Some labor unions gathered members in their halls and marched together to church to hear the special messages. Newspapers reprinted the sermons the next day, and ministers were invited to address workers at their shops. These events brought together people who did not often mingle. “Both sides discovered that each had been misunderstanding the other,” [Presbyterian minister Charles] Stelzle wrote.
“Many a preacher, in his study, preparatory to the service, got a new vision of what the labor movement stands for; and many a workingman, listening to his Labor Day address, caught a glimpse of the purpose of the Church, which he had never dreamed of.”
Despite this once close relationship with labor, most current thinking around theology and work focuses on white-collar Christians and leaves out the majority of Christian workers.
“When we begin to think of faith/work integration, who has more time to think about that?” said Kent Duncan, who wrote his master’s thesis on blue-collar work and vocation. “Who is it that’s more likely to ponder abstract concepts about faith and work?”
Duncan, who pastors a church that is predominantly blue collar, says that this population has “often not given a lot of thought to their vocational choices.”
Regardless of type of work, however, everyone needs more than “just showing up on Sunday singing hymns, declaring truth, offering up prayers,” he said.
“[We need to know that] what we do on Monday through Friday all matters to God.”
Duncan joined assistant editor Morgan Lee and editor in chief Mark Galli to discuss the limitations of the current theology of work conversation, the spiritual needs of blue-collar workers, and how pastors can best lead professionally diverse congregations.