by Paul Gutacker Director, Brazos Fellows Campus Minister, Anglican Student Ministries ____
From its beginnings, Christ Church has welcomed and cared for students. Whether to undergrads, graduate students, seminarians, or Brazos Fellows, ministry to students has been central to the life and mission of Christ Church; you might even say that it’s been a charism, or calling, of our parish.
There are many reasons for this. For one, over the years we’ve counted among our members many faculty and staff who work at Baylor University, McLennan Community College, and Texas State Technical College, and the parish has maintained good connections and even collaboration with these places of higher education.
Perhaps more fundamentally, student ministry has organically risen from key values of our community: hospitality; robust catechesis; an endorsement of the goodness of the intellectual life—the call to love the Lord our God with all our minds. And we’ve been blessed, over the years, with able lay and clerical leaders who have sacrificially invested in the spiritual, theological, and personal growth of students. By God’s grace, all of these factors have contributed to vital student ministries at Christ Church.
But, unless you’re directly involved in one of these ministries, you might not be aware of the various ways our parish serves our students. Let me highlight just a few:
Christ Church sponsors Anglican Student Ministries, a student-led organization at Baylor that “exists to glorify God, bring people to Christ, and serve others by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Every Wednesday during the school semester, ASM gathers on campus to pray the Evening Office from the Book of Common Prayer, followed by a short theological discussion. ASM also organizes outreach events, an annual student retreat, and collaborates with other student ministries at Baylor.
In addition, several Christ Church families regularly open up their homes for “College Student Gatherings,” which typically include dinner, prayer, and / or Bible study. Still others mentor, pray with, counsel, and offer spiritual direction to students.
Through these ministries over the years, many college students have found a home at Christ Church. In our parish, students have been evangelized, catechized, baptized, confirmed, and married; they’ve served as acolytes, nursery workers, in the altar guild, and much more. Most crucially, they’ve been strengthened and matured in their faith during a stage of life when many of their peers abandon belief and disaffiliate from the church.
Since 2014, grad students, seminarians, and their spouses have participated in Graduate Anglicans, a community “devoted to gathering together for fellowship, conversation, and encouragement through their time in graduate school.” Speaking from personal experience, this community has been a great gift to the grad students and seminarians in our parish—and their families. Amidst the pressures of grad school (and the job market), Graduate Anglicans provides intellectual and spiritual encouragement, camaraderie, and support. For myself, and many others I know personally, this community at Christ Church cultivated our vocations as Christian scholars and teachers.
There’s a sense in which Christ Church, through this ministry to grad students, is a “sending parish.” We welcome and support these brilliant men and women, usually only for 4-5 years, and, as we do, we’re also investing in future faculty. We get to befriend, encourage, catechize, and equip those who will go on to teach the next generation at schools all across the country. Off the top of my head, alumni of Graduate Anglicans are now teaching at Anderson University, Colorado Christian University, West Point Academy, Union University, Christopher Newport University, Taylor University, Baylor University, St. Constantine College, Indiana Wesleyan University, and Hillsdale College, to name only a few!
Finally, Christ Church provides a robust community for those in the “bridge years” between college and whatever comes next. Brazos Fellows come to our parish to live, for a year, by a common Rule of Life. They commit to common prayer, deep theological study, vocational discernment, and life together. While the fellows don’t get a degree (or even grades!) they are students in and for the Church: studying the Great Tradition, learning the story Christ is telling through his Church, and seeking to grow in knowledge and love of the Lord.
By welcoming Brazos Fellows, we not only invest in the holistic formation of emerging adults, but also equip those who will serve and lead in our parish and many other churches. As I wrote in the parish newsletter back in August, Christ Church both gives much to and receives much from the fellows.
As a matter of fact, today we open applications to the 2024 – 2025 Brazos Fellows cohort. We’re praying for the Lord to send us our largest cohort to date—that he would bring us a group of young men and women who desire to be formed at Christ Church through prayer, study, discernment, and Christian community. Our early application deadline is January 5.
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If you want to know more about these ministries, or to volunteer to help, visit the College Ministries webpage here to find contact information for each.