Report from Jubilee Professional, Pittsburgh, February 2018

Jubilee Professional is a half-day conference designed to help Christians of all vocations learn how to apply biblical truth to everyday, professional life. This event is produced by the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation.  The theme for this year’s conference – the 9th annual – was Sabbath rest. The conference was hosted by emcees Jim Stout, vice president at Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, and Word FM drive-time co-host Kathy Emmons.  I will provide some highlights from the conference here with reflections on most of the presentations. Click here for a complete listing of the speakers from this year’s event.

Andy Crouch kicked off the afternoon with a presentation titled Biblical Vision for Work and Rest in the Digital Age. The premise of Andy’s talk was thinking through the second most astonishing idea in the Hebrew Bible; remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. The first most astonishing idea, according to Andy, is the Shema.

Andy described the first four commandments. The first three are connected with the Shema while the fourth should describe our Sabbath rest. The highlight of Andy’s presentation, which providentially was expressed in other presentations throughout the day, was his discussion of leisure & rest, gleaning, and contemplation.

Leisure is distinct from rest. A leisure economy allows some portion to enjoy time from work, but is dependent upon other people working.

Andy’s presentation unpacked the themes of work and rest as reflected in Genesis 1 & 2, Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 19:9,10; Leviticus 25:1-22, and Deuteronomy 5:12-14.

The practice of Sabbath was maintained in practice by the Jews for thousands of years. A whole people giving up 1/7th of their productivity is and was a very radical idea.

We live in a profoundly Sabbath-less society.

The Jewish practice of Sabbath included the male or female slave, livestock and alien resident – three categories most likely to be exploited by human beings. Who do you treat as merely a human resource for your own activity?

The biblical mindset of gleaning says to give work, not give food, to those who are in need.

Rest contrasts with leisure, with rest being satisfaction in work, beholding the work you have done.

The pattern of worthwhile work as seen embodied by God in His work is: hovered, said, saw, rested. This can also be described as contemplation, action, evaluation, contemplation. Jubilee was designed to make Israel a contemplative people.


The Deuteronomy 5 passage is the Lord’s reminder to the Israelites that they were once slaves. They were exploited. God brought them out and commanded them to keep the Sabbath.

Kirk Botula, CEO of the CMMI Institute, spoke regarding the lost tools of Christian living. Kirk gave a thoughtful presentation about our project as Christians – to grow in love for God and our neighbor:

  • Virtues are dispositions that allow us to be conformed to God’s will.
  • We need courageous rather than compliant leaders. This is something Kirk is intentional to communicate with his managers at CMMI.
  • As each day turns, are we putting ourselves in a place where God can shape us?

Lisa Slayton, CEO of Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, led a discussion titled Beyond Me Too: Sabbath and Gender with Jay Slocum, rector of Jonah’s Call. The goal of this discussion was to demonstrate and encourage the recapturing a model of men and women in partnership. Lisa and Jay asked some probing questions during their talk:

How do women respond when they find they are the only woman in the room?

How are we as men advocating and valuing women in the midst of our work?

Lisa described the Hebrew word ezer in Genesis 2 as referring to someone of corresponding power. Oftentimes ezer is used to translate God and his relationship with Israel; a fellow warrior, not an administrative assistant. Lisa referenced and was influenced by an article Carolyn Custis James has written titled The Return of the Ezer.

Lisa and Jay both reflected on the power of differences and yielding in relationships. We need to become students of differences so that we can value them as we yield to one another. It is worth noting that Jesus’ normative use of power was in giving it away.

Acton Institute was the lead sponsor of Jubilee Professional and gave the audience a preview of their forthcoming film series, A Good Society. They showed episode 5 titled Global Cooperation and Complexity, part one. The episode describes the history and process of making coffee. The entire series was well done, showing the economic realities of this product. I have had the opportunity to watch the other episodes in this film series and think this will be an excellent resource to help the church think through the economic dimensions of daily life.

Terry Timm, pastor of Christ Community Church of the South Hills and Kate Harris, Director of Development and Communications for the Thriving Cities Group (TCG) in Charlottesville, Virginia, spoke about the Porter’s Gate Project. The project calls itself “a creative movement aimed at reimagining and recreating worship that welcomes, reflects and impacts both community and the Church.” Harris described the project’s goal as the church shaping liturgies that reflect people’s work. Why is this important? Because we recognize that our work is the primary way we are working out our formation. Harris hopes that many people and churches will incorporate these songs into their liturgical practices.

Lyrics to Your Labor Is Not In Vain
By Wendell Kimbrough, Paul Zach, and Isaac Wardell.
© 2017 Porter’s Gate Publishing (BMI), Hymns From
The Porter’s Gate (ASCAP) and Porter’s Gate
Publications (SESAC). All rights reserved and
administered by Fair Trade Music Publishing c/o CCLI #7097868

Quoted here with permission from album’s producers

Your labor is not in vain
though the ground underneath you is cursed and stained
Your planting and reaping are never the same
But your labor is not in vain.

For I am with you, I am with you.
I am with you, I am with you
For I have called you,
called you by name
Your labor is not in vain.

Your labor is not unknown
though the rocks they cry out and the sea it may groan.
The place of your toil may not seem like a home
but your labor is not unknown. (refrain)

The vineyards you plant will bear fruit
the fields will sing out and rejoice with the truth,
for all that is old will at last be made new:
the vineyards you plant will bear fruit. (refrain)

The houses you labored to build
will finally with laughter and joy be filled.
The serpent that hurts and destroys shall be killed
and all that is broken be healed. (refrain)

Tish Harrison Warren serves along with her husband, Jonathan, as co-associate Rector at Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, PA. She is the author of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life which was awarded the distinction of Christianity Today’s 2018 book of the year. (I heartily agree with Christianity Today’s assessment. You can read more about my reasons why in my review here.) There is so much I could write about Tish’s presentation, but here are a few poignant quotes:

There is no competition between our liturgy on Sunday and our work on Monday. Our liturgy on Sunday should send us into our Monday work as a different people. Our Monday work also shapes us into the people we are when we come to Sunday liturgy.

Leisure is individual. Sabbath is communal. If we can’t rest, I can’t rest.

We rest communally, chronologically, and contemplatively.

The preacher and the cobbler both need each other to be faithful in their vocations.

We need a Christian community that will help us appropriately push back on some of the practices of our vocational life.

Practice the Sabbath & church calendar. We need a yearly rhythm not determined by quarterly schedules, but by alternate rhythms. Periods of slowing down, celebrations, and ordinary rhythms. Practice being citizens of heaven, even in our work.

The afternoon conference also included presentations from Dan AllenderKimberly Gonxhe & Micah Stanton on race and rest, and Victor Claar on economics. All of the presentations were recorded and will be released when available through the conference website.

I want to express my heartfelt kudos to the team at Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation on the occasion of another wonderful event with a diverse group of speakers, audience, and learning environments. Their hard work resulted in a rich experience where everyone left with tools for their daily work.  I encourage you to attend next year’s event, scheduled for Friday, February 22, 2019, in the Westin Convention Center.

  One thought on “Report from Jubilee Professional, Pittsburgh, February 2018

  1. byronborger
    March 11, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    I tried to like and offfer a supportive comment but I couldn’t get it posted. I guess I forget my old WordPress password or something. It’s a nice review of a great event, so thanks. I also noted that it was part of the bigger Jubilee conference that went on all weekend, that there is a connection between Jubilee Pro and Jubilee…

    Anyway, good work!

    Byron & Beth Borger Hearts & Minds 234 East Main Street Dallastown, PA 17313 717-246-3333 See our latest book reviews at our BookNotes newsletter



    • Chris Robertson
      March 11, 2018 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks, Byron. My apologies for not mentioning your wonderful presentation in my article. Grateful for your recommendations and enjoyed checking out your space at Jubilee.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: