The Church’s Affirmation of Work

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Cogs 2

We know, when we stop to think, that we are dependent on industry, and yet we are unable to affirm industrial life as being of real worth. This is a basic sickness at the heart of our society, a failure in our fundamental attitudes. Put in religious terms, we are unable to relate our belief in the creative power and purpose of God to the existence of factories and mills and power stations and office blocks. In an agricultural society, praise is given to God for his power in the rhythm of seed-time and harvest, for his mercy in the fresh growth each year of grain and crops. Even today harvest festivals exercise an attraction even in the most urban of parishes surrounded by brick for miles and without a field or a farm within its boundaries.

Where is the corresponding affirmation of God at work within the industrial process? A piece of coal amidst the apples in the sanctuary, or a cog wheel among the chrysanthemums is nothing more than a reluctant admission that our lives today depend upon coal and cogs, upon oil and computers as much as upon crops and cattle. We need a joyful celebration of the worth of the industrial undertaking, a celebration which must have its religious aspect. When a Festival of Industry touches our hearts as deeply as does harvest festival, then we shall have overcome our sickness. Just as individuals cannot live in a healthy way if they deny part of themselve as evil, so societies cannot live in a healthy way if they believe that a significant part of their social life is somehow evil; or even if they feel that it is dubious. There is nothing dubious about converting the wealth of resources with which God has endowed this world into means by which human beings may live and realise the purposes for which God has created them.

(The Bishop of Ripon, 1978)