Director’s Update: Changes Coming for Fellows and Family

Easter Sunday 2022

I’m excited to share with you about several big changes coming for Brazos Fellows and for the Gutacker family.

Back in 2018, Paige and I, along with a team of supporters and friends, launched Brazos Fellows. We hoped to create a rich experience of study, prayer, and discernment that would be fruitful for young adults looking to grow in their Christian life. Thanks to your generous support, since 2019, seventeen women and men have graduated from the fellowship. Here’s what alumni say about their time as a Fellow:

Brazos Fellows was the most formative year of my life to date. The program equipped me with a spiritual foundation that will last long beyond the nine months in Waco.

Jessica Schurz (2018-2019)

Brazos Fellows provided the structure, time, and guidance to build virtue and practice spiritual disciplines. I learned to live liturgically, shaping my life as one belonging to God and not to myself.

Emily Engelhardt (2019-2020)

I loved being drawn into the life of this local church. Congregational singing of hymns, meeting for morning prayer, being welcomed into family’s living rooms and to their tables, walking through the church calendar—I really fell in love with Christ Church Waco and being with this local body of Christians.

Mitchell Elequin (2020-2021)

This success has encouraged us to take Brazos Fellows to the next level. 

To this point, the fellowship has relied on volunteer and part-time work. To make ends meet, over the last few years I’ve taught full time at Baylor University—while also directing the fellowship and leading the Course of Study. This arrangement has significantly limited how much I could give to recruiting and developing the program.

Now, at the encouragement of our advisory board, we’ve begun a new phase in Brazos Fellows. We’ve begun a new fundraising campaign that will help us partner with foundations and individuals who want to contribute to high quality Christian discipleship initiatives. This additional funding will allow us to pursue three goals:

  • Grow the fellowship: We will expand our recruiting efforts to grow the cohort from an average of four fellows per year to eight – ten, including several scholarship spots. This will increase our investment in Christian men and women who will go on to serve and lead in the academy, the church, the workplace, and ministry of all kinds.  
  • Train future professors: We will develop a robust mentorship program for our tutors (Baylor graduate students), equipping them with training and experience that will make them even more skillful, thoughtful Christian teachers as they begin their careers.
  • Cultivate theological thinking: We will develop new programming that will invite the Baylor and Waco communities into robust theological conversations on teaching and learning, worship, and the Christian life. 

This next phase also means a significant change for our family. 

In August, I will step down from my role as full-time instructor at Baylor to focus solely on working as Executive Director of Brazos Fellows. As we commit to Brazos Fellows, Paige and I are very excited to see what this next chapter will look like—to do this work in a way that is more focused and more sustainable both for the fellowship and for our family. 

Continue reading “Director’s Update: Changes Coming for Fellows and Family”

Wrapping up Brazos Fellows 2021-2022

Last night we wrapped up the Brazos Fellows year–what a great year it’s been! We’ve had so many highlights over the last month: a wonderful Symposium, with a large number of our team and community gathering to hear from the fellows some of what they’ve learned this year, a Saturday Seminar on Flannery O’Connor taught by the brilliant Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson, and much Eastertide feasting.

Brazos Fellows 2022 Symposium

Yesterday, our five fellows–Cara, Emma, Kathryn, Taylor, and Rachel–were commissioned by Christ Church Waco to go out into the world to love and serve.

Commissioning of fellows

Please join us in praying for the 2021-2022 Brazos Fellows as they begin new jobs and / or graduate programs, that Christ will go with them and that they will be drawn into ever greater love of Him and neighbor.

L to R: Fr. Jonathan Kanary, Emma Cann, Taylor Slusser, Rachel Burke,
Cara Hoekstra, Kathryn Thompson, Paul & Paige Gutacker

“Let it be to me”

Editor: please enjoy this reflection from Fr. Nicholas Norman-Krause, Brazos Fellows tutor, instructor and advisory board member.

“Let it be to me according to your Word.” Luke 1:38

Have you ever consented to an “agreement,” only to be completely surprised later on as to what you actually agreed to? Perhaps you clicked the “OK” button of a Terms of Agreement prompt for a phone app or website, without reading the countless lines of fine print, and then discovered you had given permission to a major tech corporation to harvest your personal information for profit. Or maybe you came to an agreement with a contractor regarding a home construction project. The project was conceived as a small-scale renovation, but transformed into a months-long, expensive, and complicated build that dug way too far into your pocketbook. 

Generally, when we make agreements, we like to know exactly what we are signing up for. Even in the life of faith, we prefer God to act predictably and according to our plans and desires. All of which makes the faith of someone like Mary, the Blessed Mother of our Lord, strange and surprising. “Let it be to me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38). What is Mary doing, consenting to an agreement with God, the entailments of which she hasn’t a clue? What kind of faith is this? 

This past Friday, we celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord to the Virgin Mary. We read St. Luke’s account of the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would bear a son, Jesus, that this Jesus would be called “the Son of the Most High,” and that he would be given “the throne of his father David,” from which he would rule his kingdom forever. Quite the birth announcement! Mary asks how this will be, since she is a virgin, and the angel responds with a perplexing, almost cryptic, somewhat unbelievable answer: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” So, not exactly the “usual” techniques of conception, you might say. 

It is unclear, in this moment, what exactly Mary thinks this Holy Spirit coming upon her means. It is not implausible that she might think of the great prophets of old who, being caught up in and inspired by the Spirit of God, were commissioned to deliver the Word of the Lord to God’s people. In fact, that is exactly what Mary will do. Only the Word she will deliver will be the “Word made flesh,” the eternal Son of God incarnate. And the delivery will not be in a spoken medium, but in the miracle of childbirth.

Yet it is Mary’s response to all of this—her faith, consent, and agreement to the word of God that comes to her in the angel’s announcement—that is so illuminating. Her response sums up the whole of Lenten spirituality, indeed the whole of the Christian life: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” In saying “let it be,” Mary surrenders her will, her future, her desires, her identity to God and God’s mission. And what does she consent to? The Terms of Agreement are not given. The contents of the promise have not yet been defined. The only thing Mary has to go on is the character of the other party, God’s history of dealings with God’s people, and God’s making good on God’s promises. But this is enough for Mary. It is enough for us. It is enough for God’s people to offer themselves wholly to God in faith, trusting in God’s care and future.

Lent is about coming to this kind of faith. Mary’s faith. The simple act of consent to God’s will: let it be to me according to your word. Soon, we will see clearly just what that will entails: new life, the defeat of death, the conquering of sin, the miracle of Easter. Right now, it simply looks like the hope of the world gestating in a womb. And so for now, we simply declare, “let it be to me according to your word.”

Was Dorothy Sayers a feminist?

Over at The Anxious Bench blog, Brazos Fellows tutor and instructor Christina Lambert writes on the question, was Dorothy Sayers a feminist?

Last month, Christina led a day-long seminar for the Brazos Fellows on “Christianity and Feminism,” and our fodder for discussion was Sayers. We read her marvelous Lord Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane novel, Gaudy Night, as well as her 1938 essay, “Are Women Human?

In this reflection, Christina challenges us to think carefully about Sayers’ writings and work on and for women:

What’s the word for someone who fights against sexism on a cultural level, in and outside of the Church? Can we acknowledge the similarities between Sayers’s intellectual advocacy and some of the work of feminist thinkers? Can we also be comfortable with their differences?

I won’t give any spoilers for how Christina moves through these questions–you should just read the whole post instead.