Norfolk’s Good Work encourages active faith in workplace

Here Audrey Sharp, formerly Head of HR for Norfolk County Council, and former Chair of Good Work (Norfolk and Waveney Industrial Mission) encourages Christians to live out their faith in the workplace actively and intentionally, quietly but not secretly.

Good Work (Norfolk and Waveney Industrial Mission) funds and supports inter-denominational workplace chaplaincy in a number of organisations around Norfolk to provide pastoral care for employees and to be an example of faith at work. Here the Chair of Good Work, Audrey Sharp, encourages Christians across Norfolk to serve the Lord in the workplace.
I stumbled across a quotation the other day from the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho: “The world is changed by your example, not your opinion”
That is not entirely true but it reminded me of Matthew 6:1, in which we are encouraged not to wear our religion on our sleeves. And the verse in chapter seven, ‘by their fruits you shall know them’. Both these imply the strength of personal example over showy words and public piety. It struck me that this is the approach most Christians take in living out their faith, day to day, in the workplace.
The British Social Attitudes survey, published recently and well covered in the media, shows for the first time that those who declare no affiliation to any formal religion are now the majority of the population – 53 per cent. No longer is it normal to declare ‘C of E’ as a default position when asked. This may mean that the 47 per cent, representing many faiths, are more likely to be religious by choice, not inheritance.
Few Christians feel it is necessary or even desirable to talk openly in the workplace about their faith, regarding it as a private matter. While the Equality Act acknowledges religion as an important aspect of diversity, it is often the one employers are least sure about. Race, sexuality and disability issues seem to have much more currency. Religion is less discussed and understood. This can cause discomfort for all people of faith, not only Christians.
Increasingly Christians may feel they are facing a dilemma. Do we keep quiet in case our colleagues are hostile or mocking? Occasionally a colleague may have their own difficult history, the result of a strict religious upbringing. There may be dilemmas of conscience which some find hard to reconcile with their faith. We remember the bakery in Northern Ireland and the B&B owners who faced challenges to their conscience in offering their services to the public.
The wide variety of attitudes held within the church on many social and moral issues can hinder understanding by those outside and some Christians may be stereotyped, making it hard for them to be open about their faith. Religion, sex and politics are not good subjects for water cooler conversation.
To be restricted in this way is a pity. It denies the very thing that informs and enriches our lives, that sustains us every day and makes us the people we are.
But that is to paint a gloomy picture. Most people don’t want to be preachy or make others uncomfortable. They prefer, through friendship and example, to let God’s light shine through their professionalism, compassion, integrity and decency. By their fruits you shall know them.
Most organisations, and I found this to be true in the public sector, contain many Christians living out their faith actively and intentionally, quietly but not secretly. Personally, I think this is the most powerful example of all: that we, shaped and sustained by our faith, are valued for our work performance, our integrity and humanity. We need to live up to this ideal.
At the end of the church service we are told to ‘go forth to love and serve the Lord. And that includes in the workplace.

This article and the accompanying photograph was reproduced by kind permission of 'The Magazine' produced by the Diocese of Norwich. You can read the rest of this edition of 'The Magazine' here and you can also sign up to receive your free copy by post.

Published: 22/01/2018