Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Sustainable Huguenot

Written by: on November 8, 2018

“We live in a world of radical change: do you agree?”[i]

Elliott poignantly concludes his “Further questions” section of the opening introduction to his seminal work Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction with this question.  What better group to be asked this than a group of church people studying leadership?  Because if there is any place that is radically changing, it is the landscape of the local parish.

So much change has happened in the local parish I serve over the eight years I have been here.  From a staffing perspective we have had four different heads of staff.  We have had seven different church administrators.  We have had three different financial managers.

We have held three large capital campaigns.  One to raise funds for a geothermal heating and cooling system.[ii]  One to raise funds to refurbish our organ.  One to raise funds to repair the tower above our Sanctuary.  Because of these our endowment has grown, then shrunk, and then grown again.

We have served communion by intinction.  Then had two highly detailed diagrams demonstrate where ushers need to stand while distributing communion by trays.  Months later, we then returned to serving communion by intinction.

We have become a zero waste facility[iii].  We have opened our sanctuary for same sex weddings.  We have had women lead both our boards and as the head of staff, all at the same time.

The last decade of Huguenot Church has indeed been one of radical change.  But the one thing that has tied the entire drama of change together has been the term we coined back in 2011, “Sustainable Huguenot.”[iv]  The term originated when we were looking for something that uniquely blended the idea of green theology with the legacy change of becoming a geothermal institution.  The term sustainable is hip in the eco-world, had a lot of meaning for an alternative fuel source project, and felt appropriate theologically as we wanted to live into the idea of caring for creation in a holistic fashion.  Little did we know how often we would use that slogan.

Sustainable Huguenot ended up being the phrase that paved the way for our many other initiatives over the past decade.  We moved to become a zero waste facility, why?  Because we are “Sustainable Huguenot.”  The organ that had lead us musically for over eighty years needed to be refurbished.  Could we do that?  Sure, because we wanted the organ to continue to sustain our worship life.  We are “Sustainable Huguenot.”  Could we make it through the three and a half year process between Senior Pastors?  Yes we could sustain, we are “Sustainable Huguenot.”

Language is the unifying element of society according to many social theorists, many deriving from the work of Saussure. [v]  We did not know at the time how unifying this vocabulary would be to our community.  Even when it was joked about during the most difficult times, it was still a statement, grounded in scripture and prayer that bound us to one another.  We did not know in 2011 that we were crafting the vernacular that would get us through two more capital campaigns and a pastoral transition.  We did not know what the future would hold, other than that through it all we would be “Sustainable Huguenot.”  But we did . . . and it did.  This slogan grounded us, centered us, and inspired us.  May this gift, this power of language continue to hold us together as the world speeds on with more and more radical change.



[i] Elliott, Anthony.  Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction.  (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), 15.

[ii] Toni Montgomery, “A Sustainable Mission,” PCUSA News. June 13, 2012. https://www.pcusa.org/news/2012/6/13/sustainable-mission/

[iii] “Ecowise: Huguenot Says No to Waste,” Ecopel, May 11, 2018. https://ecopel.org/2018/05/ecowise-huguenot-says-no-to-waste/

[iv] “Huguenot Church Installs Geothermal Energy System,” Interfaith Power and Light, September 5, 2012.  http://www.newyorkipl.org/huguenot-church-installs-geothermal-energy-system/

[v] Elliott, Contemporary Social Theory, 13.

About the Author

Rev Jacob Bolton

7 responses to “Sustainable Huguenot”

  1. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thank you for sharing the changes of your local parish with Elliott’s material, it makes so much more sense now. Also, thank you for reminding us how the power of common language holds a congregation and a community together. I must ruminate on this to see how we can implement this where we at the Vineyard Church of Houston. Thanks so much being a blessing, H

  2. Karen Rouggly says:

    Jacob – this is so good. I loved the way you intertwined your personal ministry context with social theory. You really unpacked the power of language well in this blog. I’d even challenge you to think more broadly – how has your Sustainable Huguenot changed the social structures around you? How have you used this journey to be a Sustainable Huguenot to change the social fabric of eco-theology? SO rich here – really well done.

  3. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Thank you for this, Jacob. I always appreciate a look inside each other’s ministry context. When I think of change, I now also think of transition. Transition is, according to a Harvard Business Review book I read awhile back, the mental or psychological process of the change. It’s neither neat or linear but is a fact of change. The change can be ‘go green’ but there is a mental process everyone must traverse through so that the change can really take hold – the ‘transition’ of the change. One of the key elements of healthy transition is unifying, clear language of where we are headed. I have no doubt that most have made the transition with you all because you have attended to this critical piece of leadership. Blessings to you, friend!

  4. Mario Hood says:

    Awesome post Jacob. I love the part, Language is the unifying element of society according to many social theorists, many deriving from the work of Saussure. It reminded me of the illustration that Dr. J talked about on our zoom chat and the word blue. What we say and how we say it matters much more than what most people realize. Seems to me we may need to start looking at our “Christian language” to see how we shaping our worlds.

  5. Mary Mims says:

    Jacob, I love how your congregation used language to unify a diverse congregation. I wish that we could find something unifying our congregation like this. I like the application of social theories as you applied it to your congregation. Thank you for helping me understand Elliott.

  6. Sean Dean says:

    A few years ago the founding pastor of our church left and we appointed an interim pastor. She went about the process of helping us to define who we are and similarly to your church crafted a vernacular for us. In our case it’s ‘radical hospitality’ – a phrase I hate. This phrase has been a cornerstone for how we’ve made decisions around how we do things at the church. I think you’re right that the way we speak and the terminology we use shape us as communities and guide us on our journey through society. I think it was you who mentioned Jonathan Merritt a couple weeks ago, but he is now taking up the task of helping us to develop a new vernacular for speaking Christianly that is understandable by the world. I think it’s a task worth taking, because how we talk amongst ourselves will impact how we act among others.

  7. Digby Wilkinson says:

    Hey there Jacob. You got me thinking about change and how much we face. A cynical political science friend of mine quipped that not much changes at all, “The world is a car with a changing paint job”. I don’t know about you, but my experience of church is that we are constantly playing catch-up. We use language that society creates, not that we create. We tend to grasp contemporary issues and paint a theology around them – and we do so to communicate our relevance. So, sociologically speaking, does the church shape society, or does society reshape us? I wonder what a social observer, outside the church, would say? Sounds like you’re doing some cool thinking in your church 🙂

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