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Thursday, September 3, 2009

John L. Lewis Legacy - A Prayer for Labor Day

In 1969 political, racial and economic division shook our nation. A war was raging.

On July 11th of that year, John L. Lewis, the fierce, controversial and often divisive labor leader died, iconic titan that he was.

The prayer delivered at Mr. Lewis's memorial service placed in larger and broader, dare we say heavenly, context his passionate, combative and life-long struggle for justice for the American worker.

That was 40 years ago. Except for its archaic language the prayer delivered that day might be well prayed today.

Eternal God, the source of our life and the father of mankind, we praise thee for the courage
• of those who lead when the way is difficult;
• of those who perceive clarity when the horizon is clouded; and
• of those whose commitment to the cause of justice is greater than the fears that cripple lesser men.
Raise among us men of the future with the power of leadership we have seen in the past in thy servant John Llewellyn Lewis.

Grant that the necessary conflicts of democratic disagreement may not impair the greater unity we share.
Help us to hold fast to our principles when we believe them to be right, and yet to listen with humility and respect to those of another side.

Thou has blest our land with abundance and power.
Grant that our industry and labor, our wealth and our enterprise, may always be placed at the service of justice and peace for mankind, so that thy kingdom may surely come on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen.

This Memorial Prayer for John L. Lewis was delivered by the Reverend John C. Harper, Rector of St. John’s Church, Springfield IL a few days after Mr. Lewis’s death June 11, 1969. Copy of this prayer was donated to the John L. Lewis Mining and Labor Museum by Dr. Ron Roberts. The museum is in Lucas IA.

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