“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!”

“The light of Christ, the hope of the world:” A Reflection on Beginnings

Editor: We welcome new Brazos Fellows Natalie Widdows to the blog with her first of hopefully many reflections!

Sitting cross-legged on my carpet, I watch the flickering flame of a white taper candle. The wax pools for a moment near the wick before spilling over, streaming down the side of the candle like tears.

The day before, a priest gave me this candle as a part a house blessing. He blessed the candle and then lit it, and, as the little flame danced into existence, the priest uttered a simple, yet powerful truth:

“The light of Christ, the hope of the world.”

He then handed the candle to me to hold, and I looked down at it with a new sense of awe. The flame seemed so gentle, timid even. Could the light of Christ really be like this tiny flame? I cupped it tenderly in my hands. I feared that the smallest breeze would snuff it out, yet the flame persisted in its burning.

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We took that candle into every room of the house, pausing to pray and ask for God’s blessing upon the life and work that took place in that space. The work in each room seemed to take on new meaning in the presence of that candle, for it signified both the inbreaking of Christ’s hope into the mundane acts of life, from cooking to sleeping to teeth-brushing, and the reorientation of these quotidian tasks to the glory of God. The candle brought new life, new depth, and a new beginning.

Beginnings. Though often tinged with the poignant sorrow of a season just ended, beginnings are glorious in the opportunities they offer. The blessing of my new home marked the start of a new season in my life, a season dedicated to prayer, work, study, discernment, and spiritual growth.

The year of Brazos Fellows lies open before me, and as I begin this new season, I am struck by how the light of Christ seeks to permeate all the spaces and rooms of my soul. It searches out the shadows, and, with its glow, this flame brings hope and healing and wholeness.

Faced with the blessed opportunity of this year, I am praying that God’s light would dwell richly in my soul. I am praying that the fire of faith would be kindled more fully within me and that the work of this year would spark a new devotion and a new direction. Full of hopeful expectation, I commit myself to the disciplines of our life together in Brazos Fellows, praying:

“My hope, my Christ, my lamp, my light: I entrust myself and this beginning to you. Amen.”

Introducing the 2020-2021 Brazos Fellows

Updated: August 20, 2020

In just a few weeks, the 2020-2021 Brazos Fellows cohort kicks off! It’s certainly not going to be a typical year for the fellowship, given COVID-19, but the basics will stay the same: a rhythm of prayer, work, and study; learning and discerning in conversation with tutors, spiritual directors, and coaches; a rich and rigorous Course of Study; and sharing life together. As it turns out, 2020 might just be the perfect time to be part of something like Brazos Fellows. In the middle of uncertainty, division, and disruption, there’s never been a greater need for Christians to take on a Rule of Life–to embrace weekly practices and disciplines aimed at deepening our love of God and neighbor–and to commit to sharing life with others in small, in-depth communities.

And we’re especially excited to do this work with our incoming fellows. In the coming weeks we’ll be welcoming a great group of men and women to Waco, Texas. Here’s the 2020-2021 Brazos Fellows cohort:

TiffanyTiffany Owens is coming to Waco from Brooklyn, New York. A graduate of The King’s College, Tiffany has a background in journalism but has been working in marketing for the past few years. She currently works in social media management for an online classical Christian school. This year, life in NYC has definitely slowed down due to COVID, so she’s been spending most of her time working, researching for various side projects, and taking long bike rides around Brooklyn. This year, she is hoping to study Critical Race Theory and its implications for politics and public life.

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Arabella Bryant goes by Belle. She was raised in Central Florida with her parents, in a city called Lakeland. She recently graduated from Wheaton College where she majored in English Literature and minored in Bible/Theology and French. This year she will study the body within church history and how embodiment relates to our redemption and to eschatology. She is looking forward to how being in a space that is initially unknown can invite the fellows into new perspectives on ourselves, the world, and God.

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Mitchell Elequin was raised in the hill country west of Austin, Texas. He just graduated from Baylor with a BBA, studying accounting, anthropology, and New Testament. This summer, he is developing a non-profit called Tentmakers Network and enjoying board games and disc golf with loved ones. He is looking forward to studying contemporary Christian ethics through first-century Christian wisdom, and eagerly anticipates liturgical and communal life with the Brazos Fellows cohort.

Picture1Natalie Widdows is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and she recently graduated from Baylor as a University Scholar studying Great Texts. She attended Christ Church this past year and is excited to continue being a part of the Christ Church family for this upcoming year. She is particularly excited to study church history, theology, and Holy Scripture in the context of a community centered on prayer, worship, fellowship, and love of God.

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Chris Norton received his initial programming in Shreveport, Louisiana, as part of a global conspiracy to subvert your thoughts and feelings. However, an undisclosed agent hacked his software and modified him to endlessly scribble made-up stories instead. As a result, Chris was let loose to run amok in the world and currently masquerades as a writer of wacky fiction, supporting himself by creating short stories for English language learners. During his time in Waco, he’ll be looking into some questions at the intersection of writing and spiritual experience. He’s excited to ride some mountain bike trails and explore with his puppy, Naomi—all while devoting his abilities entirely to peaceful purposes.

Please join us in praying for Mitchell, Belle, Natalie, Chris, and Tiffany, as they move to Waco, get settled, and prepare to do this work of study, discernment, and prayer. We’re looking forward to what this year holds for them.

Prayer for Justice, Prayer for Healing

Archbishop Foley Beach has called the ACNA to a week of fasting and prayer in light of recent events in our nation, especially the “senseless killing by a police officer of an unarmed black man, George Floyd.” All of us at Brazos Fellows join in offering these prayers for justice and racial healing in our nation. And we add our voices to the many in ACNA who recognize the need for confession, commitment, and change in the Letter on Anti-Racism and a More Diverse and Just Anglicanism:

We see and grieve the racism and discrimination that exists and has a deep cultural and structural influence in our society, in our communities, and in our churches. The recent tragedies of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are simply the latest in a long line of harrowing examples of these deeply embedded systemic realities. We see and grieve that our brothers and sisters of color, including many in our own dioceses and parishes, have been and continue to be profoundly affected by these realities.

Against this backdrop, we offer the following confessions and make the following commitments.

Please read the whole letter here–and consider adding your name.

While we cannot provide anything close to a comprehensive list of resources for further viewing and / or reading, we commend the following to our readers: