Ralph Waldo Emerson on Vocation

Drawing of Ralph Waldo EmmersonFrom a sermon preached by Ralph Waldo Emerson at the Second Church, Boston, October 21, 1832:

How many men now regard their business as so much interruption, as so much injury to their religious life? Their religious character is something separate from their daily actions. If instead of this each man worked in his favorite calling in the way and according to the principles of his own inward Teacher – and therefore with love – if he saw in every day’s labor that he was thereby growing more skillful and more wise; that he was co-operating with God in his own education, so that every dollar he earned was a medal of so much real power, — the fruit and means of so much real goodness; if neither his working hours nor his rest was lost time, but all was helping him onward, — would not his heart sing for joy? Would not the day be brighter and even the night light about him? Would not company be more pleasant and even solitude be sociable and his life reveal a new heaven and a new earth to his purer eyes?

The concept of calling can mean different things to different people, and in fact there are several different definitions in use by scholars of the subject. But I think Emerson points to something that should not be left out —

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Passion and Our Work

Photo of woman concentrating on work
We sometimes hear that we should “follow our passion”. But what happens when we actually do have a passion for our work – or maybe for some aspect of our work? Is this positive? Or is it negative? Actually, according to psychologist Robert Vallerand, it could be either one — depending on the type of passion. Vallerand has written a very interesting and valuable book called the Psychology of Passion: A Dualistic Model in which he proposes that there are two types of passion: harmonious and obsessive. This has important implications for our work lives, which we explore in this episode.
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Spiritual Renewal for Your Work Life


What might spiritual renewal mean? In this episode we explore what spiritual renewal could mean for our work life. Maybe it would lead to working with greater purpose, compassion, and equanimity, and help us develop a higher level of collaboration and teamwork. We also discuss how our faith and spirituality might help us find spiritual renewal.
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Developing a Deeper Sense of Mission and Purpose: Can Prayer Help?

Praying manMost of us would probably like to work with a deeper sense of purpose and mission; maybe prayer can help. This episode begins with story about a time when Jesus went off and prayed by himself in the early morning hours. You might find it has something important to say about a possible connection between prayer and the sense of purpose or mission we bring to our work. In this connection, we also discuss receptive prayer as a helpful spiritual practice.(Time: 7:20)
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A Theology of Entrepreneurship

theology of entrepreneurship lgThe Entrepreneurial Calling: Perspectives from Rahner by the late William J. Toth of Seton Hall is an extraordinary theological reflection on the entrepreneurial vocation and the deeper significance of the entrepreneur’s hope, risk, and service to others. A central concept for Toth was that of “providential love.”  This concept combines the idea of looking forward and anticipating the future with a desire to create something of value for others. The entrepreneur intends to create part of the future, but at the same time recognizes that success or failure will be determined by others who are free to accept or reject the offer made by the entrepreneur.

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Do We Really Want to Integrate Our Faith and Our Work?

Underlying much of the “faith and work” movement and many of the books on the subject is the assumption that religious people want to connect their faith and their work.  In a recent presentation to the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Rice University sociologist Brandon Vaidyanathan questioned this assumption and made some very interesting observations based on his research.During his presentation, he raised the provocative issue that perhaps people usually see faith and work as two competing spheres with separate devotions and would actually prefer to keep them separate.

I think he is on to something important, but I think the problem is not so much that there is a necessary conflict between faith and work, but rather how we understand (or misunderstand) the nature of one or the other or perhaps both.

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Work Engagement and The Value of Workplace Spirituality

Work engagement — the degree to which we are engaged in our work — is an important issue. The level of engagement of employees and volunteers is critically important for the health of organizations. And from the perspective of the individual doing the work, whether employed or self employed, it would be difficult to find satisfaction and fulfillment in work with which we are not fully engaged.

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Find Your Calling — Music and Acorns

MusicianA few months ago I attended a retreat that focused on Celtic spirituality.  At one point, the retreat leader used a very appealing metaphor – find your own music.  He told a story of Irish musicians who, before playing, would quietly listen inwardly “to hear the music.”  He challenged us to listen for our own music, and then to play it through our lives.  I took this as a metaphor for a calling. We think of a calling as something we are called to do, as a life mission of sorts.  Sometimes we hear people express it as something that comes from beyond ourselves, as in “I was called by God to do . . .” But people also talk of it as something that comes from from deep within us, like our own music for which we need to listen.

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The Role of Congregations in Faith/Work Integration

photo of churchBaylor University sociologists Jerry Park, Jenna Rogers, Mitchell Neubert, and Kevin Dougherty released a new study looking at the role of congregations in encouraging healthy work attitudes. The study found that there tended to be higher ratings for affective organizational commitment and job satisfaction if the respondent’s congregation placed a higher value on work and the respondent had higher involvement with the congregation (as measured by attendance).  If either element was missing (less importance placed on work by the congregation or less frequent attendance) then there appeared to be no positive benefit.

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