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:

Gratitude at the End

This weekend marked the end for the 2019-2020 cohort of Brazos Fellows! What a year it has been. A small (and, I should say, properly socially-distanced) group gathered together to celebrate, while others–tutors, guest instructors, and friends and family–joined us virtually via the magic of Zoom.

We shared a wonderful evening of stories, prayer, BBQ, poetry, and much laughter. The predominate note was gratitude: thanks be to God for this community, and the chance to do this work together.

O Lord Jesus Christ, without whom nothing is sweet nor savory, we beseech you to bless our supper, and with your blessed presence to cheer our hearts, than in all our meats and drinks we may taste and savor of you to your honor and glory. Amen.
– Prayer Before Supper, King Henry’s Primer

Brazos Fellows is only possible because of a large community that generously gives in many ways to the fellowship. We’re especially grateful for our tutors and teachers–especially Christina, Alex, and Fr. Matthew–who invested so much in our fellows’ learning this year. Thank you to them, and to the board of advisors, our generous supporters, host families, and all who shared meals, homes, and financial support this year.

Finally, we count it a privilege to have spent this year studying, praying, and sharing life with Emily, Emily, and Savannah Anne–three remarkable women who have not only been great fellows but also have become friends. Join us in praying for the Lord to bless them richly as they move on to what’s next.

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Changes coming for Brazos Fellows

As you’d expect, it’s been a strange few weeks for the Brazos Fellows. The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to our gathering, much of our programming has been rescheduled or canceled, and we’re meeting virtually for prayer and class.

We’re grateful for good technology and flexible guest lecturers, like Dr. Andrea Turpin. We’re also newly grateful for the community life we’ve enjoyed all year. As Brazos Fellow alum Jess Schurz wrote in a rather prescient 2018 post, “The sanctity of loneliness reminds me that I am not at all entitled to community. When I do find myself in times of rich relationships, it is a gift and nothing else.”

But I’m also glad to say that this is about to change. After strict social distancing, our family and the fellows will be sheltering together starting next week. A nearby house has been provided for the three fellows, and, remarkably all three have part-time jobs they can maintain in isolation or remotely. For the next six weeks, between the two houses, we and the fellows will be a cloistered community committed to praying the daily office, study, and sharing life together. (For the fellows who’ve been interested in exploring monasticism, well, here we go! Community garden included.)

Our hope is that our community can be a remnant that lives together for the sake of the whole church. As St. Cyprian put it, “when we pray, we pray not for one, but for the whole people, because we the whole people are one.” Even when we appear to be isolated, the theological reality of the communion of the saints means that the whole is present in every part. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name,” Christ promised, “there am I in the midst of them.”

We ask your prayers for this new arrangement and the rest of our semester. And to get a window into Brazos Fellows in a time of pandemic, follow along on our new Instagram account for regular updates and this blog for longer reflections.