During this section of our Course of Study, the Brazos Fellows are looking at Alan Jacobs’ wonderful book, The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography. We had a great morning discussing the rhetorical structure, theological depth, and beauty of Thomas Cranmer’s collects, including the collect for Proper 22:
Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to
hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either
we desire or deserve: Pour down upon us the abundance of
thy mercy, forgiving us those things whereof our conscience
is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not
worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus
Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jacobs helps us see and name the various parts of the collect: the opening salutation to God, the statement of a theological truth, our petition, our aspiration toward which the petition aims, and then the closing recognition that it is Christ who makes this possible.
In light of this structure, we considered how the collect works on us as we pray it. How does the truth ground our petitioning? How does the aspiration named in the collect further illuminate the truth it names? How do the asking and hoping invite us to align our desires with Christ’s?
One week ago, Brazos Fellows officially launched! In spite of Paige and I both battling illness, it’s been a great beginning to our year–from Saturday afternoon’s historical tour of Waco, to Sunday morning’s commissioning of the fellows at Christ Church, to a wonderful welcome dinner with our tutors, instructors, and board members. You can find photos from our weekend here.
We’re grateful for each one of our six fellows, who have come from all around the world to Waco in order to study, work, and pray together. Our fellows represent a variety of backgrounds, gifts, and interests, and we pray that over these nine months each of them will grow in their sense of God’s call on their lives. It’s one of the things they’ve committed to do–take the time to explore who they are and what God is calling them to.
Brazos Fellows kicks off one week from today! As Paige and I make final preparations for next weekend’s orientation, I’ve been reflecting on the purpose of theological study. Why do we study? For what ends? More particularly, why are we inviting six fellows to invest significant time and energy in study?
I’ve learned much on these questions from theologian Paul Griffiths, whose essay, “The Vice of Curiosity,” will be the first text we discuss in our Course of Study next week. In this essay, Griffiths explains the theological distinction between the vice of curiosity and the virtue of studiousness. Curiosity—which, traditionally, has a very different meaning from our use today—involves learning in order to gain greater control, while studiousness means learning out of delight.
Over at Living Church, Paige has a great piece on the question of calling. Paige explains why sorting through our vocation can be so difficult, in part because of the questionable theological assumptions we bring to this question. One of these assumptions is that God’s will mostly has to do with the big decisions of life–who we will marry, or what job we will choose. But she argues that this isn’t quite right:
When we look for references to the will of God in the Bible, we find that they are largely about following his commands. God’s will is that we would obey what he has already revealed to us. … God’s will has more to do with faithfulness in our everyday lives than it does with figuring out the big decisions. For those of us who have long struggled to discern God’s will, this is good news!
One of the questions I’ve returned to over the last several years is how the Church ought to educate her young adults. Over at Living Church, I reflect on several of the thinkers who have most shaped my thinking on this question, especially James K.A. Smith and Etienne Wenger:
Education theorist Etienne Wenger argues that genuine learning takes place in “communities of practice” in which people learn through active participation rather than a passive reception of information. For Wenger, education looks less like finding an answer on Google and more like apprenticeship in a craft, less like memorizing a formula and more like learning to play a new instrument.
The question then becomes “how can the church form genuine communities of practice”? You can read the rest here.