Forward Today: From Generation to Generation

In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott reflects on how scripture is an intergenerational way to learn about and experience God’s love.

This Wednesday’s sale features The Path: Family Storybook.


Dear friends in Christ,

Last week, as I wrote here, I was at the Episcopal Youth Event in Oklahoma. It was a grand event with 1,300 teenagers and adults. One of my roles there was to staff the Forward Movement table in the exhibit hall, and I had the chance to have good conversation with lots of folks. There was a good deal of interest in The Path: Family Storybook. It goes with a whole set of resources designed to encourage children, youth, and adults to engage with scripture. The core idea is to present the stories of scripture in a way that reveals the grand narrative arc of God’s great love for us from the moment of creation, through Jesus Christ, up to today, and for ever.

The Path Family Storybook

I’ve been thinking about all this lately. We in the church sometimes wonder why younger people aren’t as interested in church as we might hope. Never mind that our picture of the past might be rosier than reality, the fact is that it’s no surprise. Why would anyone–of any age–be interested in church if they don’t know about God’s love for them as revealed in Jesus Christ? It isn’t enough to say God loves you, but we need to teach some of the ways God loves us.

Imagine if I told my spouse I love her, but never acted like it. Now imagine if I told people God loves them, but didn’t act like it or show how that’s true. Opening the pages of scripture is an amazing way to see God’s love for people from generation to generation. It’s something that we can all do, regardless of our age. Adults can fall in love with scripture, and so can children. There are loads of ways to do this, and one of the great gifts of God’s word is that it creates a level playing field. The eight year-old and the seminary graduate can sit together and bask in the glory of God’s great love.

Have you read the Bible lately, for the sheer joy of it? Have you looked for a way to share the amazing riches of scripture with a child or younger person you know? Let us all commit to engaging the scriptures. It will change us and our world.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: From the Episcopal Youth Event in Oklahoma

In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott writes to us from Oklahoma City, where he is attending the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE).

This Wednesday’s sale features The Path: A Journey Through the Bible.


Dear friends in Christ,

I am writing this week’s Forward Today from Oklahoma City, where I’ve come to attend the Episcopal Youth Event. Once every three years, youth from the entire Episcopal Church gather for several days of worship, learning, service, and fellowship. As you can imagine, it’s an inspiring and energizing place to be.

EYE bird logo

 

Forward Movement has a table in the exhibit hall, and we are enjoying our conversation with youth and also with the adults who are here. Fans of Lent Madness will be interested to know that Tim Schenck and I will be hosting a contest tomorrow, as the youth vote on whether St. Longinus or St. Quiteria earns a place in the 2018 bracket. If you’d like to learn more about that, head over to the Lent Madness website.

Mostly though, I’m here to listen to younger leaders in the church. The youth who have gathered here are not the future of the church. They are the church. If you want to know how to make our church more hospitable to younger people, ask them! If you want more involvement of young leaders in your vestry or diocesan committees, ask them! If you want to know what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus as a high schooler, ask them! They are ready to testify, if we are ready to listen.

Watch coverage of this event at the Episcopal News Service. Find out who was at EYE from your diocese, and listen to the stories of their experience. Today the kids are visiting the Oklahoma City bombing memorial, and they’ll have that and many other rich experiences to share with you. I promise you, the conversation you have will be a blessing to you and to the young person who is offered a chance to testify to the power of God’s love in their lives and the world around them.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: The Gift of Common Prayer

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott suggests a practice for prayer: “Perhaps you might find a collect or two from our prayer book and memorize them. Then when your heart demands it, you will have the words at hand.”

And to help you get started, today in our Wednesday sale, take 25% off Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

There are as many ways to pray as there are people on earth. I don’t really think there is a right or a wrong method of prayer, though some may be more suitable for us at particular times.
 
Impromptu prayer leaves room for us to say to God what is on our heart at that instant. Contemplative prayer opens us to hear God’s still, small voice. Walking prayer helps us use our whole bodies in prayer. And of course, we Anglicans know a thing or two about common prayers. Our tradition is rooted in the idea that prayer forms us, and one of the ways we are formed us a community is that we all say the same prayers.

 

Most of the time, I prefer to say these prayers – ancient and modern litanies, collects, and other prayers – because they give me the words to say so that I can focus on my intention and on God’s response. Take, for example, this gem from the back of our prayer book:
 
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
The elegance of expression is a gift, is it not? However you pray, treasure the gift of prayer. Perhaps you might find a collect or two from our prayer book and memorize them. Then when your heart demands it, you will have the words at hand. This certainly isn’t the only way to pray, but I find there is a priceless gift in filling our minds with lovely prayers.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: Bless Our Land

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott writes about Independence Day–and the prayers we say for this Major Feast day.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Early next week, the United States will celebrate its Independence Day. The day is more than the sales that will probably keep malls and stores busy this weekend. The day is more than a few fireworks. Independence Day is a day to give thanks for the blessings of this nation and to recommit to treasuring and building up the ideals of our country.

 

Photo by Flickr user Celso FLORES / Creative Commons

As Episcopalians will know, this day is a red letter day in the Book of Common Prayer. It’s a Major Feast day, and churches are meant to have celebrations of the Holy Eucharist on this day. Our prayer book provides a couple of prayers and a set of readings for the occasion. There’s another prayer I quite like, a prayer that we might all say on or near Independence Day. It’s not specific to the United States, so readers from other nations might use it also.
 
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page 820)
 
This prayer reminds us – both as citizens and as people of faith – that we must remember both our rights and blessings and our duties and obligations. In particular, we have a sacred duty to look out for the lost, the least, and the last. As Emma Lazarus wrote for the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
 
Ours is a nation of people yearning to be free. Let us all seek to make a nation where all are free. And when we see that oppression and captivity are preventing freedom, let us open our hearts and the doors of our churches to give sanctuary to those in need of protection and safety.
 
This Independence Day, let us indeed celebrate our many blessings. But let us also remember that righteousness and justice demand constant vigilance.
 
However you use your time this summer, may God bless you.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Movement Partners with Bookmasters

We’re pleased to announce a new sales and distribution partnership with Ashland, OH–based Bookmasters! This will mean bigger and better distribution for Forward Movement titles around the world, and we’re excited about how it will help us inspire more disciples and empower more evangelists. Here’s the announcement from Bookmasters.

Note that this is an additional channel geared especially toward booksellers outside of the Episcopal Church; of course, you can still find Forward Movement products on our website, and on Amazon or your regular bookstore. And if you haven’t checked out the site lately, we’ve got a lot of great new ones available (including The Power of Imperfection, which is 40% off today only!).

Forward Movement Launches the Good Book Club

We’re excited to announce the Good Book Club—a church-wide invitation to all Episcopalians to read Luke and Acts during Lent-Easter 2018. Participants in the Good Book Club will begin reading Luke the Sunday before Lent, February 11, 2018, and finish up the Book of Acts on the Day of Pentecost, May 20, 2018. We hope you’ll join us, and the many churches, individuals and organizations who will be a part of this special project.

Several organizations have already announced partnerships with Forward Movement on the Good Book Club, including Episcopal Church Foundation, ChurchNext, Episcopal Migration Ministries, and The Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry. Partner organizations are creating resources or encouraging their constituents to take part in the effort. A list of current partners can be found here.

The Good Book Club website (goodbookclub.org) lists the daily readings, as well as available resources to support people as they read the scriptures. Resources also will be available in Spanish at clubbiblico.org.

And a note to Forward Day by Day readers: Forward Day by Day will use Good Book Club readings during Lent-Easter 2018, instead of the usual daily lectionary.

For now, you can sign up for updates or learn more about partnering with us at goodbookclub.org. We hope you’ll read along with us, and Episcopalians around the globe!

Forward Today: Slowing Down for Summer

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott writes about slowing down during the summer season–and how we can find a new pace in our spiritual lives.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Next week is the official start of summer, but for many people, the rhythm of life will have changed already. If you have students at your house, they’re probably done or close to done for the academic year. Many congregations’ program lives slow down for the summer. Children go to camp. Vacation plans are made. We might spend more time outdoors on the porch. Life slows down a bit.

 

 

What will you do with extra time–time that comes from the slower pace of summer, vacation time, and more hours of daylight? Maybe “nothing” is a good answer. Lord knows, in our always-on, endlessly busy culture, we need the rest. If that’s your plan, I salute you.
 
You might want to spend some time this summer taking up new habits or reading new books. Maybe this is a good time to try out the daily office as you sit on the porch. Or maybe you’ll want to do some reading that helps to deepen your faith. Lots of publishers have great titles, fiction and nonfiction. If you’re looking for suggestions from Forward Movement, I’d offer The Path or Inwardly Digest. The Path takes you on a journey through the great narrative of scripture. Inwardly Digest beckons you to encounter our Book of Common Prayer with depth and devotion.
 
We’ve also just published The Power of Imperfection. “Many of us go through life feeling as if we are failing to be the person we could be. But as this liberating book explores, there is power to be found in imperfection.”
 
However you use your time this summer, may God bless you.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Summer Splash Sale: June 19th — June 23rd

Next week only, we are offering a sale on our books that have made a splash this year (note: these are not waterproof!). Each day of the week—from Monday to Friday—a different book will be featured, with a 40% discount!

Monday—The Path  

Regular $22 | Sale $13.20

The Path is the story of the Bible, excerpted from the New Revised Standard Version so that it is clear and easy to read. The Path has received a bronze medal in the Bible Study category of The Illumination Awards.

“There is nothing quite like the actual words of the Bible that tease, subvert, offend, and empower. Here they are! These careful excerpts transpose the Bible from an externally regarded totem to an actual living, compelling script.”

-Walter Brueggemann (Old Testament scholar and renowned theologian)


Tuesday—Inwardly Digest

Regular $22 | Sale $13.20

Scholar Derek Olsen explores liturgical spirituality and how the prayer book serves as a repository of Christian wisdom and spiritual practice stretching back to the beginnings of the Christian movement. Focusing on three key elements—the Calendar, the Daily Office, and the Eucharist—he discusses the spiritual principles behind them and provides clear, practical, easy-to-follow explanations of the services.

 


Wednesday—Bible Challenge Day! 

This will feature:

The Bible Challenge 

Regular $18 | Sale $10.80

This year-long reading adventure includes meditations written by more than one hundred archbishops, bishops, deans, priests, and scholars. If you never thought you could read the whole Bible, The Bible Challenge is a wonderful way to embark on a holy pilgrimage joined by others from around the world!

 

A Journey with Matthew

Regular $15 | Sale $9.00

A Journey with Mark

Regular $15 | Sale $9.00

A Journey with Luke  

Regular $15 | Sale $9.00

A Journey with John

Regular $15 | Sale $9.00

Each Journey book includes fifty days of scripture readings, meditations, and prayers written by dynamic spiritual leaders from around the world. The series is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with the Word of God.


Thursday—The Power of Imperfection 

Regular $16 | Sale $9.60

Many of us go through life feeling as if we are failing to be the person we could be. But as this liberating book explores, there is power to be found in imperfection. Using stories from scripture and the news, personal experience, poems, and art, author Ruth Scott celebrates the messiness and creative potential of being human.

 

 


Friday—Bible Women

Regular $22 | Sale $13.20

In this groundbreaking book named best Bible study of 2015 by Illumination Book Awards, Episcopal priest Lindsay Hardin Freeman identifies every woman who speaks in the Bible, providing their words, context, and historical background. We learn which women speak the most (hint: it’s not Mary!) and which books of the Bible have the fewest words from women.

 

“The author weaves both heart and humor into her stories of the 93 women who speak in the Bible, and in her narration we discover ourselves. Like them we are broken. Like them, we find healing through God’s power. The author and her research partners….synthesized their research into a compelling analysis which the author shares of why the words these women spoke matters, even today. Especially today.”- Barbara Dundon

 

5 Questions for Forward Day by Day Author Ann Rose

We hope you’ve been enjoying this month’s Forward Day by Day meditations by Ann Rose. We love hearing more about writers’ processes, so we recently checked in with Ann, who shared more about her writing and her daily practice, plus some wonderful stories that didn’t make it into Forward Day by Day. Enjoy!

Do you have a special place you write, or do you just write at your desk or wherever the mood strikes you?

I have a chair in our living room, across from a chest with two pottery oil candles that my husband made. Two icons are on the wall above the chest (“The Holy Trinity” and “The Dormition” icons). That is where I start each morning, candles lighted, with reading, meditation, journaling, and prayer. When I’m working on a writing project, like the Forward Day by Day meditations, I tend to sit in that chair to think, gather ideas, jot them down, and ponder them.

Sometimes I write the first draft of the meditation by hand, sitting in that chair.  At some point, I move to my computer in our home office at the end of the family room, and continue to work on it. Three days a week, I teach part-time at a seminary (composition and literature). I keep index cards in my purse, and when an idea strikes me for a meditation, I jot it down at the next red light or between classes so that I won’t forget it before I get back home to my chair or computer.

Did you have a favorite meditation you wrote this month? If so, why? Conversely, did you struggle with any of the readings in particular?

One of my favorite meditations for June is the one for Friday the 16th. I didn’t grow up in a home with strong Christian teaching, but what I thought I understood from the general culture was that God wanted strong, continually joyful people, and that God showed us the right path and the best choices but wasn’t involved in a particularly intimate way with us. When I spent a year in the Ignatian Retreat in Everyday Life about 10 years ago (and after that became a co-facilitator of the retreat), I learned to put myself imaginatively into the scenes of Bible stories and later to continue the conversation with Jesus about what was happening in my interior life. Out of that came my discovery that I was loved when I wasn’t either strong or joyful, and that I could afford to be transparent with myself and with God about desolate times.

That discovery has been incredibly important to me. The meditation on June 16th is based on that idea, and the meditation on June 9th works with that theme also, using George Herbert’s lines about the broken pieces of our hearts along with our tears becoming an altar for God. Someday maybe I’ll get the chance to write on Psalm 56:8, where the psalmist asks God to “put my tears in your bottle.” The image of God’s caring so deeply about our tears that he collects them in a precious tear bottle is a profound as well as a beautiful image to me.

I don’t think I struggled with the readings so much as I struggled when I wanted to use icons or other Christian art in my meditations. Icons are important spiritual tools for me, and I also love much Western medieval Christian art in its simplicity and almost primitive nature. But it’s difficult to describe a piece of art in such a way that the meditation has the force and clarity that I feel when I am looking at the icon or fresco or oil painting or statue. In the June meditations, I used two icons (“The Holy Trinity” and “Pentecost”) and two pieces of 11th century Western art (the illuminated manuscript of Jesus in the boat in the storm and the fresco in the Bayeux Cathedral of the crucified Jesus in God’s lap), and with those illustrations that touch me so deeply, I struggled to put them into words effectively.

What do you do when you have writers’ block? How do you unstick yourself? 

My usual plan is to work through the month of readings, finishing one mediation before I start thinking about the next one. On the day that I finish a draft of one, that night I read the next set of scripture readings before I go to bed, because I find that sometimes my mind keeps working during the night and I wake up with thoughts about a reading that I wasn’t conscious of when I went to sleep. The following morning, I re-read the scripture passages and go through the day trying to keep them in mind and thinking about which one draws me the most to write about it. If I do that for a couple of days and nothing strikes me as a good choice, then I move on to the next day and figure that when I eventually get back to the skipped day, one or more of the readings will jump off the page as being good material for a meditation. I do surround all of this in prayer, praying that I will be able to choose verses and stories such that many readers will relate to what I’m writing and find the meditation meaningful and helpful.

How has developing a daily devotional practice changed your life and relationships? 

My daily devotional life has had a long history of development. I was drawn to start a faith journey in high school through the organization Young Life, which offered, along with large, enthusiastic meetings, small Bible study groups that were so good that I sailed through Old Testament and New Testament courses at Duke, already knowing much of the material and feeling appreciative of an academic approach to the Bible, instead of threatened by it (which many of my classmates seemed to feel). Young Life kids were encouraged to have a daily “quiet time” that consisted of “listening to God” through reading scripture, and “talking to God” through prayer. Years later I would find that dividing scripture from prayer no longer worked for me, but at the time, it was a good starting place. I became an active Presbyterian in high school and college, and the church I attended just a block from my college campus continued to instill in me the need for daily devotional practice as well as weekly Bible study at the church.

I kept up my “quiet time” until I had a full-time college teaching job and two young children, both of whom were juvenile diabetics, so our mornings were all about medical things and I struggled to keep on top of it all. After a plateau of about 10 years, my husband and I had become Episcopalians and we both went to Cursillo. Part of my renewal experience was to return to my daily prayer and study time. I remember it felt not like a discipline but like coming home.

As time went on, I began to read about and try prayer approaches like Lectio Divina and Praying with Scripture, both approaches combining scripture with prayer rather than separating them. Then about 10 years ago, I did the Ignatian Retreat in Everyday Life for a year, and that nailed down the Ignatian way of “praying with scripture” for me. I co-facilitated the retreat for a couple of years after I made my own retreat, and now I am co-facilitating it again on a regular basis.

How has a daily devotional practice changed my life and relationships? For me, it is a spiritual lifeline.  It’s not a commitment that I feel I have to keep, but a time I relish to start the day. One of the key things in Ignatian spirituality is to identify the “consolations” and also the “desolations” of the day.  I do this each morning for the previous day, and jot them down, imagining Jesus sitting with me and sharing both the things I’m grateful for and the things that seem dark, discouraging, frustrating, etc. Then I take an index card and jot down what I think I need to do that day. I try to make this a prayerful experience.

I used to get distracted from my prayer time as things would pop into my mind about the day ahead. So I decided to incorporate the day ahead into my prayer time instead. After making the index card for the upcoming day, I spend some time with Ignatian praying with scripture (I use the book Sacred Space, which is compiled every year by the Jesuits in Ireland), sitting in silence, and then reading. Depending on how long I have, I might read the online mediation from Frederick Buechner, the daily reading from Forward Day by Day, and a few pages from whatever author I’m currently reading–Richard Rohr, Barbara Brown Taylor, Anne Lamott, Cynthia Bourgeault, Joan Chittister, Rowan Williams, etc.

Now that I’m not working full-time, I have a much longer time in the morning on the days that I’m not heading for the seminary campus. I don’t know how I would be if I didn’t give myself this time of sensing that I’m sitting in God’s presence and pondering, reading, jotting down consolations and desolations from the previous day, listening, and just being silent, but I know it has helped me be healthier both spiritually and emotionally for a long, long time.

What’s one thing you’d like to share with the readers/FDD community that you might not have gotten to share in your meditations? 

The older I get (I was born when my father was overseas serving in World War II), the more I become aware that the “teachers of deep things” in my life have been not only the predictable people like parents, college professors, and clergy. Some of those people have been profound teachers, but in addition, my “teachers of deep things” have been my own children, my husband, ordinary friends, students in my classrooms, certain scenes that have given me glimpses of the kingdom of God, several dreams, art, creation, and even architecture (I’m thinking of Durham Cathedral in northern England as I mention architecture).

I’m sure that if I revised that list a few weeks from now, I would want to add many more categories. Just last week I started making a list of specific grace-filled lessons that I had either learned or been reminded of through other people, scenes, art, creation, and so on. I am going to use part of my time this summer to work on my own personal writing project about these lessons and the way they came to me. The Ignatian perspective of “finding God in all things” has helped direct me to try to be increasingly open to experiencing God through all sorts of things that would have seemed unlikely to me when I was a younger adult.

I also studied quite a bit of medieval literature in college and graduate school, and perhaps the medieval approach to seeing life on various levels at the same time–literal, allegorical, symbolic, and mystical–has come back in my later years not as an academic concept but as a spiritual reality to help me see grace in all sorts of people and things that otherwise might seem random.

Probably all great spiritual traditions emphasize “awareness,” and for me, the awareness of the multitude of avenues by which grace has come to me in my life is very much on my mind right now–so I am happy you asked what I would like to share if I had one more thing to mention.

Forward Movement Announces Major Discipleship Conference

Forward Movement is pleased to announce the Discipleship Matters conference for 2017.

Discipleship Matters

Episcopalians will gather October 16-18 at St. Thomas’ Church, Whitemarsh in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, for a conference focused on helping leaders create a culture of discipleship in their congregations.

The conference will explore Christian formation for discipleship, scripture engagement, habits of daily prayer, serving the poor, and sharing the Good News. Built on the model of the very successful Evangelism Matters conference held in Dallas in November 2016, this conference will offer keynote presentations, workshops, and networking time, and will be undergirded with Eucharist and the Daily Office. The conference will include findings from RenewalWorks, a research-based Forward Movement initiative that has identified key catalysts for spiritual vitality in congregations and for individuals. A focus on discipleship is one of those primary catalysts, based on research from nearly half a million participants across the country.

“In our work with RenewalWorks, we have learned a great deal about how to encourage spiritual growth and deeper practices in congregations,” said the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, director of RenewalWorks. “This conference gives us a wonderful way to share practices that work.”

The conference will begin at 2 p.m. on Monday, October 16, and conclude at noon on Wednesday, October 18. Conference sessions will be held at St. Thomas, and participants may stay in nearby hotels or travel from their homes, if local. Registration opens in mid-July, and more details will be available then, including keynote speakers and workshop sessions. To learn more about the conference or to sign up for updates, visit renewalworks.org/events.

The people of St. Thomas’ Church look forward to hosting Discipleship Matters, said the Rev. Marek Zabriskie, the church’s rector. “We have been transformed by scripture engagement in our church, including of course, The Bible Challenge. We are excited to share what we have learned and to offer hospitality to conference attendees.”

Forward Movement is a ministry of the Episcopal Church that seeks to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. With offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, Forward Movement offers online resources, digital products, books, pamphlets, and its flagship devotional, Forward Day by Day. Learn more at www.forwardmovement.org.