ICYMI: Week of 12/9

Welcome back to In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world.

Last week, we dedicated our post to sharing resources around Standing Rock. Over the weekend, the federal government announced that they would look for an alternative route for the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline. 

Here’s the New York Times article on the announcement, and powerful video from Standing Rock:

And here’s an excellent post from Episcopal News Service on the scene in North Dakota, and the key role of Episcopal chaplains on the ground.

As we lit the second candle for Advent, at Forward Movement we continued to share ‘Advent Actions’—ways to engage in your home, on your block, and in society at large. Did you talk to a neighbor this week? Learn more about a nonprofit? Gather with family and friends around the table? We’d love to hear your stories!

As a Christian, how do you greet people this time of year? Do you focus on Advent, wish a merry Christmas, or offer a secular greeting? In this week’s Forward Today, Scott wrote about this issue—a subject of seemingly annual debate that also speaks to some key questions about how we practice faith in the public sphere.

Speaking of shared faith: A reminder that when using our Journey through Advent app, you can color in daily digital calendar illustrations from Jay Sidebotham, then share them on social media. (The app also offers daily scripture readings and a journal feature; you can get it here.) Here were some favorites so far:

From @auntiesdollous on Twitter, for St. Nicholas day: 

Scott’s two-candle work

The simple-but-striking all-red, from @StFrancisCEC

We’ve also launched a Facebook group for sharing drawings in the Spanish version of the calendar. “Viajemos juntos en este Adviento” es un grupo de Facebook en el que nos preparamos, con caricaturas y preguntas breves, para la llegada de Jesús. ¡Únete al grupo y viaja con nosotros!

We hope you’re enjoying a reflective Advent season. Have a great weekend–and join us here for the next week of Advent actions after the third candle is lit!

 

Forward Today: Ambassadors for Christ

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on Christmas and “this funny time of year for Christians and the public life.”


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Someone recently asked me if I’d speak to a reporter to offer a theological perspective on a game called Santa vs. Jesus. I haven’t seen the game, but of course I Googled it. It’s a hard game, meant to be humorous, apparently designed to make the point that Christmas is about Jesus. OK, fair enough. I’m sold.
 
That got me to thinking about this funny time of year for Christians and the public life. Some people wonder if it’s better to stick it out with Advent for the duration, or if we should cave and join wider culture in celebrating Christmas. And of course, certainly people try to stir a battle each year over an alleged “war on Christmas” with pointed commentary about the correct greeting for this time of year or even what color Starbucks coffee cups should be.

Mostly this is all very predictable and not a little silly. But there is a deeper issue lurking in the conversation. How should our Christian faith be lived in the public sphere? Is it OK to display our faith, or does respect for others compel us to hide our faith? Should we expect public and commercial entities to cater to our Christian faith? When can we do this lightly, and when does it become a serious issue?

 

 Photo of Glasgow Cathedral by Flickr user Michel Curi / Creative Commons

 

Around 10,000 people will receive this email, and I expect there are 10,000 different answers. I’d be interested in reading yours on social media (Facebook or Twitter) or as comments on the Forward Movement blog. For my part, I think a pluralistic culture means that I should be a proud and respectful Christian, and I should delight in meeting proud and respectful Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and more. By being ourselves and by approaching others with openness and curiosity, we can forge deep and meaningful relationships–which is what our world and our nation needs right now. Whether you’re an Advent stickler (like me) or already in full-on Christmas mode, I hope you and I can be ambassadors for Jesus Christ–joyful, loving, penitent, generous people–this time of year and always.
 
If you see me and wish me a “Happy Holidays” I will smile and thank you. I’ll probably greet fellow Christians with “Have a blessed Advent” for the next few days, and then for the duration of Christmastide, I’ll say, “Happy Christmas.” Rather than worry about whether I got or gave the best greeting, I’m going to do my best to give thanks that I can greet another person with Christ’s love and in his name.

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Advent Actions: Week Two

Dear friends in Christ, 

Last week we suggested a few practices that might help transform this Advent into a time of active longing, not just passive longing. Please give these a try, and share your experiences on Forward Movement’s Facebook or Twitter feeds or own your own social media. Above all, join us in praying for God’s reign of justice, mercy, and righteousness. May we all be prepared to greet Jesus Christ when we meet him at Christmas, in our neighbors, or at the end of days.

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Photo via Flickr user storebukkebruse / Creative Commons


ADVENT ACTIONS: WEEK TWO

  • Have real conversations with your neighbors this week, the kind that move beyond small talk. Try listening more than you speak. Ask more questions than you share answers. What do you hear? Can you name something that you learned from a neighbor for the first time?

 

  • Learn more about a non-profit in your community. Visit their website, read a newsletter, or talk with a staff member. What needs do they see in the community? Are you being called to support this non-profit in some way? Where is God at work in what they are doing?

 

  • Gather friends or family around a meal table. What stories do you know of people, living in times of turmoil, who manifested the love of God? How did their lives point to something beyond themselves? What can you do to make a place for Jesus Christ to shine forth in your life so that you are a saint for others?

 

Remember to share your experience with friends, either in person or online. Please consider posting these stories here in the comments or on Forward Movement’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.

ICYMI: Week of 12/2

Welcome back to In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world.

With all that’s going on at Standing Rock, and the Church’s spotlight on the issue, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s issue to sharing Standing Rock resources.

To start, here is the Standing Rock tribe page—a great place to learn more about the history and issues at stake, and to explore ways you can take action. Head to the Stand with Standing Rock page to learn more about support you can offer.

Here’s an excellent video, including a beautiful reflection on prayer (starting at 7:27).

This interview with Teresa Pasquale Mateus offers really helpful perspective on what’s actually happening on the ground at Standing Rock, and considers the broader spiritual framework of the issue. A key quote:

“The gathering at Standing Rock is not only blocking a pipeline’s construction; it’s much more than that. These prayer-warriors are full of hope and the resilient faith that dares to envision another world. People from all faiths are participating in ceremony as an act of resistance, chanting: “Mni Wiconi, Water is Life.”

And today, Bishop Curry sent a powerful letter to the Governor of North Dakota and the Sheriff of Morton County. The full letter is here. A quote:

“The Episcopal Church is grateful to stand with the people of Standing Rock in their efforts to respect and protect the Missouri River and the sacred burial grounds of the Sioux Nation. We do so seeking to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth who taught us that love of God and love of our neighbor is the highest moral law and religious duty (Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 10:25-37).”

Lastly, the Episcopal Church homepage currently features more on Standing Rock and actions you can take.

Scott Gunn recently described Advent in Forward Today as a time for “waiting, but not for waiting around,” noting that this season lends itself to action and social justice. To that end, we’ve launched a new series of “Advent Actions” on the blog. Each Sunday this season, we’ll be publishing 3 suggested actions you can take for the week: one around civil society and government, one with neighbors, and one at the home. The project feels all the more timely given what’s happening at Standing Rock. Click on the candle below to see the first set of Advent Actions, and check back on Sunday for the second.

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“Waiting, but not waiting around.” Amen.

Announcing Forward Through the Years: The Best of Forward Day by Day

Forward Day by Day has now been around for over 80 years(!) And we’re really excited to be launching a new collection that gathers the collected wisdom from those eight decades.

 

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Forward Through the Years: The Best of Forward Day by Day is perfect for longtime readers and newcomers alike. Timeless in wisdom, these devotions are rich with stories of everyday people who have found love, forgiveness, courage, and redemption through the amazing grace of our risen Lord.

 

With Christmas coming up, Forward Through the Years is a perfect gift for the Forward Day by Day fan in your life–or for you! You can learn more and order here.

Forward Today: Advent Is for Waiting, But Not Waiting Around

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on the beginning of Advent, and how this season of waiting shouldn’t be equated to just “waiting around.”


Dear friends in Christ,

 

If the church were like the mall, we’d already have moved on from Advent. Thank God, the church is not like the mall. Instead of rapid-fire movement from one shiny thing to the next, the church moves a bit more slowly, with deliberation. And our things are not always that shiny.
 
A couple of weeks ago, the Rev. Susan Daughtry, a priest in Minnesota, wrote to me with an idea. She wondered if there might be a way to combine our Advent practice with the desire for social justice. Indeed, the contrast between hate-filled graffiti on the outside of some Episcopal churches and the love-filled worship could not be more extreme. Daughtry’s question led me to wonder how we might have our love-filled season of Advent spill out into the world.

 

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Last Sunday, we at Forward Movement published our first of four weeks of suggested activities for Advent. These activities encourage us to make real our desire to love our neighbors, and to make God’s love known in the world. They’re perfect Advent activities–slightly subversive ways of inviting God’s kingdom into our world. We might not think of Advent as a time of action, but as I wrote in that blog post, Advent is a time for waiting, not for waiting around.
 
We’re just getting started on Advent. I hope you will find your own way to enter into the fullness of this season. Pray the daily office. Use our iPhone app to color in each day in a devotional Advent calendar. Spend a few minutes in silence each day. Give to charity instead of buying gifts. Visit our blog each week to get ideas for how you can connect more deeply with your community and your neighbors. Read the scriptures.
 
Whatever you do, I urge you to use this holy season to open your heart to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas, to seek and serve Jesus Christ in friends and strangers, and to know Jesus Christ as he is revealed in Word and Sacrament.

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Advent Actions: First Week

Advent is a season of waiting, but it’s not a season of waiting around. In this holy season, we remember a time when the world yearned for justice, when people hoped a mighty king would come and rescue them. We know, with 20 centuries of hindsight, that the people got their king, but that the King of Creation was born in the most humble of circumstances. God entered our history and shared our journey in the most human, vulnerable way possible. In this story, we find hope and salvation in our own story. God’s salvation – health, wholeness, redemption – comes to us not in power and might but in humility and vulnerability.
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In Advent, especially on this First Sunday of Advent, we also yearn for a time of justice, when God’s reign of justice and righteousness will be manifest. Along with the prophet Isaiah, we look for a time when “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Advent, then, is a time to remember and a time to hope. It is a time to prepare our hearts to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas, but it is also a time to prepare for God’s reign. In Jesus’ ministry, no one got upset when he said that the kingdom was coming. But he got into trouble for saying it is here, now. When God’s reign of justice and mercy, righteousness and truth is made real, we Christians know to proclaim God’s reign.

A few days ago, a priest from Minnesota, the Rev. Susan Daughtry, contacted us at Forward Movement with an idea. What if we used this Advent – this year’s Advent, coming in a time of increased division and proliferation of hatred – as a time of action and change? In other words, what if we looked for opportunities to see and proclaim God’s reign among us?

Each Sunday in Advent, we will post three suggestions for action or conversation. One will be connected with governance or civil society; one will be connected to loving our neighbors; and one will be rooted on transformation and conversation at home or among friends. We invite you to try these practices and encourage others to do the same. Please share your experiences in a comment here or on Forward Movement’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.

May Jesus Christ’s light be in your heart this Advent season, and may you be a beacon of God’s love for the world. I am,

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn


ADVENT ACTIONS: FIRST SUNDAY

· Visit a restaurant owned by someone from a different culture. Strike up a conversation. Do you share any hopes or fears?

· Call your local mayor’s office. Share your hopes for your town or city. Do your hopes sound like Isaiah 2:1-5 (the first reading from today)? Why or why not?

· Gather friends or family around a meal table. Talk about how recent trends (rise in hate crimes, increased fear, violence, division) in the United States might or might not make this Advent different from previous ones.

Remember to share your experience with friends, either in person or online. Please consider posting these stories here in the comments or on Forward Movement’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.

Forward Today: Giving Thanks and Getting Ready

In this week’s Thanksgiving edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on gratitude in a difficult year–and how we can all be grateful for the coming season of Advent.


Dear friends in Christ,
 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Most years, I’m ready to set aside my usual frenetic pace to pause in gratitude for all the blessings of this life. I know that’s the right thing to do, but it’s going to be harder for me and many others this year.
 
As I think about the lavish feasts that will be held across our nation, I can’t help but think of all those who don’t have enough. Many of my friends are afraid in new ways this year–afraid of violent attacks or afraid of being deported. These are not idle worries. Churches have been defaced with Nazi symbols, and the public has not exactly rushed to the aid of those at the margins. Who am I to give thanks from my comfortable perch?
 
And yet, as I look at Christian history, it is in the midst of difficult times that God’s presence is necessary and empowering. I’m not saying that comfortable people should sit back and watch the vulnerable suffer. Quite the opposite. God calls us to testify of God’s love, to join the most vulnerable people and stand with them, to calm their fears.

 

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Gratitude will be different for me this year, and maybe for you, too. I’m grateful for God’s presence in my life and in the world. And I’m especially grateful for the coming season of Advent. Lord knows, we need a season to focus on preparing our hearts for Jesus and for proclaiming the kingdom of God’s mercy, grace, righteousness, and justice.
 
Are you afraid? Are you grateful? Maybe both? Let us pray.
 
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 
As we turn toward Advent to prepare to worship Jesus Christ in the throne of his manger, let us prepare to worship him in the throne of his people–the poor, the vulnerable, the refugees, the prisoners, and all who are in need.

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Color It In: Our New Advent App

Our shipping deadline for print Advent resources has now passed, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck for the season. Not only can you order many Advent resources for your e-reader–we’ve also got a brand-new app. What’s extra cool? It’s colorable. Here’s a before shot:

Journey through Advent

And here it is after we added a bit of artwork:

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Pretty cool, right? If you’ve already ordered a calendar, you can use the app as a companion. If you haven’t, it works just fine on its own. And in addition to the coloring feature, it’s got the daily scripture readings and a journaling option. You can order yours here for just $1.99. We hope you enjoy it!

ICYMI: Week of 11/18/16

Welcome back to In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world. Here are some of the topics that captured our attention this week.

We should probably call this week’s edition In Case You’re Missing It; right now in Dallas, folks from around the church are gathering for Evangelism Matters–or as it’s known in the social sphere, #evangelism16. If you’re not attending in person, fear not! There’s a live stream showing several excellent workshops and services, and it’s playing as we speak. Tune in now!

We loved this selfie from Father Albert Cutie from this morning’s panel:

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For more photos from Texas, check out the Evangelism Matters Conference photo album on our Facebook page, where Frank Logue is uploading pics from the gathering. Here’s another good one, of Stephanie Spellers and our own Scott Gunn:

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There are lots of other great pics and key quotes popping up all the time on the hashtag. A few of our favorite quotes so far:

“The way we present the message of Jesus must change to meet the culture of the day.”

“We must put down mission as colonialism, take up the work of witnessing as lovers of people–like Jesus.”

“We need people gossiping the gospel.”

Good stuff! Keep an eye on #evangelism16 through tomorrow (Sat 11/19) for lots more.

Elsewhere in the Episcopal world, we’re counting down to the season of counting down. Writing in Forward Today, Scott looked toward Advent with a sense of excitement and relief:

“In my entire life, I’ve never looked forward to Advent more than this year. I can’t wait for the season of quiet hope. I long for time to pray and to work for justice and peace. I look forward to my daily prayers with scriptures that promise grace and mercy.”

Amen.

(NB: If you’d like to order print Advent resources from Forward Movement–including our English and Spanish calendars–today is our shipping deadline.)

Speaking of hope: After a contentious week for the nation, our Question of the Week wanted to know:

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We deliberately left this one pretty open-ended, and we got some good answers, ranging from “Chatting with colleagues in the office at the end of the day” to “in an urban church; at a local museum; at my library.” You can add yours here.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend.