Labor in the Pulpit: El Centro de Obreros y Fe

Carol Bullard-Bates
Members of Faith and Workers Center, El Centro de Obreros y Fe

September 5, 2021
     Psalm 146
     James 2:1-17

I have been honored to be the Chaplain Organizer for what used to be the Empowerment Faith Center and now is called the Faith and Workers Center, El Centro de Obreros y Fe for over two years. We pray, support each other in our health and with our prayers, work and act for justice. COVID-19 has been a time in our lives where we all had to face the unbelievable, the whole world shutting down because of a terrible plague.  This hit our most vulnerable people the worst.

Knowing our members in the El Centro helped me to see how our country left many people behind. There were stimulus checks for citizens, but not for those who worked hard every day and paid taxes, but who were not citizens. The Psalm says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.” It is a shocking thing to me that very few people in Congress thought about the eleven million people who work in the fields to enable us to eat, who keep our buildings and stores and airports and hotels clean, who serve in restaurants, who take care of so many of our children, that they too needed the stimulus checks so much more than most of us in our congregation and others who did not lose their jobs.

Our members in El Centro stayed strong spiritually as they all lost their jobs and had no income. They trusted that God’s word was true,

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow.”

Our members were faithful to each other and to our vision for creating work for many to do during the pandemic. The pandemic made this difficult. Marina started to work cleaning for an ambassador and his family in a local embassy. She got the job because Santos, one of our members, talked up our Centro to someone she knew, and somehow one of our cards got to the embassy. After Marina had been there for a week, the ambassador decided it was too risky for her to come there because they were older, since this was before the vaccinations. His wife was so pleased with her work, and wanted to support El Centro, but the ambassador would not allow Marina to stay. As our members and their other family members are returning to work, many are only given part time which is not enough to pay for their rent and their food. We have been delivering food ever since the pandemic started.

Eighth Day Faith Community came through for our members as many donated their stimulus checks and other donations which made it possible for our members to pay their rent and stay in their homes. You were the hope they needed in the midst of losing so much. You were God’s hands, helping to sustain them.

Jesus gathered his disciples to train them to be leaders in their communities. Many of his disciples were poor fishermen. He taught them to see what the truth of the gospel was, that we have spiritual power and political power to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. Jesus reminded people that “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of God.” Jesus knew that people who were poor understood what needed to be changed in their community and could make all the difference in bringing God’s kingdom to the earth. He knew they were leaders who could make a difference. In James 2 we read “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” I would add to the James passage, “and to build the kingdom here on earth?” Our Centro members are very rich in faith. We have our Centro members to show us the way to make changes that are needed here in Washington DC. They are the leaders we need to build the Kingdom of God here. They are the leaders we need to improve working conditions for everyone. We are going to hold politicians and employers accountable where our members’ working conditions need to change. Amen