My Dear Fellows,
As this chapter, more specifically this 2014-2015 class, of the Nashville Fellows comes to its final page, I find myself quite reflective. What a class and what a year it has been. We find ourselves ending in much the same way we began, with a challenge. The challenge was derived from Teddy Roosevelt's speech commonly referred to as " The Man in the Arena." In that speech, which we engaged with on our opening retreat in August, we talked about what it would look like to be the man or woman in the arena of life. The quote we focused on said:

β€œIt is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

We noted that it is in our daring greatly that the true character of ourselves and our true trust in God are simultaneously revealed. We have found that to be true. In each of the stages, or pages, of this journey as a Fellow you have been challenged to come to know our own stories, the stories of others, and the magnificent story of the Gospel. It has not always been easy. We have experienced trials and hardships. We have also seen great joy and connection. In essence we have seen both the beauty and the brokenness of ourselves and the world around us.

As with each great journey, we must pause and reflect what it is teaching us. 

As I reflect on each of you, I am reminded of the burden of Grace we all carry. I say it is a burden because it comes at a price. And yet it is Grace - the most beautiful and revolutionary idea the world has ever seen. I am most impressed with your growth and maturity. Jesus has taught you so much. And He has taught me so much.

As we embark on our final retreat together we will re-read, and re-share the significance of what it means to be the man or woman engaged in the arena of life. We have chosen to reject the ease of simply being a spectator of our life, but to live life fully. It is in that kind of living that we truly find Jesus, as HE IS LIFE.

And as this journey ends, only to begin another, I find myself asking the question, "what will you carry with you?" What will be the reminder of what we have learned together, my dear Fellows. Will it be a book, a verse, a quote? Perhaps a song, a journal, or an experience. For me it will be the memories. Memories of seeing you rise to the challenges set before you. Experiencing your vulnerability through your own stories. Watching you become a community, a fellowship tied together by the deep truths of the Gospel. I feel a deep sense of pride welling up inside me, as a father for his children. I am so proud of each of you.  As we turn the final page of this chapter,  remember and carry with you all that we have experienced and learned together.

Farewell and dare greatly, my dear friends and Fellows.

Shane Bowen, Director