On this Labor Day try something different – pray for rights and justice for all who work and the dignity and the success of all who are seeking work.  
Creating God, 
You made the heavens and the earth and your work was Good and we praise you. May we continue your good work through our own labor – helping to create your kingdom on earth as in heaven.  We pray on this Labor Day for all those who work.  Whether in the school, the factory, the mines,  the armed services, the business office, government or on the farm may all workers carry themselves with honor, know the respect of their managers, be kept safe from harm, and be well paid for hard work so that they might provide for their family and loved ones.  God help us not to pit workers of one nation against those of another nation so that one must suffer if another thrives. Rather help us to create work in concert so that workers of all nations might mutually prosper with decent wages for decent work.  Today we also pray for those who are unemployed or underemployed.  May they not become discouraged; may they continue to find ways to learn and grow in their time out of work.  Help us as a nation to continue to provide for those who are suffering from unemployment so that they do not lose hearth and home.  May those out of work experience tangible evidence of our support and may meaningful work come quickly. 

May all the labors of our lives benefit your creation so that we might be co-creators of your world filled with peace and enough for all.  Amen

And now for a little history of Labor day and the impact of the progressive movement.  It is sometimes hard to remember that Labor Day wasn’t created to be a holiday time of cookouts and beach visits, it was formed in 1894 to recognize the importance of labor in the industrial revolution and to celebrate the value and the rights of the working class within American society.  

As the Industrial Revolution took hold of the nation, the average American in the late 1800s worked 12-hour days, seven days a week in order to make a basic living. Children were also working, as they provided cheap labor to employers and laws against child labor were not strongly enforced.

With the long hours and terrible working conditions, American unions became more prominent and voiced their demands for a better way of life. On Tuesday September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers marched from city hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first-ever Labor Day parade. Participants took an upaid day-off to honor the workers of America, as well as vocalize issues they had with employers. As years passed, more states began to hold these parades, but Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later.

100 years later we have seen progress largely due to laws that regulate labor practices preventing child labor, a 40 hour work week, unemployment compensation, and minimum wage that allowed for the rise of the middle class that might also enjoy the common wealth of the industry they made possible.  

The progressive church in the late 19th and early 20th century played an important role in labor’s struggles as a promoter of justice for workers while appealing to the conscience of the owning class.  In a time of class conflict the church did not look to Marx for inspiration but to Jesus.   The leaders of the progressive church movement, which included my great grandfather Walter Rauschenbusch, rejected calls for violent revolution and promoted an evolution of increased equality.   They understood the pernicious sin of selfishness but believed in the power of prayer to change hearts and devotion to God’s will to overcome sin. 

Here are links to a couple of prayers that my great grandfather wrote from his collection of prayers called Prayers for the Social Awakening

You can read all of the prayers on this google book (scroll down for a listing of the prayers)
(excerpt)…And may the upward climb of Labor, its defeats and its victories, in the f
arther reaches bless all classes of our nation, and build up for the republic of the future a great body of workers, strong of limb, clear of mind, fair in temper, glad to labor, conscious of their worth, and striving together for the final brotherhood of all men.  
(excerpt)l..suffer not the heavenly light of compassion for the weak and the old to be quenched in their hearts.  When they are tempted to follow the ruthless ways of others, and to sacrifice human health and life for profit, do thou strengthen their will in teh hour of need and bring to naught the counsels of the heartless.
(except)…grant them far sighted patriotism to subordinate their profits to the public weal, and a steadfast determination to transform the disorder of the present into the nobler and freer harmony of he future.
Happy Labor Day!!!


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