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'My work station is my worship station'

Mark Coffey considers the relationship between faith and work in a programme live from Emmanuel Church, Didsbury in south Manchester.

Mark Coffey considers the relationship between faith and work in a programme live from Emmanuel Church Didsbury in South Manchester. How does faith inform approaches to work and the way in which people communicate about faith with their colleagues? The Kantos Chamber Choir is directed by Ellie Slorach. Producer Helen Lee.

38 minutes

Last on

Sun 12 Feb 2017 08:10


This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.

It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.

'My work station is my worship station' - Sunday Worship - 12 02 16
Mark: Good morning and welcome to the city of Manchester where we’re looking at how faith and work relate. Like most cities, this northern powerhouse is not only home to thriving businesses and entrepreneurs, but also to zero hour contract workers, asylum seekers [who cannot work], and an increasingly visible population of homeless people, many of whom come regularly to the soup kitchen outside the west door of Manchester cathedral.
Claire: The remarkable claim at the heart of the Christian faith is that God lived and worked with the poor and marginalised.  Jesus is spoken of as a carpenter – probably apprenticed in his earthly father, Joseph’s, business. But this I know, says our opening hymn, ‘he lived at Nazareth and Laboured’.  
The Novelist, Dorothy L Sayers commented that….’No crooked table legs or ill-fitting drawers ever, I dare swear, came out of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth. 
When we do our work with excellence, we bring glory to God. 
HYMN: I cannot tell how he whom angels worship
Claire: William Young Fullerton’s hymn, I cannot tell sung to the tune of Londonderry air from his native Northern Ireland. 
Sunday Worship today is coming from St James and Emmanuel Church in Didsbury, South Manchester, but at the moment you find us in the medieval part of Manchester which today houses Chetham’s School of Music. It’s where I teach.  The school was established ‘for the education of forty poor boys from honest families’. Around it grew the world’s first industrial city, where abject poverty existed alongside the wealth generated by the flourishing textile industry.  Also founded on this site, though it’s since moved, was The Manchester Grammar School, where Mark teaches Religious Studies, Ethics and Philosophy 
Mark: Chetham’s library is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world and it’s where, in the summer of 1845, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels began work on a draft of what would become the Communist Party Manifesto.
By day, the 24 year old Engels worked with the city’s merchant class in the family cotton business. After work, he documented instances of injury, injustice, and inequality here in the centre of the industrial revolution. Workers’ wages and conditions, and a lack of sanitation, led to widespread disease and heightened death rates.  In today’s world of globalised business, many workers still face exploitative conditions in new industrial and manufacturing centres in the developing world
And so we pray:Living God, deliver us from a world without justice and a future without mercy;in your mercy, establish justice, and in your justice, remember the mercy revealed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord.
BOTH: Amen
Claire: Some estimates suggest that with a 40 hour working week - including travel to and from work - the average person clocks up 80 – 90 thousand hours in their lifetime.  It’s perhaps surprising then that when it comes to worship, relatively few hymns and songs are specifically about faith and work. A notable exception is A Workers Prayer by contemporary songwriter, Stuart Townend.
MUSIC: Before You I Kneel
Claire: Before you I kneel.
We are now in St James and Emmanuel Church in Didsbury with The Kantos Chamber Choir and a congregation who have joined us from various churches in Manchester.
Claire: Our first reading is sometimes called Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto.  It’s from Luke chapter 4 and recounts Jesus reading from the prophet Isaiah’s words……. 
Reader 1 (Luke 4:18-19)
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”
Claire: After reading this, Jesus controversially added: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”. Fulfillment wasn’t to come – it was present in front of their very eyes. This message that the poor will hear good news and captives will be freed, echoes Israel’s practice of cancelling debt and liberating slaves every 50 years. And it comes to life in a story told later in Luke’s gospel – that of Zacchaeus, inspired to refund those  he’d defrauded, at once unburdening them of debt and freeing him from the grip of greed.  This is Luke Chapter 19, starting at the first verse: 
Reading 2: Luke 19:1-10 
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Claire:  Jericho - a prime location for traffic and trade in its dates, palms, and balsam from Jerusalem to the East. As chief tax collector, Zacchaeus is at the top of a collection pyramid, taking a cut from those working under him. Some irony then, that his name means ‘righteous’ and ‘upright’. Jesus’ reputation as friend of tax collectors and sinners is not helped by inviting himself to dine at Zacchaeus’ house.
Jesus taught that it was harder for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. That life does not consist of the abundance of our possessions – ‘what can one give in exchange for one’s soul?’ He asked. A rich young ruler who is obedient to the law in every other respect, is told that he lacks one thing – to sell all he has, give to the poor, and become a disciple. He leaves Jesus deflated, unable to let go of mammon’s grip.
Zacchaeus’ conversion is from greed to generosity. In giving away half of his possessions and paying back those he’s cheated four times the amount……a form of blindness that used people and loved money, is cured.
Mark: Jesus had met enough tax collectors to see how irresistible wealth was to them. He’d called his disciple Matthew away from the tax booth. So one question I’m left with is, why does he leave Zaccheus in place collecting taxes for Rome? Is he now to try to deal justly in that grey world rife with corruption and collusion? In this tax booth at least, the sizeable slices of profiteering are no longer being pocketed. Hardly the revolutionary refusal to pay taxes to Caesar that many were looking for, but Jesus leaves Jericho a fairer place in which to live. With the reform of its chief tax collector, in a modest way, Jesus brings good news to the poor of Jericho. And for Zacchaeus’ part, his sight is restored – he sees people where he one saw profit – he’s restored and reconnected to his community. 
Being part of today’s globalized economy has some parallels with doing business in the Roman Empire.  Whether we’re an employer, an employee or a consumer, we’re part of a system which provides great opportunities but also has – in many places - vast inequalities.  Like Zacchaeus, we might ask what does it mean for us to have integrity and, in however modest a way, to bring good news to the poor – in other words, to promote Kingdom values in our workplaces and society.
Salvation, says Jesus, looks like a crooked tax collector paying back those he’s defrauded.  Jesus came to seek and save the lost. And for Zacchaeus, being found, meant reconnecting as a Son of Abraham with his community. He discovers that to lose your life in generosity, is to find it.  
Claire: Francis Ridley Havergal was an outstanding woman of the early Victorian period who has a Girls College in Toronto named after her.   She was a talented singer, pianist, and writer, but she’s perhaps most remembered for a hymn which offers to God the whole of life – our time, health, education, work, and wealth. Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.
MUSIC: Take My Life and Let It Be Claire: For over twenty five years, Dr Richard Higginson has directed the Centre for Faith in Business at Ridley Hall in Cambridge. Through workshops, an annual conference, research and publications, Faith in Business looks at how Christian faith and values can become part of the business ethic. In his book - Faith, Hope and the Global Economy – Richard argues that faith can be an enormous power for good in the workplace.
Mark met Richard earlier this week and they discussed the fact that Jesus had left Zacchaeus in post as Jericho’s chief tax collector – rather than calling him away from this work as he had done with Matthew. This led to the question: Does the church tends to think that remaining in the secular workplace is somehow a less holy calling than ordination? 
Interview with Richard Higginson
Richard: I’m happy when people resist the temptation to train for the ministry and stay in the secular world serving God in a very demanding but fulfilling context. Some Christians are called to be ‘a mole within the system’ and I think Zacchaeus was called to be ‘a mole within the system’ – to reform the system from within. This is what some Christians can do…other Christians can lead a company with excellent corporate values…..some Christians may have to resign on a matter of principle if their company is involved in ‘mis-doing’.
Mark: Tell us about the Jetta Toy Company.
Richard: It treats its employees better than most companies in the region. The Christian man who runs it –T S Wong – has managed to improve standards within the toy manufacturing industry as a whole in China too. 
Mark: In these times of political and economic change, what resources does Christian hope provide us with?
Richard: Generally the Christian faith provides us with a big story within which our lives make sense. Specifically it’s inspiring people to create alternative business models that do not make profit the ‘be all and end all’ of everything – they are fundamentally concerned with alleviating poverty or ensuring sustainability or doing good in one way or another. It’s not just Christians involved in these alternative business models but my experience is that – around the world – a lot of Christians are involved in them.
Claire: If you'd like to explore the issues that Richard has raised further, there are now materials for prayer and group discussion available on the Sunday Worship web pages. Under the title The Pearl of Great Value, we’ll be using these resources in our programmes through Lent.  They relate to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book, Dethroning Mammon and they draw on his experience in business and the church as he explores the tensions arising in a society where money is not seen as a means to improve people’s lives but as an end in itself. 
I remember Bear Grills choosing this next hymn – Lord of all hopefulness - on Songs of Praise and saying that, “when I go to church and I hear that, it feeds me to hear that this Lord of all hopefulness is with us at the start of the day and through our business, when we’re running around and we’re facing dangers.’
The hymn’s author, Joyce Torrens, later wrote a newspaper column featuring Mrs Miniver, a plucky and sensible middle class English woman which was turned into a film and won the Oscar for best picture in 1942. It featured the hardships endured and overcome by an English family during the Blitz, and was thought by many to have helped win American public support for entry into the war against Hitler. Today we can take heart that in times of war and peace, work and rest, the God of all hopefulness is present.
MUSIC: Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy
Mark: Homily 
Music: Blessed are the Pure in Heart verse 1 Mark: As we come before God, we’re conscious that in what we have thought and said and done this past week, we have sinned against him and against our neighbour, and so bring to the Lord our sins and weaknesses, and ask for his mercy and forgiveness.
ALL:  Almighty God,to whom all hearts are open,all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:cleanse the thoughts of our heartsby the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,that we may perfectly love you,and worthily magnify your holy name;through Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Claire: It’s known that stress, depression or anxiety account for millions of working days lost every year, due to work-related ill health.  So we pray for those facing the pressures, risks, dilemmas and targets of the modern workplace.
Lord Jesus, you said ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’. ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ Teach us to pray that we as Christians in the workplace may know your rest and your peace with our fellow workers. 
Mark: Out of gratitude help us to give you our work; may we always strive to do our best and help others do theirs. We give you our minds; may our thoughts and creativity support others and glorify you. Give us grace to seek first your kingdom and its righteousness in times of need and plenty, in times of sickness and health, in our trials and our joys. We give you our relationships; may our interactions be a light to the world.
MUSIC: Blessed are the pure in heart – verse 2 
Mark: This past week the Daily Service at a quarter to ten on Radio 4 Long Wave explored the theme of ‘faith and work’, looking at ‘faith in  financial institutions, in the police force, in parliament and on the railways. Today we’ve focused on business, but we remember all those seeking to be salt and light in their workplaces across a wide range of sectors.
Claire: God of all creation, Who calls humankind to be wise stewards of the natural world, we pray for your common grace to be seen across all sectors of employment in our nation. Give courage, wisdom, and a love of justice to those working in the Police and the legal professions. And to all those working in the emergency services, grant energy, safety, and practical judgment.
Mark: We pray for those in the health and leisure industry, tourism, agriculture, retail, media and the creative arts. May their endeavour, creative vision and service of others inspire and renew those seeking food and rest.
Claire: We pray for all involved in education. Give them a desire for excellence that they may equip others to fulfill all of the potential you have given them.  And for those in healthcare – that they may be dedicated to those they serve, treating them with care and dignity, regardless of their age or background.
Mark: We pray for carers and those in the social services, aid workers, homeless shelter managers, and all who work in the charity and voluntary sector. May they know your Spirit’s power in their loving service and work. Give them wisdom and insight, especially in the face of so many financial constraints.                              Claire: We also pray for those seeking employment, that they would know God’s love and guidance and find opportunities to use their skills and talents in the service of others. 
Mark: For all of us heading back to our jobs this week, may we discover new ways to reveal your love, find clear minds to focus on all we need to achieve, and wisdom to overcome difficulties and find solutions. We put our trust in you, our father God, and in your son, our saviour Jesus Christ,
MUSIC: Blessed are the pure in heart – verse 3
Claire: Let’s pray together the prayer that Jesus taught us…
ALL: Our Father in Heaven,Hallowed be Your name,Your kingdom come,Your will be done on earth as in heaven.Give us today our daily bread,And forgive us our sinsAs we forgive those who sin against us,And lead us not into temptation,But deliver us from evil;For the kingdom, the power,And the glory are Yours,Now and forever, Amen.
Mark: Charles Wesley wrote over 6000 hymns, while his brother John travelled over 250000 miles on horseback to preach up to six times a day across England and Wales. He urged that there be “No half Christians,” and said that he himself had “determined, through His grace, to be all devoted to God, to give Him all my soul, my body, and my substance.” Charles expressed that desire for whole life discipleship in this hymn: O thou who camest from above.
MUSIC: O thou who camest from above
Claire: God, you are everything to us,giving us life,filling us with love,and setting us free from sinthat we might live in you. Accept the work of our hands and minds this week,take our lives,give us your peaceand renew us in the service of Jesus and of our neighbour, 
ALL: Amen 


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