Parson's Handbook: avoid sweatshops

Dearmer, in his introduction, reviews the poor esteem his Church then held for the arts: how commercial purchase has replaced patronage for its decorations and furnishings. Little wonder — it follows — how little concern artists have for the Church. In case the Unitarian Universalists out there have glazed-over eyes, I should point out it was Percy Dearmer who commissioned the hymn “Morning Has Broken.” Got your attention now?

He goes on and spells out the moral problem — to use our terms — of outsourcing vendors. More than the class of artists

. . . there is another class of persons concerned, the largest of all, the working class. For vulgarity in the long-run always means cheapness, and cheapness means the tyranny of the sweater [sweatshop supervisor]. A modern preacher often stands in a sweated pulpit, wearing a sweated surplice over a cassock that was not produced under fair conditions, and, holding a sweated book in one hand, with the other he points to the machine-made cross at the jerry-built altar, and appeals to the sacred principles of mutual sacrifice and love. (page 5)

He’s still right in principle, but it is now easy to buy all the church goods you need — save electronics — from American, Canadian and western European suppliers with less risk of buying from a sweatshop than anything else might use for clothing or decor. I’ve written about some of the suppliers before, including the candle makers under union contract. Indeed, indirectly, Dearmer gets credit here too, for his part in the formation of the Wareham Guild, for “the making of all the ‘Ornaments of the Church and of the Ministers thereof’ according to the standard of the Ornaments Rubric, and under fair conditions of labour” thus influencing both the style and default labor conditions of church and clergy furnishings workers.

But we can never be too careful, especially when we’re tempted by bargains.

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