Editor: Please enjoy a guest post by one of this year’s Brazos Fellows, Savannah Anne Carman.
“What is water?” asked one of the two young fish in David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech in 2005. “The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.” In other words, the assumptions we imbibe from our context are often one of the greatest obstacles to clear thinking. This is the trouble Wallace’s fish runs (swims) into. How do we see what we swim in? How do we recognize our assumptions? A few weeks ago, the Brazos Fellows had a visiting instructor, Bruce Hindmarsh (professor at Regent College in Vancouver, BC) to discuss early Christian culture. Dr. Hindmarsh suggested that one way we expose our assumptions is to study the past. When we look at the Victorians, for example, we realize that they were hush-hush about sex but quick to discuss death, while our culture is the opposite. This is not to suggest that the Victorian era is an exemplar for all times, nor that sex is always and only an inappropriate topic. On the contrary, this is only to demonstrate that sometimes our sense (or lack thereof) of propriety keeps us from discussing important topics, especially death.
Death was the theme of our conversation with Dr. Hindmarsh. In our readings and his elucidation of our text from Robert Wilken’s The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, we were reminded of the literal close proximity of death to early Christians. In addition to facing periodic persecution, early Christians made it their practice to meet together in catacombs. This was not just a default, as if they had no other places to meet. Rather, they gathered in the catacombs for two reasons. One, early Christians held strong convictions about the dignity of the body, to the degree that they rejected the conventional practice of cremation and instead practiced inhumation, burying the entire body. They would bury individuals outside the city and underground in material that, as Dr. Hindmarsh described it, was much like honeycomb, malleable at first but quick to solidify after exposure to the right conditions. This durability made for a reliable burial site and gathering place.
This past weekend, the Brazos Fellows enjoyed a wonderful retreat at Cedarbrake Renewal Center. Our theme was “Speaking to God: Christian Life and the Habits of Prayer,” and Fr. Nicholas Krause led us in several excellent sessions on the theology and patterns of prayer. The weekend held lots of time for silence and rest (we believe that retreats should be, well, retreats!) as well as good food and conversation. Enjoy perusing these photos from our time together:
“Almighty God, you called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honors to be a pastor of souls and a poet: Give us grace, we pray, joyfully to dedicate all our powers to your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.“
So goes the collect for the feast of George Herbert, 17th c. Anglican divine and poet. Today is not Herbert’s feast day (that would be February 27), but this morning the Brazos Fellows feasted indeed, as we were joined by Dr. Ralph Wood to discuss Herbert’s poetry.
This morning the fellows had the chance to discuss a great book by Baylor professor, and Brazos Fellows guest instructor, Alan Jacobs: The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography. Dr. Jacobs traces the creation and evolution of the book which centers Anglican worship, and, indeed, Anglican theology. Our discussion was led by Fr. Lee Nelson, rector of Christ Church Waco, who helped us understand the remarkable vision of English Reformer Thomas Cranmer. For Cranmer, the aim of the prayer book was that as the whole church participated in the liturgy and prayed the daily office, we would be transformed by Christ.
This weekend we kicked off year two of Brazos Fellows! What a joy to welcome our cohort to Waco, commission them at Christ Church, and enjoy getting to know them over several long meals and many cups of coffee. For photos of our orientation weekend, scroll all the way down.
Please pray for Emily, Savannah Anne, Victoria, and Emily as they begin this work. Specifically, I want to ask you to pray for God’s blessing as they study, pray, and seek the Lord’s call on them. We are asking the Lord to make this work fruitful–in their lives, for the building up of the church, and for the sake of the world. Thank you for joining us in this prayer. Continue reading “Year Two: Great Instructors, Exciting Events, Upcoming Travel”→
Here in Texas, summer is really starting to really heat up, which means that we can’t be too far away from August and the start of year two of Brazos Fellows. It looks like it’s shaping up to be a great year, and with orientation coming quickly, I wanted to share several exciting news items with you.
Introducing the 2019-2020 Brazos Fellows I’m very pleased to introduce our incoming cohort:
Savannah Anne Carman is originally from south Charlotte in Waxhaw, NC. In May she graduated from The King’s College (NYC) with a bachelors in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Brazos Fellows drew her attention because of its monastic-like lifestyle of daily prayer, shared meals, and study in a small community. In addition to these routines, she looks forward to studying questions about human teleology and the effects of technology (from the hammer to the internet) in human relations.
Emily Engelhardt is originally from Boulder Colorado, and recently graduated from Baylor University in the spring. She studied a variety of subjects through the University Scholars program, including literature, theology, and philosophy, and is a long-time member of Christ Church. Brazos Fellows is too good of an opportunity to pass up, and she is particularly excited to jump into the course of study.
Victoria Malone is from Arlington, Texas, and just graduated from Baylor in May with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She was drawn to Brazos Fellows by the opportunity to practice rhythms of study, work, and rest—all practiced to the end of knowing and loving God more fully. She is especially looking forward to learning from the Desert Fathers, and is excited to become part the Christ Church community in the coming year.
Emily Verdoorn is from Des Moines, IA. She studied Visual Art at Belhaven University (Jackson, MI) where she became deeply interested in drawing as a way to be more attentive to the world of her everyday experience. Since graduating she has been teaching art lessons to children as well as developing her own art practice. Participating in the incarnational practices of liturgy and spiritual disciplines in community intrigues her, and she hopes this time will deepen her relationship to Christ. She hopes to study some variation of the relationship between art and the Church both in history and in our present time.
Each of these young women is a fantastic fit for the program, and we’re very excited about sharing a year together of study, discernment, prayer, and Christian community. Please join us in praying for them as they move to Waco and prepare to begin the fellowship.
On Friday and Saturday, a number of graduate students, Brazos Fellows alumni and tutors, and local teachers reflected together on a question posed by David: what does it mean to teach as a Christian? (Below you’ll find a number of excellent resources, both print and online, on this question.)