In the course of ministry in Newfoundland and Labrador, engaging persons in preparation for baptism, confirmation, and marriage has proven to be challenging at times. A large percentage of persons gain seasonal employment through various industries, both within and outside the province. I recall encountering challenges of confirmation preparation because one parent works in Alberta for a six week period with ten days off. Coordinating baptism preparation with both parents is difficult when one works in the oil industry, and may be in Saudi Arabia, Northern British Columbia, Brazil, or the Gulf of Mexico at any given time.
Faced with these challenges, I find myself turning not to Scriptures, but to reports offered by the provincial government. In a document entitled, “Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Market: Outlook 2020” (Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment) I came across information that helps give me perspective. Hear the words:
- NL has one of the most seasonal economies in the country
- Lowest number of workers, January 2010 – 200,600
- Highest number of workers, July 2010 – 235,300
- Those receiving employment income, 2008 – 286,640
- NL Labour Force , 2008 – 218,700
- Workers in NL tend to work more hours per week than workers anywhere else in Canada
From this, about 35,000 persons work seasonally in the province, both close to and away from home, and this seasonal employment is vital to industry, and also to the commercial and manufacturing sectors it supports. About 68,000 persons work outside the province (Alberta, Ontario, Internationally) and ‘commute’ to their work for periods of time. This is dedication and commitment.
The faith community has responsibility for all, not just those who come faithfully each week to ministry and worship. We are called to engage those who are required to gain employment in various areas in order to support their families. How do we engage these people? Do we ignore them because we don’t see them for periods of time? Do we dismiss them because they are not as invested in the day to day workings and ministries of the parish?
I believe we are called to engage, through prayer, through conversation and through listening. We must actively hold these persons in our hearts, and uphold them. They have chosen to live in our communities, and they choose to be associated with our centres of worship and service. They may not be as engaged as others, but they are trying to faithfully live out a relationship with God, and with the community of faith.
It is necessary for us to find appropriate patterns and practices to help these persons and their families engage. We are not called to dismiss them nor rebuke them because their pattern of life and work and worship differs from ours.