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 2022 winners are The Pace Center in Richmond, Virginia; Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas; Matthew 25 So Cal/Puentes Collective in Santa Ana, California; and POWER Interfaith in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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.”

2022 Award Winners

Image courtesy of the Pace Center

The Pace Center in Richmond, Virginia

The Pace Center is an inclusive, multicultural student community at Virginia Commonwealth University. As a ministry supported by the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Richmond, VA, this interfaith space uses asset-based community development to focus on the strengths and interests of students rather than focusing on their needs. Pace student leaders conduct listening surveys to discover the gifts and dreams of the VCU community. Students then create community-building programs based on those gifts. Students are welcomed in an environment in which every individual is valued for their unique and significant community contributions. The practices and events of the Pace Center stand in opposition to current isolation narratives, and create opportunities for students to live in deep relationship with one another.

How does the Pace Center exemplify traditioned innovation?

Equipping students with asset-based community development tools enables them to listen and learn about their community’s gifts and dreams. Rather than designing programs to address needs or deficits, the students match the resources of the campus and student body, and experiment with ways to build connections. Asset-based community development skills enable the students to recognize and utilize God’s abundance to address the places of scarcity in their midst.

Photo courtesy of Annunciation House

Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas

Annunciation House is a volunteer organization that offers hospitality to migrants, immigrants and refugees in El Paso, Texas. Annunciation House volunteers live in community with the people they serve in order to gain a deeper understanding of what constitutes more just relationships between peoples, countries and economies. Founded by a group of young lay Catholics, Annunciation House has provided basic necessities — shelter, clothing, food and companionship — to more than a hundred thousand migrants and refugees during its 45-year history. In addition, it participates in advocacy and education around immigration issues, as it seeks to be a Gospel-rooted voice for justice and compassion for the most marginalized of society. As part of this outreach mission, Annunciation House leads immersion experiences for those who want to better understand migration and the realities of the border.

How does Annunciation House exemplify traditioned innovation?

Annunciation House does not consider itself a “social service agency.” It is not a building, a project, a job or a work site. Rather, it is a way of living that centers welcoming the stranger; caring for the least of our brothers and sisters; breaking bread in community; and imagining alternative relationships — economic, social, political, cultural and environmental — between the United States and its closest neighbors. Annunciation House’s identity reflects the influences of Catholic social teaching, from liberation theology to the Catholic Worker movement, as shaped by the unique environment of the border.

Image courtesy of Matthew 25 So Cal/Puentes Collective

Matthew 25 So Cal/Puentes Collective in Santa Ana, California

Puentes Collective and Matthew 25 So Cal collaborate in forming and nurturing young Latinx Millennial leaders by facilitating border pilgrimages that center wisdom and efforts from the Mexican border churches with knowledge of the role of the American church, border history and immigration reform efforts. Matthew 25 So Cal and Puentes Collective contribute valuable insight on the anti-racism and reconciliation education needed by the church as they highlight the anti-Blackness, anti-indigenous sentiment and colorism faced by Black and indigenous migrants on both sides of the border.

How does Puentes Collective/Matthew 25 SoCal exemplify traditioned innovation?

Puentes Collective centers equity and justice in their border pilgrimages by paying an equitable wage for puentes on both sides of the border who plan, guide and hold space for all the participants. They employ undocumented/DACAmented puentes, those who cannot otherwise cross into the Mexican border, to share their story with dignity and power.

Photo courtesy of POWER Interfaith

POWER Interfaith in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

POWER Interfaith is a grassroots organization of Pennsylvania congregations and individuals committed to racial and economic justice on a livable planet. They work with faith communities to address issues of climate justice, economic dignity, gun violence, education and mass incarceration, while simultaneously contributing to congregational vitality. POWER seeks to create a more just world by teaching communities how to exercise and build their own power to address the root causes of the daily injustices they face. POWER roots their work in God’s goodness and compassion for the suffering to organize and empower the people of Pennsylvania to live and work together so that God’s presence is known and neighbors and neighborhoods flourish.

How does POWER Interfaith exemplify traditioned innovation?

POWER leaders seek to understand how and why key systems fail to provide needed pathways to opportunity and to learn about both the scope of the challenges communities face as well as occasions for collective action and possible transformation. In this way, they are cultivating change throughout job training and employment systems, in K-12 and adult education, housing and vacant land management systems, healthcare structures and within the areas of public safety and criminal justice.

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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