A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
14th November 2005
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Over the last year the Cathedral Partnership has been growing. Steadily more people are signing on as Partners in the congregation they attend.
Partnership is open to anybody who loves the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and who wants to be actively committed to the ministry of the gospel at the Cathedral in a particular congregation.
It is a commitment to do more than attend the Cathedral or be members of the Cathedral. It is the commitment to be partners in the ministry of the gospel in and through a particular Cathedral congregation.
Words mean anything we want them to. Though if we want to communicate with each other it is better to use words in the way that they are commonly understood. ‘Fellowship, membership and partnership’ are all words that are often used of congregational life. To understand the Cathedral Partnership we need to be clear about the difference we mean between membership, fellowship and partnership.
All these terms are Biblical. We have ‘fellowship’ with one another and “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son.” We are 'members' of Christ and as such, members of his body. Each member of the body needs to work in harmony and unity for the body to work. We are ‘partners’ in the gospel—in its proclamation, the sufferings and the kingdom.
‘Fellowship’ is the common translation of a key word in the New Testament. When Christians use the word today they often think of ‘warm, friendly feelings’ over a cup of tea or coffee. Yet in the New Testament ‘fellowship’ meant, ‘owning or sharing something in common’. It frequently referred to money being shared. Thus the more prosaic and less religious word ‘partner’ can better capture the meaning and feeling of the New Testament word.
The ‘members’ or parts of our bodies are all active as long as we are alive. But ‘membership’ in most organizations today involves application to join, acceptance by the club or institution, keeping the rules and usually paying an annual subscription. Members do not have to do anything. You can be an active member—joining in club activities or serving on a committee—but you do not have to. In a consumer society like ours, membership usually means using the club facilities and trying to get value for money.
Partnership is also a word that can imply inactivity. Dictionaries have a special entry for sleeping partners—“those not sharing in the actual work of a firm”. But the implication of the term ‘sleeping partner’ is that normally partners do share in the actual work of a firm. For the word in general implies an active participation in shared relationship.
So around the Cathedral, we invite those who attend to become more than members—to become ‘partners’—to become actively involved in the Cathedral. Partners not in the Cathedral but in what it stands for—the ministry of the gospel.
Partnership involves a greater participation in our corporate life. For example, in the Sunday morning congregation, the partners usually engage in weekly Bible study and prayer, circulate a weekly prayer letter, meet quarterly for a day conference, and are planning a weekend away on March 10-12 at the Stanwell Tops conference centre.
However, partnership is more than extra meetings to attend. It is a commitment to actively and prayerfully use whatever gifts God has given us to promote the ministry of the Gospel of our Lord. It is a commitment to involve ourselves as best we can in congregational life.
For more information about becoming a partner, ask the pastoral staff or your congregation.-----