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Hallo again to all.

These are hard economic times all 'round the world. Recently a friend in another country told us how grateful he was that his job was not made redundant during a downsizing at his place of employment, and how sad he was that some of his long-time co-workers had not been so lucky. He commented that one of those who lost his job 'was never able to understand that on the job you are paid for what you do and not for who you are.' We suppose that there are a few exceptions to that sound principle, but certainly in the workplace, we must remain focused on accomplishing things or we're likely to be replaced by someone who will.

A BibleThis notion of a 'work ethic' is rather deeply rooted in us and in our culture. So many of us are taught to believe that we are what we accomplish. This is, we think, the primary reason why the theological argument about 'justified by faith' vs 'justified by works' sticks so: it goes against our cultural principles that value comes from accomplishment. Our bosses don't reward us for our faith, they compensate us for our accomplishments. We might not be justified by works, but we are most certainly paid and promoted by them, and let go from our jobs without them. God doesn't love us more if we accomplish more, but the boss, who probably hasn't read Romans 4:5, certainly does.

The need for works extends past the workplace, of course. We must tend to our food and shelter and health; it's not enough just to think about them. One of the stereotypical characters in world literature is the holy man who is so focused on faith and holiness that he forgets to bathe or comb his hair or wear clean clothing. But one of the holiest people we know, a parish priest, is also one of the busiest people we know, as he rushes from appointment to appointment, visiting the sick, talking and praying with members of his flock, teaching classes, writing sermons, and all of the other activities that crowd his PDA. We know another parish priest who can preside over a fine Divine Worship service and can sing a great anthem, but otherwise doesn't do much.

And these Anglicans Online front-page letters don't write themselves no matter how strong our belief that they should or our faith that somehow God will take care of it. The primary reason you're reading this is that you have formed the habit of looking here every week because we've taken care to write something worthy of your attention every week. We've been faithful about our works, so to speak. In preparation for what we write here each week, we pray and reflect and centre ourselves, but actually doing it is more about discipline, deadline, and coffee than about meditation. And those are workplace qualities, not faith-life qualities.

Man on a treadmillWe think that, for us, this strange duality between the behaviour that serves us best in our workplace and family life and the behaviour that serves us best in our faith life has become much more of a chasm as the global economic situation worsens. We want to bring our faith to our workplace, we want to show our faith in our workplace, we want to evangelize by example, by showing our co-workers that we can be simultaneously an accomplisher and a believer. But we aren't going to impress our superiors by showing them how fervently we can pray. Sadly, we'll impress them instead by showing them how thoroughly we can exclude prayer from the time we spend at the office.

We are well aware of the Prosperity Gospel and the well-attended churches that teach it, and the lifestyle surrounding it, but it never seemed very Anglican to us. We suspect that as prosperity becomes farther and farther out of reach to us all, that attendance at Prosperity Gospel churches will suffer the same fate as did the attendance at 'Mainline churches'.

We've discovered that no one holds it against us in the workplace if we exercise during lunch hour, but that people get uneasy if they see us praying or reading religious material during lunch hour. The solution is obvious, of course: get on the treadmill and then begin your prayers, or listen to scripture on your iPod. No one will suspect a thing, and the treadmill shares with prayer the characteristic that its value comes from the process and not from the destination.

See you next week. Keep the faith.

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Last updated: 26 October 2008

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