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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Our Prayer is in the Practice of Our Trade

When I served as pastor of an innercity church in Kansas City (1985-1997), I was working as a worker-priest, a semi-skilled laborer, building patios and decks throughout the metropolitan area.  This was a good fit for the pastor tending to a congregation of poor and working-poor congregants.  

This also led to me being appointed by the Bishop of the then-called Kansas-Missouri Synod (now Central States Synod) of the ELCA to be his representative to the Religion and Labor Council of Kansas City.  

This organization brought together union business reps and inter-faith religious leaders on a monthly basis for a round-table dialogue, the first of its kind in a regular, organized fashion.  

Eventually I became one of the Moderators for the dialogue and was asked on many occasions to provide music for the dialogue, for local unions, prayer breakfasts, the state-wide Religion and Labor Dialogue that we planned and led in Columbia, Missouri, and AFL-CIO gatherings.

I suppose it was similar to the experience of many church organists/composers (like Bach, for example):  when there is a choir or an occasion, one's creativity is always at work ruminating on how to respond with a song.  This is especially the case when the published hymnals do not provide hymns or songs that directly relate to the labors of daily work.

In the Wisdom of Sirach (an Inter-testamental Biblical book) chapter 38, verses 24-34 I read verses that stopped me in my tracks and sent me to my pen and paper.  

The result is this song (also arranged as a 4-part hymn) entitled:  Our Prayer is in the Practice of Our Trade.

Here is the Chorus:

We all rely on the work of our hands
without the city is a barren land.
Though we are not sought out 
and our voice is often banned
Though we have low status
in the public eye:

But we maintain the fabric of the world
and our prayer is in the practice of our trade.
But we maintain the fabric of the world
and our prayer is in the practice of our trade.

You can hear it and the Congregational Edition of this song can be downloaded for free here.
The Complete Package (Accompaniment, Bb Trumpet, Guitar, SATB arrangement) edition is available as a download here.

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