This week on the text.soul.culture podcast, co-host Dr. Derek McNeil, Senior Vice President of Academics, is joined by Dr. Dwight Friesen, Associate Professor of Practical Theology, to talk about working at The Seattle School, a more holistic form of education, and Dwight’s deep passion for the ongoing movement of God in the particularity of place.
Dwight shares about how he first came to The Seattle School and discovered a deep alignment between the mission of this institution and his own personal calling. As he reflects on what he dreams about personally and collectively, he reflects on the parish theology that compels his ministry, teaching, and writing.
Dwight: “On a personal level, I think the dream of my life is to learn what it is to love: to love others, to love God, to love myself, to love place, to love what it is to be a creature. There are a lot of things that compete for my affections other than loving relationship. To actually throw myself into the gift of love—that, on a personal level, feels like the dare of my life.”
As Derek and Dwight talk about teaching at The Seattle School, they reflect on the unique challenges of education when transformation is the goal, not merely a checklist of correct answers. Dwight shares how, motivated by a relational, trinitarian theology that is grounded in the parish, he no longer sees his professorial role as primarily about imparting knowledge.
Dwight: “That’s not a Christian endeavor. I don’t think I’m in the knowledge business. […] Anything that collapses into theory is just not adequate.”
Derek: “You’re talking about something that is beyond words, that is much more holistic.”
Dwight: “I increasingly believe that I am less a professor professing truth as I am a witness, bearing witness to what is real as to what I’ve known and experienced of the living God.”
“Anything that collapses into theory is just not adequate.”
The conversation turns to local expressions of church, and Derek and Dwight talk about the complexities of living these concepts in real, messy, day-to-day life. The emotion in Dwight’s voice is clear as he speaks of his deep love for the Church and his hope that local churches will not drift into abstraction or ideology but will grow into vibrant expressions of the tangible movement of God in their communities. That’s the hope that informs Dwight’s work, whether it’s teaching in the classroom, co-facilitating the Leadership in the New Parish certificate program or the Inhabit conference, or just walking around his neighborhood.
Dwight: “God is doing what God does and renewing God’s people, not for the sake of the church but for the sake of the world. […] Somehow proximity dares me, woos me to figure out how do I actually live rightly with my neighbors, in such a way that it calls us both into a better way of being.”
Resources to Go Deeper
Here are a few of the voices that emerged during this conversation. These texts help expand the way of listening to the triune God in the particularity of place that Dwight is so passionate about. And if you’re interested in joining with hundreds of others who are passionate about the place-based theology and practice Dwight discusses here, we hope you’ll join us for the Inhabit, April 27-28 in Seattle.
- A Little Manual for Knowing by Esther Lightcap Meek
- The One, the Three and the Many: God, Creation and the Culture of Modernity by Colin E. Gunton
- The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community by Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, and Dwight Friesen