In the 1930’s, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house that many consider his most beautiful. The owner had requested that the waterfall on the property be showcased, and that the house be built as close as possible to the waterfall. True to his genius, Mr. Wright decided to build the house over the waterfall! In order to accomplish this the main part of the structure had to support the horizontal part that cantilevered above the natural wonder. The house came to be known as Fallingwater. This now-famous structure can serve as an example of collaborative ministry as represented by Saints Peter and Paul as well as the new way of ministry the Catholic Church embraces as a result of Vatican II.
The vertical and horizontal aspects of Fallingwater share a strong connection and interdependence. The main section provides the necessary support and foundation so as to accommodate the part that juts or “reaches” out. One part cannot function properly without the other.
The same is true in collaborative ministry. The rock foundation of our faith, as represented by Peter provides a sure support for the outreach and evangelization to the world as represented by Paul. The information and conversation garnered through outreach and evangelization are then applied as reinforcement to the vertical foundation of doctrine and dogma.
The tension that exists between opposites can be constructive or destructive. The deciding factor lies in collaboration and compromise or division and stubbornness. Peter and Paul together worked in a synergy that neither could accomplish on their own. It is collaboration and unity that Saints Peter and Paul represented in the outworking of their respective missions and ministries.
Many Ways to Serve God
The mission of the Church, put simply, is to bring Christ to others. Our mission as Christians is the same. We must always bear in mind that as individuals we are part of the Body of Christ, and as such we are unified through our immense diversity. We are all called to different parts of God’s vineyard at different stages in our lives.
Peter’s approach would not have been as effective in Paul’s “territory”, and vice versa. The way in which each was called to ministry was vastly different, and can serve as two distinct ways to serve the Church. There are as many ways to serve God and others as there are individuals in the Body of Christ; no two are identical.
There is a tendency in human nature to be myopic in our view of the world and the Church. We gravitate toward people who are like-minded with us and distance ourselves from those who seem to be opposed to us. Life becomes narrow and perhaps deep, but is seen through a small lens.
The broader view that is afforded through embracing diversity in society and in the Church allows for true collaborative efforts. Growth is achieved precisely because of our differences and the creative tension that tills the soil in the vineyard that is the Church.
In the both/and of Collaborative Ministry, conservative and liberal approaches can achieve meaningful compromise. One should never dominate at the expense of the other. Let us follow the example of Peter, Paul and the structure of Fallingwater by supporting one another in our rock foundation while reaching out to the world.