Editor: please enjoy this reflection by Brazos Fellow Emily Engelhardt.
Already it is Mid-February, and I am digging in my heels as the end of the fellows program looms on the horizon. Jesus’ question, “What are you seeking?” which he asks two of his disciples in the first chapter of John, has prompted me to refocus with these last few months of Brazos Fellows ahead.
We began in August asking the questions: Why devote nine months to the study of theology and church history? What is the purpose of this fellowship? Is it worth dedicating time and energy to this work?
The question of where to set our focus is not unique to Brazos Fellows. Life is ordered towards one thing or another, and we must all decide how to orient our lives. I fully expect to be on a lifelong journey of learning to focus and refocus my sight on God.
Fr. Lee Nelson, rector of Christ Church Waco, writes on “The Lost Art of Catechesis” over at Crossway:
I have spent the last six years planting Christ Church, a parish church in Waco, Texas. Around the time I began this work, the draft of To Be a Christian was released. At the urging of our launch team, I began to teach it, going question by question through the whole. It was an exciting time! For me, it was as if the blood was rushing back into my veins as I read questions and asked the people to respond with the answer before explaining the meaning of each answer more closely. Metaphors, analogies, and anecdotes flooded into my mind and the people in that initial group responded with questions which never ceased to probe into the depths of Christian teaching. Within a few months, a group of twenty-five had expanded to over fifty. And within a year, our congregation was over a hundred strong. The joy of retreating back to the basics of the faith, and doing so in a leisurely manner, without a set agenda, and without cheesy, off-the-shelf curricula gave life to us. People immediately started putting the teaching into practice, especially as we asked each week: “How is this going to matter tomorrow?” A group of college students began to pray morning prayer together. They’ve been doing so for nearly five years. As our people learned about healing, we began to pray intently for the healing of our members. People have been healed. We not only gained strength in practice, but our cohesion in matters of teaching was amplified. Many found that they simply could not buy in, and they have found another church to join. Many found that they became enthusiastic in ways they couldn’t have predicted. And others found themselves renewed in the faith that they had received as children and young adults.
It’s worth reading the whole thing–especially if you’d like to get a sense of how Brazos Fellows grew out of a church-wide culture of study and prayer. You can also listen to the episode of “5 in 10” in which Fr. Lee discusses his love for catechesis here.
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:
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”→
A few weeks ago, the Brazos Fellows community gathered together over lunch to share stories from year one of the fellowship. It was wonderful to hear several of the fellows and tutors reflect on our year together: new ways of thinking about and practicing prayer, deeper understandings of our identity in Christ, and the value of studying in a community that practices spiritual disciplines.