April 23, 2013


Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you.”
So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock,
and said to them, “I see your father’s countenance, that it is not favorable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me.
“And you know that with all my might I have served your father.
“Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.” (Genesis 31:3-7)

The Bible gives us such an honest picture of flawed human beings trying to live together. So here we have a Jacob—who early in life cheated brother Esau and deceived his father Isaac—being cheated by his employer/father-in-law Laban. Jacob doesn’t see this connection right now between his past and his present, but he does see that God has been with him as he worked hard and tried to bear patiently with repeated injustices. Now it’s time to move on. And he trusts that the Lord will be with him and guide him once again.

That doesn’t leave the Labans of this world off the hook. Injustice is the single most frequently condemned sin in the Bible.  Consider today’s Proverbs reading, which alone has three verses about justice and injustice.

21:3 To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

21:7 The violence of the wicked will destroy them, because they refuse to do justice.

21:15 It is a joy for the just to do justice, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.

Like Jacob, we will surely have episodes in our life when we are on both sides of the justice/injustice divide. There will be times to repent, times to stand our ground and times to move on. May the God who sees help us to see as well.

Father David Garretson: Priest and Labor Leader

Some aspects of this post may be controversial to some people and do not reflect an official position of the Orthodox Church in America. One of my aims for the Chancellor’s Diary is to show the range of work and views in the OCA. That’s one of the beauties of the Orthodox Church, its breadth and balance. 

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Fr David Garretson at Saints Peter and Paul Church, South River, NJ

Father David Garretson is pastor of SS Peter and Paul Church in South River, NJ and chair of the Metropolitan Council’s Human Resources Committee. He is also a union organizer and negotiator. With the blessing of Bishop Michael of New York and New Jersey, Father David continues his long-time service with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. IATSE members work behind the scenes in the crafts that support all forms of live theater, motion picture and television production, trade shows and exhibitions, television broadcasting, and concerts.

Bringing together both aspects of his vocation, this week Father David is participating in the Priest-Labor Initiative being held in Reno, Nevada and sponsored by the Catholic Federation of Priests’ Councils. Last year he participated in the founding meeting of the Priest-Labor Initiative which seeks to give clergy tools to help workers—often new immigrants—facing unfair wages, hours and working conditions.

Father David sees the union as a defender of the dignity of human beings and his work as an extension of his priestly ministry. He mentioned to me the Russian Orthodox Church’s The Basis of the Social Concept, which affirms the right to private property but also gives priority to the dignity of workers. 

Continuing on earth the service of Christ Who identified Himself with the destitute, the Church always comes out in defence of the voiceless and powerless. Therefore, she calls upon society to ensure the equitable distribution of the fruits of labour, in which the rich support the poor, the healthy the sick, the able-bodied the elderly. The spiritual welfare and survival of society are possible only if the effort to ensure life, health and minimal welfare for all citizens becomes an indisputable priority in distributing the material resources. (VI.6)

“My entire life has been within the labor movement,” he says. “This is one of the reasons I became a priest. I was inspired to enter priestly ministry because it’s my belief and my experience that the Christian church and the labor movement are the institutions that preserve human dignity, the icon of Christ.”

Fr Garretson
Father David Garretson at work for the IATSE (with staff photographer for the Democratic Convention)

He works as a Special Representative for the IATSE and is responsible for negotiating contracts, organizing workers, and resolving grievances and disputes. Father David co-ordinated the technical labor for the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. He served in the same capacity in the centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 and as an Orthodox Deacon at the time organized the inter-faith response to the Centennial Park bombing in Atlanta. For more on the IATSE see www.iatse-intl.org.