The word of the Lord came to Jonah: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it …” Jonah 1:1-2
You know the story. Jonah didn’t want to go. Because he refused to obey God, he ended up in the belly of a fish. And when he finally did do as God commanded, to his amazement, the people of Nineveh repented. But that’s what happens when we collaborate – with God, and with each other. We end up amazed.
I was reading about a physicist and a ballerina. A scientist and a dancer were collaborating to see if there was something about what each other was passionate about that might lead both of them in three directions. First, could their working together teach them something new about each others’ field of expertise? For spending the time talking together, undoubtedly they would gain greater appreciation for the complexities and beauty of a discipline totally different from their own.
Second, might they learn something new about their own research? Would the dancer challenge the scientist to think about gravity, torque, energy, motion in new ways? Would the physicist open the eyes of the dancer to complexities of movement that she had never realized before? Dancing isn’t easy; but perhaps talking with a physicist would reveal just why some of those movements were so tricky to pull off.
The first and second things happened. They found new ways of thinking about their own work, and greater appreciation for the others’ work as well. But there was a third thing that happened. It is a little more difficult to describe exactly what that was, other than to say that in the process of collaborating itself they discovered an avenue of learning that enveloped their particular fields of research, but was somehow different from the “parts” and greater than the “sum of the parts”. The aesthetic and the scientific came together for them in ways that compel them to continue to meet together, to work together, to discover and create together.
I watched a talk they both gave, and found myself thinking: I am not going to any more meetings. I am going to start attending ‘collaborations’. I’m a pastor, so I go to gatherings of Trustees, Finance, Personnel (we call it “Staff Parish Relations”), and Church Council – and plenty of other meetings … But I’m not going to any more “meetings”. I’m going to get together with people to collaborate – to be entrepreneurial together; to be creative and innovative. I’ll be looking for folks from other places and cultures and hoping to invite them in. I’ll be with folks who value both the interpersonal, face-to-face exchanges as well as those who value the information technology at our disposal.
There is one other item I would add to the list: Faith. From here on, when the Trustees or Finance or Staff Parish or Church Council or Worship Planners … or any other group gets together, I’m going to suggest that we don’t “meet”. Let’s collaborate – with each other, and with the Creative and Holy Spirit whose energy and grace we are immersed in. It’s not just a name change; it’s an entirely different focus. Let’s collaborate together, and open ourselves up to being amazed.