Traditioned Innovation Awards honor work that holds together past and future

Leadership Education at Duke Divinity grants Traditioned Innovation Awards to initiatives that engage in experiments to transform communities by living out the convictions of an ancient faith in the current challenging circumstances.

“Traditioned innovation” is a way of thinking developed by theologian L. Gregory Jones that holds the past and future in tension, not in opposition, and is crucial to the growth and vitality of Christian institutions. The awardees inspire Christian leaders to consider our convictions and daily activities so that we may more abundantly bear witness to the reign of God. They do that by:

  • embodying one or more Christian practices in their pattern of work;
  • cultivating an economic imagination for sponsors, participants and observers;
  • nurturing the conditions for friendships that move beyond transactional relationships to ones of mutual appreciation, learning and growth;
  • rooting their work in building and sustaining community; and
  • inspiring and nurturing other groups with similar vision for thriving communities

The 2023 winners are A Sanctified Art in Black Mountain, North Carolina; Ignatian Solidarity Network in University Heights, Ohio; Nuns & Nones in New York, New York; and Oikos Institute for Social Impact in Chicago, Illinois. Each will receive $10,000 and be featured in Faith & Leadership.

A panel of judges collects nominations and recommends award recipients.

“The Traditioned Innovation Award recognizes and affirms the faithful and innovative work of an outstanding community initiative rooted in Christian practices,” said Victoria White, Leadership Education’s managing director of grants. “This year the award focuses on catalytic organizations that are effective in their own community while also nurturing groups with similar vision for thriving communities. Their work creates a broad impact because they are committed to cultivating future faith-rooted leaders and creating interconnected networks for sharing resources and support. Focusing on the flourishing of others while also transforming their own communities, especially in this season of change and uncertainty, is work we want to affirm. Catalytic leaders are making thoughtful and strategic decisions to guide their institutions through uncertainty and often come out stronger on the other side.”

2023 Award Winners

Image courtesy of A Sanctified Art

A Sanctified Art in Black Mountain, North Carolina

A Sanctified Art is an artist collective that provides visual art, poetry and other creative multimedia resources for liturgical worship, offering worshipping communities a helpful path to integrate art and creativity into their spiritual practice. Serving an ecumenical and global audience, this team of artists, pastors, writers, musicians, scholars and poets root their work in scripture to guide, facilitate and enrich the spiritual lives of worshippers around the world. More than 3,000 churches use their resources offered each church season, curating individual and collective experiences of scripture, liturgical seasons and worship in a living way that is also deeply rooted in tradition.

How does A Sanctified Art exemplify traditioned innovation?

A Sanctified Art comes alongside some of the most basic Christian practices — worshipping together, praying, reading scripture and singing within the church — with inspiration, creativity and God-breathed mystery. A Sanctified Art is committed to expanding imagination around the divine image and providing resources with inclusive and affirming theology in deep and fresh ways for church leaders and the communities they serve.

Image courtesy of the Ignatian Solidarity Network

Ignatian Solidarity Network in University Heights, Ohio

Rooted in the spiritual tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola and Catholic Social Teaching, the Ignatian Solidarity Network continues and expands the work that started as a Teach-In under a tent. Those initial gatherings were inspired by the witness of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador and their companions, who were killed in 1989 by the Salvadoran military, many trained in the U.S., for their commitment to the marginalized and oppressed during the Salvadoran civil war. Today, ISN is animated by the witness of the martyrs, and seeks change through transformational programs and resources that deepen faith and lead to dismantling systemic injustice; collaborative initiatives that bridge divides and overcome exclusion; and collective action to defend and promote the inherent dignity of all God’s creation — both people and planet. ISN connects local, national and global communities to form lay leaders and co-laborers with the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and the Catholic Church in solidarity and kinship with the marginalized, while also inviting people of goodwill, across generations, to be prophetic and effective leaders in personal, social and ecological conversion.

How does the Ignatian Solidarity Network exemplify traditioned innovation?

The Ignatian Solidarity Network holds the generative tension with previous generations of Christians who have modeled prophetic witness and been martyred for their faith with a new generation seeking a faith that lives and loves through acts of justice, dignity and hope. Best known for convening the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, the largest annual Catholic social justice gathering in the United States, ISN engages hundreds of thousands of individuals each year through in-person and online programs, advocacy campaigns, web content and resources all designed to animate the legacy of the witness of prior generations toward prophetic action responding to the signs of our times.

Image courtesy of Nuns & Nones

Nuns & Nones in New York, New York

Nuns & Nones is an intergenerational, spiritual community of Catholic sisters and seekers dedicated to care, contemplation and courageous action in service of life and liberation. Together they explore themes such as community, belonging, justice, spiritual practice and how to respond to the needs of the times through local groups and gatherings; a growing national network; pilots, such as a six-month residency in a convent; and ultimately a new imagination of spiritual community. Nuns & Nones share a call to engage in the long-term work of repair and renewal in the world through embodying counter-cultural lifestyles, lifelong commitments, spiritual practice and prophetic action modeled by women religious and spiritual elders, and with that inspiration have initiated new experiments and expressions of lives and works committed to spirit and justice. Two of their most significant areas of work are their emerging spiritual Covenantal Community and the Land Justice Project.

How does Nuns & Nones exemplify traditioned innovation?

Nuns & Nones draw from the wise and prophetic streams of multiple spiritual and religious traditions to deepen their paths and accompany each other in embracing an everyday mysticism with gratitude, wonder, and creative, compassionate action. They bring the centuries old tradition of “religious life” to a new generation and expand the horizons of what is possible.

Image courtesy of Oikos Institute for Social Impact

Oikos Institute for Social Impact in Chicago, Illinois

Oikos Institute for Social Impact’s vision is for congregations to see social impact as an act of discipleship. Born in the Black church and frequently serving those congregations, the institute helps congregations strategically respond to the disorienting effects of gentrification, disproportionate unemployment and changing local demographics by harnessing the power of their assets. Through Oikos Institute leadership and capacity development programs, congregations and seminary and university community cohorts revisit their theological and cultural foundations to determine how they might reimagine their relationship to their neighborhoods and more fully access their faith, intellectual, social and human capital toward transformation and renewal. In addition to learning opportunities, Oikos Institute’s strategic partnership with Crossing Capital Group brings additional relationships, expertise and financial resources to create a supportive network and fuel participating congregations’ initiatives.

How does Oikos Institute for Social Impact exemplify traditioned innovation?

Founded by a mission-driven former investment banker and a strategically leading seminary professor who are both active pastors, the institute catalyzes the imagination of congregations to view the work of increasing economic mobility and addressing persistent structural inequities within their communities as acts of discipleship. They hold together a theological vision with technical assistance, flexible and patient capital and support networks that amplify their voice. Oikos comes alongside congregations as they fully embrace their role as anchor institutions — place-based, deeply rooted organizations that hold significant social capital and assets and support holistic flourishing for the entire community.

For more information about the Traditioned Innovation Award, please contact us at

Past Traditioned Innovation Award Winners

Read stories about how past winners are creatively addressing challenges and renewing their institutions.

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