Among progressive environmentalists, biomimicry is an important philosophy. As simply obvious as it seems, to mimic biology, it is a revolutionary concept. It is only possible to embrace if it is underpinned with a theological anthropology in which humanity is part of nature, not separated from and certainly not superior to it. Since the salvation of humanity rests in adopting this anthropology, it is hopeful that it is gaining momentum.
In biology, diversity is a core ingredient to sustainability. Biomimicry draws attention to the importance of diversity created through persistent mutations: deviations from the majority, especially those which occur repeatedly in a variety of locations and contexts. The more a species can cohabitate with its own diversity, the stronger its chances of a healthy future.
When I was the Principal of the Centre for Christian Studies, I had opportunity to meet people who were discovering Diaconal Ministry for the first time, yet, ironically already understanding it in depth. They would say, “it is what I have envisioned, but I didn’t know it existed!” I would liken it to a persistent mutation: one that keeps emerging throughout time and across geography. If we are to look to the rest of nature for guidance, we would be wise to enable a co-habitation of ministries. Observing other species around us demonstrates that to take a monoculture approach will for sure be the beginning of the end.
The seduction of monoculture is immense. After all, it has the power of bazillions of marketing dollars as its calling card. But God is not in the shallow, quick fix of monoculture. Rather, the Creator is invested for the long haul, which is slow and rich with complexity. To resist the draw to a monoculture of ministry, symbolized in my mind by a singular nomenclature, everyone needs to play their part. This includes Diaconal Ministers who need to collectively call themselves to account about how diversity is upheld and expressed in their being and their work. And, the broader United Church needs to worry less about control and regularization and learn to be accepting of the diversity that is essential to a faithful future.
Caryn Douglas is a Diaconal Minister with a background in educational and administrative ministry, currently an inner city Community Minister in Winnipeg.