The Rev. John A. Dalles, pastor of Wekiva Presbyterian Church in Longwood, Fla., has been named winner of the 14th annual hymn-writing contest sponsored by Macalester Plymouth United Church of St. Paul, Minn.

This year’s contest — for a hymn to be sung Labor Day weekend — asked for “words that especially address the plight of the unemployed. Traditionally, we have celebrated work on Labor Day. But what if one does not have work of is under-employed? Denied the opportunity to earn a living, an unemployed worker often questions his or her value and worth. We hope to explore the role of the church in addressing these issues."

Dalles, who has been pastor at Wekiva Church since 1997, entitled his hymn “God Bless the Work Your People Do.” A life member of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, his hymn texts have been published in a number of denominational hymnals, including the 1990 Presbyterian Hymnal (PCUSA) and the New Century Hymnal (UCC). His two hymns in the PC(USA) hymnal are “Come, O Spirit!” (#127) and “God Bless Your Church with Strength” (#418).

His winning hymn:

God, Bless The Work Your People Do

God, bless the work your people do throughout each working day,
The contributions that they make, the talents they display.
God, bless the work your people do, with minds and hands and hearts,
To benefit the common good, the sciences and arts.
For all who have no respite, God, from labor without ease,
For those for whom their work is filled with danger or disease.
For all who labor without gain; or have no rest this day;
For all who labor without hope, O God, we humbly pray;
We pray for those who cannot work, or seek for work in vain,
Great God, we pray your mercy shall encourage them, again!
We pray for those whose work is hard, on body, spirit, soul,
The underpaid, under-employed, who fill a vital role.
Grant unto each a day designed for worship, joy and rest;
A Sabbath time of holiness, in which they may be blessed.
As you achieved creation’s work, then rested from your task,
God bless the work your people do, and call it good, we ask!

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The Rev. Phil Tom, associate for small church and community ministry  in the General Assembly Mission Council, has been appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as director for the Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives for the Department of Labor. He began his new work in Washington, D.C., on April 5.

“I will help build partnerships with faith-based and community groups to improve the lives of workers, particularly in the areas of livable wages and working conditions,” said Tom. “The Presbyterian Church has been supportive of labor rights for more than 100 years. I look forward to continuing the work of bringing about God’s justice and peace in our world.”

Before joining the national staff in 2000, Tom was pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. He also served as associate for urban ministry from 1993-1996.  

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Robert L. Thompson, a successful Pittsburgh businessman who later served briefly as director of funds development ministry for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s General Assembly Mission Council, died March 20 of complications from pneumonia. He was 75.

Thompson was president and CEO of Ketchum  Inc. in Pittsburgh and an active Presbyterian elder. In 2007, he agreed to serve in the GAMC’s funds development post, but in September of 2008 suffered a severe stroke.

He grew up in the Highland Park section of Pittsburgh and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. Thompson was a longtime member of Waverly Presbyterian Church, where his memorial service was held March 27.

His first wife, Carol, died in 2000. Thompson is survived by his second wife, Jocelyn R. Thompson of Highland Park. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by two daughters, Jean Bird and Nancy Silverman; a son, Kenneth; two step-daughters, Sarah Coles and Elizabeth Chapin; and four grandchildren.

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Lucky Phelps, 83, of San Anselmo, Calif., widely known for her many years of volunteer work for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and other charitable causes, died March 12.   

Phelps served in numerous volunteer positions in northern California, including at San Francisco Theological Seminary, the San Anselmo Historical Society, the Marin Interfaith Council, the Presbytery of the Redwoods,  the former Synod of Northern California and Nevada, Crop Walks and the United Farm Workers.

In southern California, she served with the Pomona Valley Council of Churches, YWCA, PTA, Presbyrerian Women, Colton School Board, American Field Service, Head Start, Presbyteries of Riverside and San Diego. Nationally, she worked with the General Assembly Council, Presbyterian Women and the Presbyterian Foundation.

Phelps is survived by four children and two half-brothers. A memorial service has been scheduled for April 17 in Montgomery Chapel on the SFTS campus in San Anselmo.

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Mary “Merry” Dalton Long, who served as a Presbyterian missionary for more than 30 years in Congo and Brazil, died at her home in Brandon, MS, on March 15 after a twelve year battle with cancer. A memorial service was held March 18 at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS.

Long, a registered nurse, served in Congo and Brazil with her husband, Paul B. Long. After returning to her native Mississippi, she continued to work as a marriage and family therapist.

In addition to her husband, Long is survived by five sons and daughters — Paul Jr., Elizabeth Madison, Virginia Webster, Stephen Long, Charles Long and their spouses; 21 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her brothers, Spencer and John Dalton, and a sister, Debora Black Grill.