‘Lord, You Were There’: Memory and the Presence of God

Editor: please enjoy a new reflection on our year from Brazos Fellows 2019-2020 alum, Emily Engelhardt. This fall, Emily is heading off to Nashville, TN to begin a program in Certified Nurse-Midwifery at Vanderbilt University.

000214510030As I reflect on this past year, I remember classes in a white-painted room with opaque windows in the back of Christ Church. I remember the feel and shape of a ceramic teacup within my hands and the unforgettable squeak of the back door. I remember a candle’s bright flame flickering in the middle of our table. As Christians we are called to remember, not only our own journey of faith, but the faith of generations before us. Our faith is built upon the faith of older generations who passed on the gospel through making disciples. Christianity, as Robert Louis Wilken reminds us, is inescapably bound to the witness of others. We do not even have Christ’s words apart from the apostles who wrote them down. The gospel is shared through the ages by bearing witness to God and living in conversation with the past.

 

Memory is a central theme in scripture. Only by remembering can we live in obedience to Christ—only by returning to God’s work in our own life and in the lives of those before us can the foundation of our faith be sustained. The psalms are saturated with memories of God’s faithfulness. Psalm 77 begins with cry to God with a “soul that refuses to be comforted”. Midway through, the psalmist turns:  “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” Psalm 105 recalls the plagues from which God delivered the Israelites and his provision for them in the desert. The story of man’s rebellion, repentance, and deliverance is told again and again through scripture. Alasdair MacIntyre says, “I can only answer the question “What am I to do?” if I can answer the prior question “Of what story do I find myself a part?” By remembering these stories, we learn who we are and how to live. Continue reading “‘Lord, You Were There’: Memory and the Presence of God”

Prayer for Justice, Prayer for Healing

Archbishop Foley Beach has called the ACNA to a week of fasting and prayer in light of recent events in our nation, especially the “senseless killing by a police officer of an unarmed black man, George Floyd.” All of us at Brazos Fellows join in offering these prayers for justice and racial healing in our nation. And we add our voices to the many in ACNA who recognize the need for confession, commitment, and change in the Letter on Anti-Racism and a More Diverse and Just Anglicanism:

We see and grieve the racism and discrimination that exists and has a deep cultural and structural influence in our society, in our communities, and in our churches. The recent tragedies of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are simply the latest in a long line of harrowing examples of these deeply embedded systemic realities. We see and grieve that our brothers and sisters of color, including many in our own dioceses and parishes, have been and continue to be profoundly affected by these realities.

Against this backdrop, we offer the following confessions and make the following commitments.

Please read the whole letter here–and consider adding your name.

While we cannot provide anything close to a comprehensive list of resources for further viewing and / or reading, we commend the following to our readers:

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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