When I served as pastor of an innercity church in Kansas City, I was a semi-skilled laborer, building patios and decks throughout the metropolitan area. This was a good fit for the pastor tending to a congregation of poor and working poor congregants.
This also led to me being appointed by the Bishop of the then-called Kansas-Missouri Synod (now Central States Synod) of the ELCA to be his representative to the
Religion and Labor Council of Kansas City.
This organization brought together union business reps and inter-faith religious leaders on a monthly basis for a round-table dialogue, the first of its kind in a regular, organized fashion.
Eventually I became one of the Moderators for the dialogue and was asked on many occasions to provide music. (The first photo is when I represented the Religion and Labor Council of Kansas City at the Missouri State AFL-CIO Convention; the second is when I chanted and 2 of our Sacred Dancers from the congregation I served interpreted for the Father’s Day Celebration in Kansas City, beside the Leeds Auto Assembly plant that was being idled.)
This also led me to read the scriptures with different eyes. When I came upon the Wisdom of Sirach, in the Apocrypha, I was moved to set the following words to music:
Chapter 38: 31-34
 All these rely upon their hands,
and each is skilful in his own work.
 Without them a city cannot be established,
and men can neither sojourn nor live there.
 Yet they are not sought out for the council of the people,
nor do they attain eminence in the public assembly.
They do not sit in the judge’s seat,
nor do they understand the sentence of judgment;
they cannot expound discipline or judgment,
and they are not found using proverbs.
 But they keep stable the fabric of the world,
and their prayer is in the practice of their trade.
When I heard the lament of a roofer from Shawnee Mission that his children were prevented from learning labor history in school because the district had a management bias, I thought of these words.
When I heard the pain of auto assembly workers whose jobs were being moved outside our borders to the Maquiladoras, I thought of these words.
When hard-working people would watch people drive foreign-made vehicles to church, talk and pray about justice around the world and be unable to connect their concerns with their own personal choices, I thought of these words.
When I heard an old preacher say that we had lost our sense of “value”, remembering a time when we thought of how long a product would last, rather than just seeking the cheapest price, I thought of these words.
And so I wrote this setting, Prayer is in the Practice of Our Trade, which we continue to sing every Labor Day in the churches I serve. (You can listen at the link and even download a sound file and sheet music so you can sing it, too.)