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.
As 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”→
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.
Editor: please enjoy this latest post from Brazos Fellow Savannah Anne Carman.
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?
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.”
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.