Matryoshka Haus

Matryoshka Haus

December 30, 2019

As we begin 2020, TMF shines a light on a story of faith and innovative ministry, Matryoshka Haus. In 2019, TMF Grants provided a grant to this UK-based ministry that is expanding its mission in the United States and working with UMC conferences and congregations. Their new book, Matryoshka Haus: A Story of Faith and Social Innovation, describes their observations and opportunities: “Two overlapping trends are dramatically changing the landscape for faith-based organizations. The previously well-defined boundaries between businesses, charities, and churches are disintegrating. At the blurry intersections, new types of organizations are emerging – blending profit, gift, purpose, community, faith, and social action. Equipped with an alternative economic imagination, we will discover effective responses to the problems and challenges around us.”

Here, Matryoshka Haus Creative Director, Shannon Hopkins, explains how their work is inspired by 19th-century evangelists and influences their mission today.

What are you most proud of accomplishing in 2019?

This past year has been significant both for the work we have done alongside our clients and, just as significantly, for the internal process we have gone through as an organization. Three projects, in particular, stand out for the ways in which we were able to aid individuals, communities, and organizations as they journeyed from imagination to innovation to implementation. In our work with the Log College Project at Princeton Theological Seminary and the Change Makers Project through the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the UMC, we came alongside youth and young adults discerning vocation and helped them envision innovative paths for living out their ministry and callings. For a congregation in New York that is discerning significant questions around aligning money with the mission and the shape of the American church fifty years from now, we created and ran a design lab introducing them to new concepts of entrepreneurship and new models for effective, sustainable ministry.

In addition to the work we did with others, 2019 marked a significant year of transition internally for Matryoshka Haus as an organization. Too often the organizations hired to help others in designing and implementing processes for long-term sustainability neglect to do that critical work themselves. The result is they get stretched thinner and thinner. This year Matryoshka Haus made the important decision to step back and submit ourselves to the same type of process we create for others. We decided to go slower in order to be able to grapple with and make decisions for our own long-term resilience. We made some painful decisions, cut programs and are restructuring. Most innovators do not slow down to consolidate what they’ve learned. The result is we are emerging from 2019 stronger and better prepared to scale our work.

Describe the qualities of the people who are contributing to your organization's success. As a leader, how do you sustain and nurture these qualities?

Our organization’s success is made possible by so many different friends and stakeholders. They typically fall into four different categories:

  • Entrepreneurial enablers - people that see the strategic nature of our work and encourage us to keep going.
  • Partners – like those we work with at Princeton, BWC, and TMF.
  • Supporters – individuals that pray for us and contribute donations.
  • Communities - the people who journey with us.

Whichever category you fall into, what unites all of us is our tremendous hope grounded in the gospel and a belief that another world is possible.


Can you share an experience or observation that influenced how you pursue your mission?

We have been very influenced by the role of the Clapham sect. They were a group of reformers based in Clapham, London, at the beginning of the 19th century (active 1780s–1840s). The members of the Clapham group were evangelical Anglicans who shared common political and social views concerning the liberation of slaves, the abolition of the slave trade* and the reform of the penal system, amongst other issues, and who worked laboriously towards these ends over many years, motivated by their Christian faith and concern for social justice and fairness for all. They mixed strategy with practice and always worked across different disciplines. We have been influenced by their approach.

Do you have a favorite quote, Biblical or secular, what is it, and why?

One of my favorite scriptures is: “These are the men that turned the world upside down [with the Gospel].” - Acts 17:6, ESV

I love this scripture because it speaks to the transformative revolution of the gospel to disrupt the status quo and bring in new order.

I also love the poem “For Those Who Have Far to Travel” by Jan Richardson.

Excerpt: “If you could see the journey whole you might never undertake it; might never dare the first step that propels you from the place you have known toward the place you know not...

But take the vows the pilgrim takes: to be faithful to the next step; to rely on more than the map; to heed the signposts of intuition and dream; to follow the star that only you will recognize; to keep an open eye for the wonders that attend the path; to press on beyond distractions beyond fatigue, beyond what would tempt you from the way...”

What are you most looking forward to in 2020?

Working with young leaders and communities to roll out Make Good across the USA and launching the Oikos project to work with congregations to align their purpose and their property with a new Kingdom imagination.

*Ann M. Burton, "British Evangelicals, Economic Warfare and the Abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1794–1810." Anglican and Episcopal History 65#2 (1996): 197–225. in JSTOR