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. 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, while entanglement is the interconnectedness of movement of person and place which is both local and global. 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”. 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.
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?
 Morgan Neville, Nicholas Ma, Caryn Capotosto. Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Streaming. Directed by Morgan, Neville. Los Angeles: Tremolo Productions, 2018.
” Sarah, Pink, Doing Sensory Ethnography, (SAGE Publications), Kindle Edition, 24.
 Pink, 37-38.
 Dr. Caroline Leaf, Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health, (Baker Publishing Group), Kindle Edition, 110.
 Holy Bible: The Message (the Bible in contemporary language). 2005. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress