ICYMI: Week of 1/22/17

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

We saw several excellent articles on nonpartisan offerings from churches this week. Writing in ECF Vital Practices, Richelle Thompson described churches opening their doors for simple prayer on Friday. Key quote:

“What if the doors were simply open and all were invited to spend time in prayer? Isn’t our God bigger than all of this Sturm und Drang?”

This Episcopal News Service article made a similar point:

“We Episcopalians call ourselves people of common prayer, and that usually means worshiping together using the words of the Book of Common Prayer. But, shared silence can also be a form of common prayer.”

If you or your parish is looking for a resource for reconciliation in divisive times, we recommend Living Reconciliation, which offers tools for finding common ground. It’s an excellent book, with a foreword by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Of course, daily prayer and reflection is always an excellent resource. Our Question of the Week on social media this week focused on Forward Day by Day. Here’s what we asked:

We heard some great responses to this one, with start dates ranging from “over 50 years ago” to “last month”! A few favorites:

“St. Francis Episcopal Church in Moab Utah provides these booklets. First time I took one, been hooked ever since. I find forward day by day very inspirational.”

“A lady in my bible study group. I now read it everyday.”

“In 1995 we were living in Stuttgart Germany, my Husband was in the US Army I attended The Episcopal Church St Catherine’s the Church’s Atrium was a little table that had the little Booklets Foward Day by Day I took one and I have been reading them ever since!”

“Been a part of my life for so long I cant recall.”

“It was only a month ago that I became hooked, reading 📖 all the scriptures daily. It was at Trinity Episcopal Church, Easton, Pa. THANKS 🙏 to you & God. You make my day!😊”

You can read more responses on the Forward Day by Day and Forward Movement Facebook pages. Are you a faithful (or occasional) Forward Day by Day reader? Who first introduced you?

On a related note, Forward Day by Day will soon be launching a new feature called Moving Forward. Starting in February, meditations will end with an extra action readers can take—and we hope you’ll join in these and connect with fellow readers using the hashtag #ForwardDaybyDay.  Stay tuned!

Forward Today: Learning from St. Peter

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes on the Confession of St. Peter–and why Peter is such a “reassuring and empowering” figure.


Dear friends in Christ,
 

Today the church celebrates the Confession of St. Peter. I don’t know about you, but St. Peter is one of my favorite people in the Bible.
 
I like St. Peter because despite the fact that he messes up over and over again, Jesus obviously loves him and, in fact, chooses him to lead the church. Just about nobody messed up worse or more often than St. Peter. He denied Jesus three times. He said impetuous things. He got it wrong more often, it seems, than he got it right.
When Jesus took his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and asked them who people were saying he is, the disciples reported that people were getting it wrong. Then Jesus asked his disciples who they said he is, and it is mess-up-all-the-time St. Peter who answered it right. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
 
This whole story is reassuring and empowering. I mess up all the time, too. Odds are, the same is true for you. We Christians get it wrong more often than we get it right. And if Jesus could love St. Peter, he can certainly love us. The story also reminds us of another important thing. St. Peter, despite his constant mess-ups, remembered who Jesus is. We should do the same.
 
So today, I’m going to try to get it right a few times. That is, I’ll try to choose following Jesus over following anyone or anything else. I know I’ll mess up. But getting it right isn’t the only thing I’m going to work on. I’ll do my best to remember who Jesus is.
 
Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Jesus loves us even when we head the wrong direction. Thank God we don’t have to save ourselves, for Jesus is our Savior. And that, my friends, is Good News.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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

ICYMI: Week of 1/15/17

Welcome to the latest In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world. We’re publishing on a Sunday this week; we’d love to hear if you prefer this new timing, or if you’d rather get these posts on another day of the week. Just let us know in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter.

As we wrapped up Christmastide and celebrated Epiphany, we read a great post from Mary Lee Wile (author of the Epiphany book Star of Wonder) on the many, multi-cultural ways to enjoy this holiday, from king cake to “star caroling.” Check out ‘Epiphany Fun—Foods, Songs, Stories & More’.

And speaking of king cake… We’re excited to try this recipe from the Church’s ‘Make Ready the Feast Blog’ (shared by a New Orleanian, so you can trust it’s the real deal!)

The whole ‘Make Ready the Feast’ blog is terrific, by the way—great seasonal and holiday-specific recipes for the whole family, from a range of culinary traditions.

Another good one from Grow Christians this week: Nurya Love Parish wrote about the various prayer spaces she has created over the years—some spacious and some small, some treasured and some less used. Do you have one of these in your home? Here are a few photos that readers shared with us on Facebook:

 

How neat is that backyard labyrinth? Wow.

And yet another Grow Christians goodie this week: A post by Roger Speer, the Georgia artist behind Forward Movement’s new all-ages coloring book, Pathways of Faith. We loved Roger’s words about creativity, and his wonderful point that “God is a maker … Within each of us dwells the spark of that same creator spirit.” Inspirational stuff!

We hope that Pathways of Faith will help you access that creative side.

If we’re eating king cake and talking resolutions this week, that also means that Lent is coming up before we know it… and with it, the annual early spring tournament that sweeps the nation: Lent Madness. You can now get your 2017 Saintly Scorecard, for all your tourney tracking needs. And why not pair it with a Lent Madness mug?

Just who will take home the Golden Halo this year? Tune in to Lent Madness on Facebook and Twitter as the anticipation builds.

Have a great week!

Forward Today: The Word Will Stand Forever

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott suggests a remedy for challenging times: re-engaging with scripture.


Dear friends in Christ,
 

Many of us are uneasy about the political and social situation in our country now. I don’t mean this to be partisan. In conversation, I’ve heard both Democrats and Republicans bewail the division in the United States. Whatever your station in life or political affiliation, we can see division, rancor, and violence all around. But what are we do to?
 
I’ve written about this before, suggesting prayer and action. As I’ve been thinking over the last few days about how I will respond to what I’m seeing, I know that action and prayer will be important. One action that I will practice is not focused in direct political change, but it is perhaps the most important thing I will do. My plan is to re-engage the scriptures. This month, we’re promoting The Path: A Journey Through the Bible here at Forward Movement. Our own ad campaign worked on me! I plan to read this wonderful survey of the grand story of the scriptures.
 

 

Through our RenewalWorks ministry, we have a lot of data on the spiritual life of the Episcopal Church, including the catalysts that promote spiritual growth. We know that the single most important catalyst for growth is scripture engagement. Get people reading the Bible, and their lives change! Even if you’ve read the entire Bible several times, it still makes a difference to read scripture. While I read a bit of the Bible each day with the daily office, The Path will marvelously remind me of God’s saving purpose for us and all creation.
 
This puts things in perspective. It’s easy to be crushed by our fears or our anger. But as the Prophet Isaiah reminds us, “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever ” (Isaiah 40:8). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Whatever the newspaper says, God’s word is freshly revealed in the scriptures each day, ready to refresh and renew us.
 
Maybe you’ll join me? Whether you use The Path, The Bible Challenge, the daily office, or just open up a Bible, I know that the Holy Spirit will work in your heart, as in mine, through the scriptures. I don’t know about you, but I need the reminder these days. The word of our God will stand forever.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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

Forward Today: New Year, New Start

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on the start of the new year–and how we can embrace this time of trying again.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Happy New Year! It could be said that this is a silly holiday. After all, we’re just turning over a new calendar page. But it’s more than that. Our culture encourages us to try out new year’s resolutions, some new habit that will improve our lives. A couple of years ago, I read that gyms are packed in early January, but then they’re back to normal by February. We try to do something new, but then old habits set in.
 
As you probably know, our baptismal service includes a baptismal covenant. After we re-affirm our faith with the Apostles’ Creed, we make five promises. Usually these days in church, we hear about the last two: promises to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself” and to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” Personally, I love the second promise we make, to “persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.”
 

 

Notice that it doesn’t say IF we fall into sin, but WHEN we fall into sin. We get constant do-overs. All we’re asked to do is try. Try again and again. We can’t do this on our own, which is why we promise to do these things only with God’s help.
 
The picture here shows a winding road. It’s like that with life, isn’t it? The path winds. Sometimes we find ourselves off the path, walking into the weeds. All we’ve promised to do is try to get back on the path. I find that very liberating and empowering. I will try again, with God’s help.
 
So maybe this new year, this season of resolutions is a helpful time for us to try again. Every day is a good day for a do-over, and today is no different. What do you want to try again? What do you want to be better at? Getting a do-over, trying again, is ordinary language for a churchy word, repentance. The entire life of a Christian is meant to be devoted to repentance, to trying again, to growing into the full stature of Christ. And today is the best day to start.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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

Will you help us send God’s love to our soldiers?

 

We hope you have enjoyed a Merry Christmas with friends and family. Most of our soldiers won’t be with their families; they’re stationed all around the world, guaranteeing our safety. When Episcopal Priest and US Navy Chaplain Philip Webster recently deployed, he reached out to us for resources to use with those who rely on him for spiritual guidance. Thanks to your generosity, we sent him over eighty books and copies of Forward Day by Day.

 

In his letter of gratitude, he wrote:  

“One of the mottos that we use in the Chaplain Corps is that we are “where it matters, when it matters, with what matters most”.  The good people of Forward Movement are helping me to accomplish my mission and ministry as a priest of the church and a chaplain in the Navy.  Your generosity, as well as that of your donors, is making a real difference – thank you! 

Please find attached a picture from a recent celebration of Holy Communion.  I want you to know that lives are being touched with a message of good news and transformative, unconditional love… and Forward Movement is part of that story.

“Be assured of my prayers and gratitude for you and your ministry.  I ask that you continue to remember me and the men and women aboard the USS DONALD COOK”
 

Your gift today lets us say YES again and again to our military and many, many others with gifts of Forward Day by Day, prayer books, and much more. Please make your gift now. Happy New Year!

Text FDD to 41-444, or click here to join Forward Movement’s ministry. Thank you!
All gifts are tax-deductible.

 

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. -BCP 

ICYMI: Week of 12/22

We’re guessing many readers may be en route to Christmas celebrations tomorrow (if not already), so we’re running an abridged In Case You Missed It a day early this week. So you don’t miss it!

With four candles lit, the talk in the #Episcopal and @fwd_mvt world has naturally turned to the weekend’s Christmas celebration. But that celebration doesn’t have to end on Sunday. In fact, wrote Scott Gunn in this week’s newsletter, the best time enjoy the season may be in the relaxing time after Christmas Day. This year, will you savor all 12 days?

Grow Christians has launched a new project to help you do just that. Titled #12Days, the project offers daily activities, readings, songs and more, all designed for the whole family to enjoy the whole Christmas season—and each inspired by a lyric from ‘The 12 Days of Christmas.’ It’s a great way to enjoy some fun and faithful family time after 12/25.

Also on #GrowChristians, we loved what Marcus Halley wrote about the story of Thomas and the nature and role of doubt in faith: ‘Jesus Welcomed St. Thomas’ Doubt: What About Mine?’

If you’re a regular Priest Pulse listener, you already know about the great podcasts Ben and Colin have been producing this year—and if you’re not, their ‘Very Merry Priest Pulse Family Christmas’ is a perfect place to start. Lots of nostalgic Christmas fun, and perfect if you’ve got a plane or train or car ride ahead!

We wrap up with today’s image from the Journey through Advent app, per Jay Sidebotham’s illustration—as colored by Twitter user @auntiesdollhouse.

A lovely message to carry with us into this holiday weekend. Merry Christmas!

Forward Today: Enjoy the Gift of Christmas

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on Christmas–a season we can (and should!) celebrate for the full 12 days.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Christmas is nearly upon us. Gifts have been purchased. Meals have been planned. Sermons are done. Anthems and liturgies are rehearsed. Perhaps a strategy for last-minute trips to the mall has been crafted. Maybe you are a person who sings in a choir or is involved with the liturgy of Christmas. Maybe you are a person who cooks a big meal. Or maybe you are a person who enjoys the work of others at home or at church. Whatever our role, soon we will sing our praises and enjoy family traditions.
 
It would be pretty easy to move on from Christmas on December 26. That’s what our culture is about to do. But we know a different way. The season of Christmas begins with our Christmas Eve celebration and carries on right through January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. It’s twelve days long! That’s where the song came from!

 

By Mihalko Golev [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

 

This year, Forward Movement wants to help you enjoy the gift of Christmas for a full twelve days. Our website devoted to faith at home, Grow Christians, will offer something on each one of the twelve days of Christmas. Loosely inspired by the song, each day will bring an activity or something to reflect on. You can follow along by signing up for emails at growchristians.org or visiting the site. We’ll also be sharing the posts on Forward Movement’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.
 
After all the busy-ness of getting ready for Christmas, enjoy the full season! I love singing carols and listening to Christmas music for the whole season, when I can celebrate the wondrous gift of the season without the worry and anxiety of preparing and doing.
 
May you be richly blessed in these final days of Advent and then celebrate the peace and the joy of Jesus Christ for the full Christmas season.
 
In quiet hope and silent preparation, I am,

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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

Welcome to #12Days, a Daily Resource for Christmas

Forward Movement invites you to celebrate the full season of Christmas with a gift of 12 Days. This free resource produced by Forward Movement and created by author and mom Mary Ann Frishman features daily mediations on the gift of Jesus that can help your family celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, starting December 25 and running through January 6, Epiphany.

Using the familiar framework of a beloved English Christmas carol, 12 Days shines a light on simple ways to engage faith and deepen conversations among family and friends—including thoughtful questions for discussion, optional activities, suggestions for Bible reading, and familiar songs to sing. Christmas lasts longer than we often allow ourselves to enjoy—come and stay a little while longer. The mediations will be posted each day on GrowChristians.org and can be easily shared at home, in the car, on a trip, and on your social media channels at #12Days. Come, let us adore him!