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

It’s Okay to Wonder.

Written by: on November 1, 2018

In reading, Doing Sensory Ethnography by Sarah Pink, I was reminded of an experience that occurred traveling back from our Hong Kong advance. As I begin the journey to Hong Kong for our first advance while I was not looking forward to the twenty-three total hours of traveling, I was looking forward to watching a ton of movies! On my first flight from Orlando to Seattle, I was able to watch two movies and only had to wait around ten minutes before de-boarding the plan. I could not have asked for a better start, but after two movies into the second flight from Seattle to Hong Kong, I was still left with eleven hours of flight time before landing! 

At some point during the advance someone (I believe it was Rhonda, so that is whom I am going with) told me that her favorite movie she watched on her flight was the documentary on Mr. Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor.[1] She did not know at the time but I kind of chuckled inside because it was the movie I kept passing over because I did not think it would be good. You see, I love action packed or sci-fi movies, but not dull documentaries. As Rhonda continued to express how moved she was by the movie a tiny seed of interest was planted unbeknownst to me. Fast forward, the advance is over, and I am settling into my seat for the long flight back from Hong Kong to Seattle. As I am swiping through the movies I come to the documentary and the first thought that came to mind was, I wonder what made this so enjoyable to Rhonda and so instead of skipping it, I played it.


It did not take long before I encountered my first “ah-ha” moment when watching the film, but another interesting thought kept happening as I experienced these “ah-ha” moments. The thought was, I wonder how Rhonda responded to this moment? Every time there was a moving part to me, I would also think back to when she was telling us about her experience with the movie and how it moved her. In my understanding, in the framework of sensory ethnography, this experience would fit in the emplacement and entanglement categories.


Pink in developing her understanding of sensory ethnography says that emplacement ethnography “attends to the question of experience by accounting for the relationships between bodies, minds, and the materiality and sensoriality of the environment,[2] while entanglement is the interconnectedness of movement of person and place which is both local and global.[3] Dr. Carolina Leaf is also helpful on the subject of entanglement as she writes, “The law of entanglement in quantum physics states that relationship is the defining characteristic of everything in space and time. Because of the pervasive nature of the entanglement of atomic particles, the relationship is independent of distance and requires no physical link”.[4] Simply put, in my experience of watching this movie, I was also trying to emplace myself into Rhonda’s experience through the law of entanglement. Even though we were nowhere near each other, we were still connected through the sensory experience I was having and also what had already occurred in that she had told me about her experience. At the same time, Mr. Rogers also seemed to tap into the power of sensory ethnography. Mr. Rogers was able to emplace himself into the lives of millions and allow others to emplace themselves into his “neighborhood” through the sensory (visual) medium of television. Knowing that Mr. Rogers was a minister, I now wonder if there is a category of “spiritual ethnography” and if so, what does spiritual ethnography look like?


As I am wrestling with this question, I propose looking at the scripture John 17:6-12 as a possible starting place for spiritual ethnography. In honor of the late Rev. Eugene Peterson, it reads in the Message Bible as,


6-12 I spelled out your character in detail to the men and women you gave me. They were yours in the first place; Then you gave them to me, and they have now done what you said. They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that everything you gave me is firsthand from you, For the message you gave me, I gave them; And they took it, and were convinced That I came from you. They believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I’m not praying for the God-rejecting world but for those you gave me, for they are yours by right. Everything mine is yours, and yours mine and my life is on display in them. For I’m no longer going to be visible in the world; They’ll continue in the world while I return to you. Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life that you conferred as a gift through me, so they can be one heart and mind as we are one heart and mind.[5]

Most would know this as the “be in the world, but not of the world” passage and use it as a way of keeping people at a distance. As we read this message version, one gets a different perspective. It is not about keeping a distance from the “world” but about embodiment, emplacement, and entanglement, with the Triune God and the world. Through the lived experiences one encounters with the word (Bible) of God, Son of God, and Spirit of God, we then become one heart and mind (sensoriality) with God and others. As spiritual ethnographers, our call is thus to be emplacement in both God’s Kingdom (as in foretaste because of the deposit of the Spirit) and the world, as we are not trying to escape but examine how people are experiencing life without Jesus and incorporate Christ in those areas.  As Dr. Clark has instructed us to ask a question that begin with the word wonder, I leave you this great video to stir in you the question; I wonder what else spiritual ethnography might entail?



[1] Morgan Neville, Nicholas Ma, Caryn Capotosto. Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Streaming. Directed by Morgan, Neville. Los Angeles: Tremolo Productions, 2018.


[2]” Sarah, Pink, Doing Sensory Ethnography, (SAGE Publications), Kindle Edition, 24.


[3] Pink, 37-38.


[4] Dr. Caroline Leaf, Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health, (Baker Publishing Group), Kindle Edition, 110.


[5] Holy Bible: The Message (the Bible in contemporary language). 2005. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress


About the Author

Mario Hood

Most importantly, I am married to the love of my life, Misty Hood, and I'm kept on my toes all day every day, by my son Dalen and daughter Cola Hood. I also serve as the Next Generation Pastor at Church On The Living Edge in Orlando, Florida, under the leadership of Senior Pastor, Dr. Mark Chironna as well as being a Youth and Family Life coach.

11 responses to “It’s Okay to Wonder.”

  1. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Thanks for sharing how life-giving ethnography has been for you. Nice touch using the Bible as your proof text. I wonder what else you are wondering about? Blessings, H

  2. Mary Mims says:

    Spiritual ethnography sound interesting indeed! I think it could be using all we have to show others the love of Jesus Christ. Luke 10:27 says, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with and with all your strength and with all of your mind; Love your neighbor as yourself. Perhaps this would entail using every medium, including visual ethnography, to show others the love of Jesus Christ. We can’t empathize with others unless we see what they see. This is certainly a challenge, but one that we should all be interested in.

  3. Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    I am pretty sure that was Rhonda too. And great movie.

    Mr Rogers work was mainly with children. A handful of us have posted about images from our childhood and youth that have been extremely powerful. I wonder if that is some of Mr. Roger’s lasting legacy . . . he provided a safe place in his neighborhood. How many of us long to return to that safe place?

    • Mario Hood says:

      Great question Jacob, I would say a lot of us do. I’m sure every generation has said this before but we live in such a crazy time that anything safe is longed for and if we as the people of God can be that we would see many come into our community.

  4. Thank you Mario, your question as to whether there’s place for spiritual ethnography is valid in different ways as I see it. The bible says that our lives are like a letter written not of ink but by The Holy Spirit. As we lives our lives as believers, people read our lives and our lives become a testimony of the work of The Holy Spirit in us and they can believe the Gospel through observing our lives. In this case I see The Holy Spirit working through us to reveal Christ to the World.
    Another way that I believe relates to Spiritual Ethnography is what I call Spiritual mapping that involves surveying an area to see any physical features, human behavior, or the history of the area, in determining the spiritual issues to deal with as you minister to the people from that locality. I believe I’m you understand what I mean by spiritual mapping, What do you think about it?

    • Mario Hood says:

      I have heard of Spiritual Mapping and my pastor sent me a great academic article on the subject (that I haven’t read but plan too). So I can’t offer a full response but I can see how from your comment these two would relate well together.

  5. Tammy Dunahoo says:

    Great thing to wonder about, Mario. I watched the documentary on my flight home as well and have referenced it many times since. With our reading this week and both of Pink’s books on sensory and visual ethnography I believe it is a both/and approach to understanding that is important. I know there are questions about the viability of sensory and visual ethnography because of its subjectivity, but it seems the best knowledge is holistic, research based cognitive approaches combined with sensory and visual. Maybe that’s part of spiritual ethnography…God (Spirit) in the flesh (visible, sensory human form) in Christ…the Word in Spirit and Truth?

    • Mario Hood says:

      Yes, while subjectivity is rendered as not good in the research I’m learning that come to the table and leave with it. Knowing how and when to employ it seems to be the mark of a great researcher. Everyone views their spirituality through the lens of their experience but knowing how to be open to another viewpoint/experience is the key to spiritual maturity to me.

  6. Rhonda Davis says:

    First of all, I am so glad to hear you watched the documentary and loved it as much as I did. We each see the world through a different lens, which is what makes visual ethnography so interesting to me. Images invite us to engage stories in new ways. It’s amazing to me that both of us watched the same movie, but were likely impacted in different ways at different points of the story. I love being on this journey with you, Mario. It sounds like your “wondering” is leading you down an excellent path!

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