Flagler College launches Center for Religion and Culture


Flagler College has announced the establishment of the Center for Religion and Culture to promote the interdisciplinary study of religion and foster interfaith dialogue on campus and among residents of Northeast Florida.

In their myriad of expressions, religious traditions and associated practices are woven into the fabric of human cultures, and Flagler College is uniquely situated to explore them. Alumnus, faculty member and ordained Presbyterian minister Justin Forbes will take the helm as director, steering the newly established center and its continued expansion.

After graduating from Flagler College in 2002, Forbes spent 10 years working in youth ministry during which time he gained experience leading teams who engaged with middle school-, high school- and college-aged students. This gave Forbes valuable background when he stepped into the role as a faculty adviser for the College's Youth Ministry Program. Familiarity working with students from a broad spectrum of racial, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds in a youth ministry environment prepared Forbes to launch and lead Flagler's Youth Ministry Forum and Missing Voices project.

“I look forward to building upon Flagler College's demonstrated commitment to supporting the interdisciplinary study of religion and fostering dialogue within our community,” said Forbes, assistant professor of religion at Flagler College and director of the Center for Religion and Culture. “The center will be a vital resource, providing opportunities for our community and students to explore, research and appreciate the diverse religious traditions that shape our world.”

Henry Flagler’s commitment to filling St. Augustine with houses of worship underscored the importance of religion and culture to his larger vision, planted seeds of civic virtue in the community and shared the beauty of classical traditions seen in the character of his buildings. Preceding him were indigenous peoples such as the Timucua, whose rich religious cultures deserve to be discovered along with those brought by Africans and Europeans to St. Augustine.

The Center for Religion and Culture is built on three pillars of focus:

  1. Research, critical reflection and scholarship
  2. Collaboration with and service to communities of practice
  3. Courses and study abroad opportunities for Flagler students

These pillars have already been brought to life through existing programming like FlagSHIP and core classes such as A Life Well Lived, the Cecile and Gene Usdin Judeo-Christian Lecture Series, the Franciscan Spanish Borderland Conferences, the annual Youth Ministry Forum and grant-funded initiatives serving communities of practice, like the Missing Voices Project.