Dr. J. Derek McNeil, Academic Dean and host of text.soul.culture, is joined by Dr. Forrest Inslee, Professor at Northwest University and Adjunct Faculty at The Seattle School. Derek and Forrest explore his work as an ethnographer, what is means to truly listen to and read culture, meaning making, and where the church is headed.  

Forrest: My mission is to help people to become learners first. And not just to be humble as they enter a situation, but to be active learners. […] My hope is that my students will be catalysts for change, not imposers of change.

Derek: What does your work reading culture tell us about where the church is heading?

Forrest: Church has to reflect place. Church has to reflect the people who make the church. Parish Collective does a great job of living that truth. […] Church has a lot to do with the spirit of a place, the story of a place, the future of a place. It’s holistic. […] I teach students to think about the ways they will listen to the spirit of a place.

Derek: I appreciate the interest in the people, the respect for the place, and the uniqueness of what God might be doing there. We have to have those three things.

About Dr. Forrest Inslee

Forrest Inslee earned an MA and PhD from Northwestern University in communication/ethnography, and an MCS in cross cultural theological education from Regent College. He spent six years working among the urban poor in Chicago, and later lived for four years in Istanbul supporting community development and leadership training for the emerging churches there. His primary teaching interests lie in intercultural studies, Native American issues, environmental justice, and social entrepreneurship.



The Seattle School has the privilege of collaborating with Dr. Forrest Inslee this fall in an experiential course called Reading Culture. Reading Culture will be a contextual learning experience offering students/learners an ethnographic frame and qualitative methods to help them understand and interpret cultures in context. Ethnographic approaches help us understand the deep structures of cultural context relationally — offering guidelines for engaging with communities, for appreciative inquiry, and direct observations. The course will be held at St. Luke’s in Ballard where students/learners will engage the neighborhood in research projects toward St. Luke’s mission to mend socioeconomic divides.

Reading Culture is available for enrollment for current Seattle School students, alumni, or individuals seeking Non-Degree or Community Audit learning opportunities. Email admissions@theseattleschool.edu for additional information and visit our course schedule for details.