This weekend we will celebrate Labor Day, a holiday marking the importance of our work and that of all to build our common life. In the book of Genesis, we learn that God worked six days to create the world and on the seventh day, God rested. Labor Day represents the hard won fight for the dignity of every person to fair wages, seasons of rest, and recognition that each person’s labor, regardless of income, is of value. As Christians, we see ourselves as-creators with God in our daily work and we give of our time and money, the fruit of our work, to make God’s mission plain.
On Sunday, St. Stephen’s will be offering prayers for labor, our own and that of others, which come from resources provided by our ministry partner, Fe y Justicia Worker Justice Center. The Worker Center here in Houston came to St. Stephen’s over 8 years ago as a fledgling non-profit with little money, a bare bones staff, and a big vision. They sought to organize workers so that Houston would become a place where workers, regardless of their immigration status, would have safe working conditions, be paid for their work, have legal protections from wage theft, and be able to organize for just wages.
At that time Carissa Baldwin, our curate, approached the Vestry and me to see if St. Stephen’s could help the Center find a place to do their mission. St. Stephen’s offered our own facilities. For the following 7 years, St. Stephen’s provided the Worker Center office and event space rent-free. Just last year the Center moved from our campus to a newly renovated house in East Houston to continue their work because the apartment they were using on our campus was in ill repair and we have grown to the point where there was no more space available for a single, dedicated use. The Worker Center still uses our facilities for large gatherings.
Our buildings were and are tools for God’s work. Historically, St. Stephen’s has been an incubator space for all kinds of groups, which engage in God’s work in the world, whether they claim God’s Name, or not. We have supported God’s work through St. Stephen’s by providing space for organizing the first AIDS hospice, giving environmental groups a place to meet and organize, fostering voting for the marginalized, supporting LGBTQ youth who would be out on the streets hungry on Friday nights.
God works, in part, by our own hands. We are co-creators with God and together build spaces for this labor to occur. This fall you will be raising money, not only for operating our ministries, but also for our buildings. Montrose needs places where all God’s people can meet to embrace new work, when they have little money, but lots of faith, hope, and love. St. Stephen’s has historically been a haven for this work. Through our Daring to Grow operating and capital campaign you will ensure that we will continue for years in God’s holy work. On this Labor Day weekend, I encourage you to give thanks for your own labor and that of others and to begin to prepare to share in God’s future work.