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.

Brazos Fellows on Instagram

A reminder that if you haven’t yet, follow the brand-new Brazos Fellows Instagram account for windows into our life together:

5 in 10: Brendan Case

This week the Brazos Fellows resumed our community life and settled into new living arrangements (read about these changes here!). It’s truly wonderful to be together for prayer, meals, and study.

However, our guest instructors still must join us virtually, so this morning Dr. Brendan Case appeared on the screen to teach the fellows. Brendan is the Research Associate in Philosophy at Baylor’s Institute for the Studies of Religion, where he is researching the notion of accountability and its importance for our social life. This morning, the fellows talked with Brendan about ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church), tradition, authority, and various developments in 19th and 20th century theology.

Afterward, Brendan and I sat down for an episode of “Five Questions in Ten Minutes.” We talked about a number of things, including the work that opens up the literary world of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Bach composition that Brendan listens to nearly every week, and books about walking across Europe. Listen to our conversation here:

Continue reading “5 in 10: Brendan Case”

Changes coming for Brazos Fellows

As you’d expect, it’s been a strange few weeks for the Brazos Fellows. The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to our gathering, much of our programming has been rescheduled or canceled, and we’re meeting virtually for prayer and class.

We’re grateful for good technology and flexible guest lecturers, like Dr. Andrea Turpin. We’re also newly grateful for the community life we’ve enjoyed all year. As Brazos Fellow alum Jess Schurz wrote in a rather prescient 2018 post, “The sanctity of loneliness reminds me that I am not at all entitled to community. When I do find myself in times of rich relationships, it is a gift and nothing else.”

But I’m also glad to say that this is about to change. After strict social distancing, our family and the fellows will be sheltering together starting next week. A nearby house has been provided for the three fellows, and, remarkably all three have part-time jobs they can maintain in isolation or remotely. For the next six weeks, between the two houses, we and the fellows will be a cloistered community committed to praying the daily office, study, and sharing life together. (For the fellows who’ve been interested in exploring monasticism, well, here we go! Community garden included.)

Our hope is that our community can be a remnant that lives together for the sake of the whole church. As St. Cyprian put it, “when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one.” Even when we appear to be isolated, the theological reality of the communion of the saints means that the whole is present in every part. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name,” Christ promised, “there am I in the midst of them.”

We ask your prayers for this new arrangement and the rest of our semester. And to get a window into Brazos Fellows in a time of pandemic, follow along on our new Instagram account for regular updates and this blog for longer reflections.

Social-Distancing & Lessons from Rapunzel

Over at her blog, Brazos Fellow Savannah Anne offers a few tips–both whimsical and profound–on how to lead the good cloistered life:

“I’ve been reflecting on the occurrence of this pandemic during Lent. Asking ourselves, ‘do I really “need” this right now?’ and adopting a more frugal lifestyle may be a helpful exercise to reorient our lives and our affections to what ultimately matters and where our daily bread ultimately comes from.”

Read the rest here.

5 in 10: Andrea Turpin

Studying theology during a time of pandemic? You better believe it! This morning the Brazos Fellows met virtually to continue our discussion of how Protestants responded in various ways to the new social and intellectual challenges posed by the modern world.

We were joined by Dr. Andrea Turpin, Associate Professor of History at Baylor. Dr. Turpin works on religious and intellectual history, the history of gender, and the history of higher education–her first book is titled A New Moral Vision: Gender, Religion, and the Changing Purposes of American Higher Education, 1837-1917Her current research explores the role of women in the Protestant fundamentalist-modernist battles of the early twentieth century. This morning, we had a great time with Dr. Turpin discussing this controversy and the questions it raises: what does it mean to be faithful to historic Christianity? How can we value both doctrinal truth and Christian unity in our churches?

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Continue reading “5 in 10: Andrea Turpin”

Spring Retreat: The Spirituality of Food

Two weeks ago, the Brazos Fellows traveled down to Cedarbrake Renewal Center in Belton, TX, for our spring retreat. Our theme was “The Spirituality of Food,” and we spent a wonderful weekend together: discussing Walker Percy, Fr. Robert Farrar Capon, and Norm Wirzba, collecting wild herbs on our hike across the property, watching the classic film, Babette’s Feast, and, of course, much cooking and eating. Continue reading “Spring Retreat: The Spirituality of Food”