Ora and Labora
Last week I journeyed with Jason Coker, Field Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi, to a CBF minister’s retreat at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas. Subiaco Abbey is home to a community of about forty Benedictine monks who follow a tradition of ora and labora, prayer and work.
My time at the Abbey was a time for prayer. While I accomplished much work by catching up on reading and study, I was also able to keep a prayerful and restful rhythm to my week. I joined the monastic community in evening prayers and spent time with fellow ministers on hikes and in evening discussions about ministry and our shared calling. It was a week that felt like more ora than labora (a welcomed break after busy Lenten and early Easter seasons).
After returning home Thursday night, I journeyed back to the Delta to join a group of UBC folk in Shaw, MS, for a long day of labor on the exterior of the building that houses Delta Hands for Hope (DHH). We removed about 24’ of exterior wall and poured concrete to create structure for a new glass entrance UBC is helping provide. This updated entrance will be the centerpiece of a couple years of labor we have given to sprucing up the front of DHH’s building so as to be a sign of life and hope for the community—what a difference 24’ of glass will be compared to a boarded up entrance made of rotting wood. Indeed, I am already imagining all the natural light that will pour in on the summer activities, including an extensive feeding program that will soon take place at DHH.
My skill level is minimal when it comes to construction, but among other things I spent the day mixing many wheelbarrow loads of concrete.
As I returned home Saturday night, I thought a lot about the two seemingly disjointed aspects of my week. Days spent in prayer at a monastery and a long, hard day of labor. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you which one of the two drew me closer to God. I sensed the presence of Holy Spirit in both aspects of my week.
My reflection drew me again to the wisdom of Saint Benedict and the rule of life he composed in the early sixth century. Ora and labora, prayer and labor… the two belong together. As the people of Jesus, we are called to be people of prayer, seeking community with Holy Trinity. As the people of Jesus, we are called to be people who labor, joining Trinity in the hard work of bearing the good news of the Kingdom of God.
As the people of Jesus, as a church community, I hope we always strive to maintain both of these aspects of a spiritual, Jesus-centered life.