Cyprian and The Plague

Over at Church Life Journal, Alex Fogleman, one of our Brazos Fellows tutors, writes on what St. Cyprian can teach us about Easter joy during pandemic. St. Cyprian presided as bishop during a brutally deadly plague in the early 250s. He exhorted Christians to devote themselves to love of neighbor, reminding them that their otherworldly faith should, paradoxically, push them into greater solidarity with their fellow humans:

In fact, Cyprian asks would-be world fleers to contemplate what they hold in common with their non-Christian neighbors. Some Christians, it seemed, thought that Christian baptism rendered them immune from the disease, when in fact the plague claimed both Christian and non-Christian alike. “It troubles some that we have this mortality in common with others” (§8). One does not become Christian, though, because faith is a magic bullet that inoculates from suffering.

As long as we are here in the world, we are united with the human race in equality of the flesh, [though] we are separated in spirit. And so, until this corruptible element puts on incorruptibility and this mortal element receives immortality and the spirit conducts us to God the Father, the disadvantages of the flesh, whatever they are, we have in common with the human race (§8).

Christians share with all humankind the simple, irrefutable fact of death. While Christianity provides a “difference in spirit,” it does not extract us from the common humanity and the “disadvantages of the flesh.”

Read the whole thing here.

Gratitude at the End

This weekend marked the end for the 2019-2020 cohort of Brazos Fellows! What a year it has been. A small (and, I should say, properly socially-distanced) group gathered together to celebrate, while others–tutors, guest instructors, and friends and family–joined us virtually via the magic of Zoom.

We shared a wonderful evening of stories, prayer, BBQ, poetry, and much laughter. The predominate note was gratitude: thanks be to God for this community, and the chance to do this work together.

O Lord Jesus Christ, without whom nothing is sweet nor savory, we beseech you to bless our supper, and with your blessed presence to cheer our hearts, than in all our meats and drinks we may taste and savor of you to your honor and glory. Amen.
– Prayer Before Supper, King Henry’s Primer

Brazos Fellows is only possible because of a large community that generously gives in many ways to the fellowship. We’re especially grateful for our tutors and teachers–especially Christina, Alex, and Fr. Matthew–who invested so much in our fellows’ learning this year. Thank you to them, and to the board of advisors, our generous supporters, host families, and all who shared meals, homes, and financial support this year.

Finally, we count it a privilege to have spent this year studying, praying, and sharing life with Emily, Emily, and Savannah Anne–three remarkable women who have not only been great fellows but also have become friends. Join us in praying for the Lord to bless them richly as they move on to what’s next.

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Coming soon…

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pray together • eat together 🥬 We’ve been working on something at the Lewis House. 🧄 We’ve missed our Monday night dinners with people from Church, and when we started remembering all the good meals we shared this year we had an idea. Why not make a Brazos Fellows Cookbook full of our shared meals? So that is what we are doing! And we would really like to share this with you too. 🥦 If this interests you let us know! We’ll have more details to follow if you stay on the lookout. 🥑 Words by Savannah Anne, Pictures by Emily Verdoorn #easterfeasting #brazosfellows #cookbook #brazosfellowscookbook #lewishouse #christchurchwaco #aloneforcompany #quarentineforcompany #cloisterforquarentine #feast #fellowship

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Update from the Director: Wrapping Up & Looking Forward

Friends of Brazos Fellows:

All good things come to an end, and the fellowship is no exception. Our year of study, prayer, and life together concludes on May 10. What a tremendous year it’s been with these young women! Please pray for Savannah Anne, Emily, and Emily as they plan and prepare for what comes after the fellowship.

But I’m also happy to share that Brazos Fellows is planning to continue in the 2020-2021 academic year. We have a cohort in place, with several open spots remaining, and are presently working on contingency plans for several different scenarios. Given these times, it’s all the more compelling to join a small, intensive educational community, and we anticipate receiving further applications in the coming weeks. If you know someone whose plans for next year are shifting, please keep Brazos Fellows in mind. We’d be glad to receive their application.

What’s more, our admissions committee has decided to consider applications for next year from rising seniors. In conversations with faculty at various institutions of higher education, I’ve gathered that many underclassmen are considering a “gap year” before resuming their degree—especially if their school goes online for the fall. While Brazos Fellows is traditionally limited to post-graduates, our admissions committee has decided to consider applications from rising seniors. Academically minded undergrads in particular may be interested in Brazos Fellows as a robust and intentional “gap year” of study before going back to finish their degree. If you know of a well-qualified junior who might benefit from the fellowship next year, we would love to be in touch with them.

Thank you for your prayers and support,

Paul Gutacker

Kairos, Kronos, and the Redemption of Time

Editor: please enjoy this latest post from Brazos Fellow Savannah Anne Carman.

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Credit: Laura Lee Blackburn

Rhythms and baking have been on my mind and a new part of my routine as of late. A part-time bagel baking job will do this, you know, when one is scheduling sleep and all else according to the demands of the dough. Bill Buford, journalist and chef in training, concisely described the process of bread-making he learned during time spent with a French baker. Buford explains how, “everything in time, everything good [comes] in time. Rhythm is time and bread-making is nothing if not a respect for rhythm—yeast, fermentation, heat.” The same holds true for life. Life’s rhythms are the heartbeat. Like the heart, which pumps blood and sustains breath, our daily activities move along according to the rhythms we hold, either giving or keeping what’s vital from us. Such routines form everything from callouses on our hands to grooves in our souls; they shape who we are and what we become. If the rote is so transformative, then what routines are proper to what we are made for, what we intrinsically desire?

418S-UzLUHL._SY346_Alexander Schmemann illuminates these questions about rhythm and time in his book For the Life of the World. In this book, the Orthodox priest considers the Christian rhythms of feasting and fasting, both in good times and hard. We do this because of a different understanding of time. Schmemann suggests that we order our lives to the reality of Christ, in Kairos, instead of the world, in Kronos. Kronos is about the temporal—it is one side of our three-dimension as finite creatures in time, space, and matter. The liturgy invites us into the reality beyond our finitude that harmonizes with Kairos, “the time of liturgical celebration.”

Continue reading “Kairos, Kronos, and the Redemption of Time”

Let us Keep the Feast

Late in the evening Saturday, the Brazos Fellows gathered in a candle-lit room for the Great Vigil. Being cloistered off into our own homes does not mean we missed participating, along with the whole church worldwide, in the great joy expressed in the Exsultet (eavesdrop on it being sung here):

Rejoice now, heavenly hosts and choirs of angels, and let your trumpets shout Salvation for the victory of our mighty King.

Rejoice and sing now, all the round earth, bright with a glorious splendor, for darkness has been vanquished by our eternal King.

Rejoice and be glad now, Mother Church, and let your holy courts, in radiant light, resound with the praises of your people.

All you who stand near this marvelous and holy flame, pray with me to God the Almighty for the grace to sing the worthy praise of this great light; through Jesus Christ his Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“Christianity [is] the revelation and gift of joy, and thus, the gift of genuine feast. Every Saturday night at the resurrection vigil we sing, “for through the Cross, joy came into the whole world.” This joy is pure joy because it does not depend on anything in this world, and it is not the reward of anything in us. It is totally and absolutely a gift, the “charis,” the grace. And being pure gift, this joy has a transforming power, the only really transforming power in this world.” — Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World

And having been given this great gift, let us keep the feast! Alleluia! Alleluia! Wishing a very happy Eastertide to you all from the Brazos Fellows and Gutacker family.

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Dr. Andrea Turpin on “Learning in Coronavirus Time”

Over at The Anxious Bench blog, Dr. Andrea Turpin, a recent guest instructor of ours, reflects on teaching the Brazos Fellows and how this relates to C.S. Lewis’ insights on the value of education even during crises:

On October 22, 1939, C.S. Lewis ascended the pulpit of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Oxford. From there he delivered to the university’s students his now-famous sermon “Learning in War-Time.” It was, of course, quite an extraordinary time to be a college student in England. Less than two months earlier, on September 3, the United Kingdom had declared war on Germany after Hitler had  invaded British ally Poland.

Lewis addressed the elephant in the room: why bother going to college when the nation is gearing up for a massive war? For one thing, young Oxford men might very well be called away to fight. For another, in Lewis’s words, “Is it not like fiddling while Rome burns?”

I thought of this sermon a couple weeks ago when I taught a Brazos Fellows seminar by Zoom during the first week of social distancing. (Chris Gehrz also thought of it the next week in conjunction with blogging at the Anxious Bench.) Brazos Fellows is a Waco-based postbaccalaureate program for vocational discernment in the context of Christian community and theological study. The fellows and I were discussing a historical theological debate—the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 1900s, to be specific. It would have been easy to say that there were rather more important things to have been thinking about at the moment.

But I was really excited to teach the material. I am convinced that the issues of biblical interpretation, personal piety, and social justice raised by that past controversy are just as relevant today. Lewis had argued that learning should continue in war-time, even—or even especially—about things not related to the war. So I commented that likewise, as a sign of hope, we would continue learning about weighty matters not directly related to the coronavirus.

It’s a great piece–you can read the whole thing here.