“Then the angels asked God, “Is the world finished yet?” and God answered, I don’t know. Go ask my partners!”* This last sentence from the story, Partners by Rabbi Marc Gellman (as midrash) has a big impact. Partners is a creation story in which the angels are flustered by the messy-ness of creation and ask God to help. God continually points the angels in the direction of those with whom they can partner, to little avail. The last line is comical and powerful. I can imagine God in the most frustrated and flustered of voices; I don’t know, Go ask my partners! Our partnership in God’s creation and re-creation is a central theme of our discipleship. That we are not asked to do it alone, nor could we do much of it alone, is also central to our journey as disciples in the way of Jesus. Let’s explore a few ideas about partnership.
If you’ve ever sent me an e-mail or contacted me, you know this; I sign all my e-mail communications with the valediction, In Partnership. As a matter of fact, In Partnership is the name of a monthly e-blast I send to faith formation and youth ministry leaders with information and resources for and about our mutual, collective work. Link here.
Why, In Partnership, you may ask? For one essential reason. It is a prayerful reminder to me and prayerfully, to the one I am communicating with, that we need each other. We’re in this together. Our work in the Body of Christ, in our communities, and in the world, is a partnership between ourselves and our good and gracious God. It is a humble reminder for us of the importance of right relationship in all we do and in the many ways we are connected. It is a statement of a covenant formed in mutuality.
What makes a good partnership? The scions of business will name important criteria. We can name many qualities and characteristics I suspect. At the heart of a good partnership is first and foremost that at all times, I look for the Christ in you and you in me. To me it means that there are times when you lead and I support. There are moments when I lead and you support. There are occasions that call us to walk alongside one another- supporting one another and those we meet. There are moments when we point the way to new partnerships and create new connections. The key for me is that there exists within it all, an environment of mutual respect, care, and authenticity. The best and most effective partnerships are formed in the context of communities, organizations, and families within whom these values and this way of being are deeply formed.
In the Christian texts we find a model. To love one another, to exhort one another, to inquire of one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to submit to one another. To remind one another of our common interest, our compassion and our presence; these are a few of the gifts of interdependent partnerships. In his book, One Anothering, Richard C. Myer describes these themes as essential to the healthiest of relationships and partnerships. Deep within us, there is a desire to belong, to seek aliveness.
Will the present and future church create spaces for new and meaningful partnerships? How?
How will we live this as we come together as one? Perhaps by bringing to mind, as often as we need to, the essential practices of healthy partnerships and that we truly, need one another.
Karen Ziel is the Minister of Faith Formation and Leadership for the CT Conference, UCC.
Many Voices, One Mission is a regular series highlighting the ministries of the
CT, MA, and RI Conference of the United Church of Christ.
Karen works in partnership with the team to guide congregations in self-assessment and discernment, and to provide or suggest effective programs for clergy and lay leadership development. Contact her to: Connect your congregation with the tools and...