For over a century, Americans have celebrated Labor Day on the first Monday in September. Labor advocates in the late 19th century proposed an annual federal holiday to honor workers. The United Methodist Church continues to support fair and just working conditions and for workers everywhere as it has since the beginning of the labor movement in the United States.
Labor Day weekend should be a time for churches to honor the workers in their community. Here some ways congregations can show their appreciation for workers.
Celebrate workers during worship
Take time during worship to bless workers in the congregation. Discipleship Ministries has worship resources available for Labor Day, including Holy Communion liturgy and a special blessing. St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in El Paso, Texas plays labor-themed hymns or anthems such as Thurlow Weed’s “Hymn for Labor Day” and “Father and Life-giver” or “Bread and Roses”. Make the service inclusive of all types of forms of labor by having the pastor or liturgist lift up part-time workers and those currently looking for a job. Promote the service ahead of time to encourage workers in the community to attend.
Recognize the workers who enrich your church’s ministry
Many churches have custodians, office employees, kitchen staff or other people whose vital work often goes unrecognized. Use Labor Day weekend to celebrate them as children of God and partners in ministry. The pastor or liturgist might recognize them by name during the service or the congregation might show its appreciation with gifts or taking them out to lunch. Above all, keep the church closed on Labor Day to allow them to enjoy the holiday.
Hold a community celebration
Labor Day Weekend is a time of celebration and joy. Congregations may decide to host a community picnic, fall festival or other social event open to the public. The church may choose to support an existing Labor Day community event like a neighborhood parade or fair. Whatever fun activities a church provides or supports, it still needs to observe the spirit of the holiday by not burdening its own paid workers and staff when they should be enjoying the holiday. Instead of asking the church staff set up, manage or clean up after an event, recruit volunteers from the congregation to help.
Educate members on how the church supports workers
Use Labor Day weekend to teach the congregation about the history of labor movements in the United States and the role churches have played in supporting worker rights. Consider sharing videos as well as information about the Social Creed and other denominational statements on workers’ rights during the worship service, Sunday school or on social media.
Support and participate in advocacy
The United Methodist Church remains committed to fair and just treatment of workers. Some congregations live out that commitment by supporting living wages and union rights. There may also be local worker causes church members can support. The General Board of Church and Society has Faith and Fact cards on Living Wage and Worker Justice with information and tips for churches to support these vital causes. Churches might also invite a union representative or workers’ advocate to speak to their congregation.
- A service of Holy Communion for Labor Day weekend
- Valuing work and workers part of UM social witness
- A United Methodist prayer for workers
- Our Social Creed
- Social Principles, “The Economic Community," The Book of Discipline
- "Rights of Workers" Book of Resolutions
- The 1908 Social Creed of the Methodist Episcopal Church
- Labor Day: Dedicated to fairness and justice for workers
- Why I celebrate Labor Day (Blog) by Rev. Carter Ellis
Philip J. Brooks is a content and writer developer with the leader communications team at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.