victoria it is the Labour Day weekend; in Tasmania the Eight Hours Day weekend.

For those of you in these States leading worship this weekend, will your service integrate any reflection upon the reality and meaning of work and its significance from a Christian perspective – or will your focus remain on it being the first weekend in Lent?

I would argue that you do the former – because doing the latter simply reinforces the artificial divide between the “private” realm of faith and the “public” world of work. This integration doesn’t have to be a major undertaking – just a simple moment that enables your congregation to reflect on the meaning, joys, and sorrows of work in their life (and trust me, even if your congregation is full of elderly and retired people, work still plays a prominent part in their memories and self-understanding)

Even if you aren’t leading worship this weekend, or Labour Day (or its equivalent where you live) falls on another date in the calendar, this litany may be of use to you. Feel free to use/adapt it in any way you choose – or even as an “ideas springboard” toward doing something different.

This litany was originally developed by myself in conjunction with my colleague and mentor John Bottomley. The text in bold type indicates responses from the congregation.

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Litany for the Life of Work and Faith

1. Affirmation of Faith

There are diverse gifts:
But it is the same Spirit who gives them.

There are different ways of serving God:
But it is the same Lord who is served.

God works through people in different ways:
But it is the same God whose purpose is achieved through them all.

Each one of us is given a gift by the Spirit:
And there is no gift without its corresponding service.

There is one ministry of Christ:
And in this one ministry we all share.

Together we are the body of Christ:
And individually members of it.

The Uniting Church affirms the exercise by women and men of the gifts God bestows upon them for the building up of the Kingdom of God. As Christians, we believe there is no separation between the life of faith and the realm of work, irrespective of whether that work is exercised in the home, as a volunteer, in a business setting, or as we study and train for further qualifications and new employment opportunities. Even in retirement, we are called to be witnesses to faith; for the vocation of faith does end with our labours, but continues over the whole of life.

Believing God calls people into the service of faith, a service which incorporates and reconciles the reality of human work to the life of God, let us together make affirmation of our call to this vocation:

Do you confess anew Jesus Christ as Lord?
I do.

Do you believe that God calls you to the service of faith, and to the integration of this service into all aspects of human life?
I do.

Relying on God’s grace, will you try be a witness to Christ in all that you do and say, and in all parts of life, including the life of work, whatever form that work may take?
With God’s help, I will.

May God give you strength to be true to this undertaking.
Amen.

2. Prayer of Commendation & Lighting of Candles

Lord God, you call us into your service wherever we are and regardless of our circumstances. Whether employed, unemployed, or retired; whether full-time, part-time, or casual; whether paid or volunteering; whether training or learning, teaching or mentoring; whether in business or at home; in all the ways that humans undertake their labours, you call us to witness to your Gospel of grace and compassion, forgiveness and peace. Grant that wherever and however we work, we may be beacons of the dignity which you bestow upon all humans through the gift of our creation in your likeness and image. Amen.

The names of the different industry sectors in which members of the congregation work are called. Those who wish to do so may come forward to light a taper from the Christ candle and place it upright in a sand-filled bowl placed on the Communion table.

Lord God, we have made offering of our lives and our labours, represented by the tapers we have lighted from the one, true Light of Christ. Grant that we may continue our work empowered by the knowledge of your grace, and the solidarity of your love, which never ends.

Sisters and brothers in Christ, receive the Holy Spirit and be witnesses for Christ in all that you do and say, when, wherever, and however you work. Amen.

HYMN: Aaronic Blessing (twice)

Forget Me Not: A Short Story

PRESCRIPT: Like the other short story, “Kintsukuroi” that I have posted on this blog, the idea and shape of “Forget Me Not” pretty much occurred to me in its entirety. For various reasons, it took a little longer to write; and I have sat on it for a few months, tinkering with it here and there. But I now feel that it’s at least in presentable shape. Enjoy! Continue reading “Forget Me Not: A Short Story”

Kintsukuroi: A Short Story

PRESCRIPT: This is a short story, the idea for which occurred to me – seemingly out of the blue – almost in its entirety earlier this week. In terms of total writing time, it only took a few hours spread over a couple of days.  For those unfamiliar with the title, “kintsukuroi” is the Japanese art of mending broken pots and bowls, based on the philosophy that they are all the more beautiful for having been broken.  

Kintsikuroi: a short story by Brendan Byrne. © Brendan Byrne 2017. All rights reserved.

He did not know where the idea came from, or when it first occurred to him. He just looked out the window one day and thought: that space needs a bonsai garden. Continue reading “Kintsukuroi: A Short Story”

A New Venture – Podcasting!

As many of you are aware, prior to my ordination as a Minister in the Uniting Church in Australia, I was involved in the trade union movement for about 20 years – as a workplace delegate, as an elected honorary official, and finally as a paid official.  I worked for both blue collar and white collar unions, negotiating on behalf of union members, undertaking research into industrial issues, and even representing the unions I worked for at industrial tribunals. Continue reading “A New Venture – Podcasting!”

Poems Based on Japanese Models

In recent times I have been experimenting with poems based on two particular Japanese models: the haiku (3 lines) and tanka (5 lines). Both are ancient forms of traditional poetry in Japanese culture; and although, when rendered in English, do possess certain differences from the Japanese originals, are nonetheless popular and compelling poetic forms.  I can’t speak for the results – but I do hope they are nonetheless of some merit. Enjoy! Continue reading “Poems Based on Japanese Models”