The Standard on Brazos Fellows

The Standard, “an independent conservative student newspaper” is an exciting new journalistic endeavor at Baylor University. In the December issue, Cara Hoekstra writes up a helpful, well-rounded introduction to Brazos Fellows:

So what’s next? What are your plans after graduation? Questions like these have always provoked fear and anxiety among college students, but the challenges of COVID have made them even more urgent. This is where fellowships and other post-graduation opportunities can help transform young people into better human beings.

To provide an inside look at Brazos Fellows, Cara interviewed our Director, Paul Gutacker, as well as a member of the 2020-2021 cohort, Tiffany Owens:

For current fellow Tiffany Owens, Brazos Fellows has been a valuable time to discern vocation and calling. Tiffany was at first drawn to the idea of taking the time to study theology and to think about some of the bigger questions in life. Over the course of the program, though, she has found its most valuable aspects to be the spiritual direction and life coaching, as well as the intentional cultivation of spiritual practices. The interweaving of prayer and communal worship with everyday life has helped her reorient life toward larger existential questions and the development of virtue. According to Tiffany, Brazos Fellows can be summed up as “nine-months to pause to re-examine your assumptions, to re-examine your beliefs.” It is also a time to discover great Christian examples and mentors and to grow in a multitude of ways: spiritually, intellectually, and morally.

Head over to The Standard to read the whole thing–and be sure to check out the other articles in the December issue.

Elizabeth Corey on “Civility in War-Time”

Over at the Law & Liberty blog, Dr. Elizabeth Corey writes on the profound value of civility, a traditional practice that is presently much out of fashion. Dr. Corey serves on the advisory board of Brazos Fellows, and is an erstwhile guest instructor in our Course of Study. In this essay, she invites us to reconsider the importance of civility even, and perhaps especially, during such a divided time:

“Civility helps people to weather political differences with grace and it allows us to find common ground with others in realms of life that are not political at all. These other realms are arguably more important than politics. A conservative and progressive, for example, may discover that despite deep ideological disagreements they both love to cook or garden, or that their children have become best friends, or that they love each other’s sense of humor. Civility is essential to such relationships because it intimates where and where-not to go in conversation, where to be silent and where it would be acceptable to disagree. The practice of civility opens us to a host of relationships that would otherwise be impossible.”

The whole essay is well worth your time.

Podcast: Lifelong Habits of Discipleship

How do you form lifelong habits of discipleship? Brazos Fellows Director Paul Gutacker joins Oliver Hersey on the Transforming Discipleship podcast for a conversation about the fellowship–and bigger questions about discipleship, forming communities of Christian practice, what makes a good mentor, and more:

“There’s nothing magical about it. There’s nothing formulaic about it. Let’s commit to prayer together. Let’s share life together.”

Be sure to check out Transforming Discipleship, hosted on SmallGroups.com for more great conversations about discipleship ministry in the church today.

“Further Up and Further In!”

Editor: please enjoy another reflection from Brazos Fellows Natalie Widdows.

The Christian life is an invitation in the very life of God. It is a life that seeks after goodness and beauty, wholeness and fullness. As Christians, we are a people of hope and of joy, for we have received the gift of salvation. Not every moment is characterized by an experience of joy (for, alas, we still journey through a valley of tears), but I have found that God often punctuates our lives with experiences of this fullness, offering us a foretaste of the fulfillment of God’s promises and inciting hope and longing for that which is to come. The fall Brazos Fellows retreat was one such moment for me. 

The weekend was characterized by feasting. For one thing, we did not socially distance from one another (after taking extra precautions and isolating in the week beforehand), and we were at last able to delight in another’s company without restrictions or masks. What a joy to dine together around a table, to give and receive a hug, or even to hold sweet little Marianne for the first time! We laughed so much together (which turned out be rather unfortunate for Marianne – the rich sound of laughter seemed to startle her, and more than a few tears were shed over the matter). Having fasted from physical closeness for so long, I treasured our time together on the retreat all the more. 

We also feasted on food – we shared many delicious meals together, complete with wine and candlelight. In our feasting, we rejoiced in the abundance with which God has provided us and in the wonderful gifts of the earth. The gifts of food and wine are tangible examples of God’s grace for us, for by them we do indeed “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). 

But more than feasting on friendship or food, our time together was permeated by the presence of God in prayer. Our retreat focused on the habits of Christian prayer and on the centrality of prayer in our lives of faith. We learned that to pray is to enter into the Trinitarian life. Scripture teaches us that we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Thus, when we pray, we are drawn into the mystery of the Triune God. Prayer is not a time for mere supplication (though God does instruct us to make our requests known to him), it is an act of participation, and it is an exercise of the sonship that we have received in Christ. Through the waters of Baptism we are joined to Christ in salvation; it is by him that we pray to Our Father. As Cyprian remarks in his treatise On the Lord’s Prayer, 

So great is the mercy of the Lord, so abundant his condescension and goodness, that he desired that we should make our prayer in this manner in the sight of God, that we should address the Lord as “Father,” and that we should be considered sons of God, as Christ is the Son of God.

Prayer is an incredible gift, for our ability to pray through Christ (and even in the very words of Christ) is part of the inheritance we have received as children of God. 

During the retreat, we were also taught about various meditative and contemplative prayer practices. These practices were previously quite foreign to my prayer life, but I found that it was our time spent in meditative prayer that offered me the greatest amount of hope and joy on the retreat. This kind of prayer aims at listening to God, at seeking the presence of God, and at contemplating God. Beginning to pray in this way incited so much longing in me for greater intimacy with God, and it is this awakened longing that I esteem as the greatest gift of the retreat. 

Our retreat offered me tastes and glimpses of God’s goodness, and I leave with longing for the fulfillment of God’s glorious promises. Filled with joy and gratitude, my soul echoes the anthem of the Narnians who find themselves having just arrived in Aslan’s country“Further up and further in!”