How to reach the people who need the faith and work message the most

By Jennifer Woodruff Tait

So one of my jobs is as an editor for the Theology of Work Project, and they had their annual steering committee meeting last week. That doesn’t sound like the setup to either a joke or an insight, I know, but stay tuned.

For this meeting, folks from all over the world plus the staff (some of us are also from all over) all flew to Boston and were whisked (in my case, very late at night after a number of airline mishaps) out of the highways and noise to the peaceful town of Wellesley, MA to the Executive Conference Center at Babson College.

Both outside and inside, the conference center looks like what you’d get if you crossed M. C. Escher and Frank Lloyd Wright. (Which is why I linked to their site–not for product placement or anything, but so you could see photos. )  In order for about 300 different people to have about 20 meetings there at once, the place is an absolute maze. Every corner you go around has more hidden meeting rooms and access to always-filled corners stocked with tea, coffee, water, pop, and candy (perhaps I should have added a comparison to some fairy tale where elves are always restocking things silently, although elves aren’t paid hourly wages.)   I got lost every single time I tried to do anything, except eat.

So there we were, talking about Jesus and discipleship and what the Bible has to say about work in one of the meeting rooms, and there was everybody else in all the other meeting rooms, talking about insurance and compliance and accounting and…I don’t even know, because I couldn’t interpret all the acronymic signs on the doors. One of them said “Finance for the Nonfinancial Professional.” (Maybe I should have gone in there, says the English major.)

The second day of the meeting there was a fire alarm. All 300 people, including us, filed outside, stood around for half an hour, talked mostly within our own groups, watched the fire trucks pull up, and then went back in. One of the other staff took a picture and put it on Facebook–of lots of lost-looking folks in suits, blinking in the sunlight, all of them with better shoes than I’ll ever wear.

And then we went back inside and sat down in our room with our coffee and tea and mints and laptops and talked about how to help people know that their work matters to God.

And I thought: dear people in suits, if you only knew what we had in this room. There is an explosive power in this room that could blow all of your socks off, or your suits (metaphorically, of course), transform your life, and put you in touch with all the beauty and the terror of the universe. We call it the Gospel. How do we let you know we have it? We’re in this room working on figuring it out. We’ll go on trying to figure it out. But just right now, I wish there was a way to fling open the doors and let all this glory out.

 Jennifer Woodruff Tait is the Content Editor for The High Calling at The Theology of Work Project, the managing editor of Christian History Magazine, and a priest in the Episcopal Church.  Reprinted from Faith and Work Channel.

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