Editor’s note: please enjoy this guest post by Emily Engelhardt, Brazos Fellow alum (2019-2020). Emily is now studying nurse-midwifery at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.
I am a year removed and hundreds of miles away from the special time and place of Brazos Fellows, and I am only beginning to understand the impact of those nine months.
Brazos Fellows provided the opportunity to practice and embody spiritual disciplines in community. Liturgies both spoken and performed day after day and week after week slowly engrained themselves upon us.
On our prayer retreat, Fr. Nicholas encouraged us to cross ourselves as soon as we wake up and when we go to bed to remind ourselves of the one to whom we belong. Now, when I awake, before a coherent thought sputters across my mind and the weight of the day’s responsibilities set in, I mark my body and soul with the sign of redemption, and remember that I belong to God, the one on whom all my hope rests. As Tish Warren writes in Liturgy of the Ordinary, when we awake, we should remember that God chooses us before we have accomplished anything. Like a babe washed in the waters of baptism before they can choose to do anything for themselves, so does our God look at us before we accomplish any task and say, “My beloved!”
A discipline communally practiced in Brazos Fellows that transformed my life was practicing a Sabbath. I still remember the moment Paige Gutacker said that the assigned readings were considered the work for the program, and should not be done Sunday. “Oh man,” I thought. “Not sure yet how I’ll make that happen.” But our cohort was committing to a rule of life together, so for better or worse I was submitting to a decision made for me (and how freeing this was!).
Little did I know what a gift it would be to start receiving this Sabbath rest. Committing to take Sunday off from work not only began to shape the rest of my week, but my life. Week by week, God loosened my fingers of the tight grasp of control I was attempting to hold on my own life. “Let me take it,” He says. “I have something better for you.” Will I trust that voice?
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.”
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.
I’m pleased to share my contribution to “A Symposium on Teaching Virtue: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Pedagogy, Liturgy, and Moral Formation,” recently published in the International Journal of Christianity & Education.
What We Have Done and What We Have Left Undone: Christian History as Confession
by Paul Gutacker
At the midpoint of the Eucharistic liturgical rite, there comes a moment when the congregation is called to remember. We are invited to kneel, to silently consider our pasts, and then to give voice to “what we have done and what we have left undone.” (Book of Common Prayer, 1979: 331)As a turning point in the liturgy, and, indeed, a biblically-mandated discipline, confession is foundational for the spirituality of each Christian believer and the life of the church. Perhaps this liturgical act, in some sense, is also emblematic for all Christian reflection on the past. As the liturgical moment of remembrance, confession informs how and why we attend to history. How might liturgical confession serve as a model for our historical pedagogy? In this essay, I suggest that three aspects of confession – its posture, its understanding of knowledge, and its ends – ought to inform how and why we teach history. Together, these show that the liturgical act of confession offers a fruitful framing metaphor for the historical classroom.