ICYMI: Week of 10/21/16

Welcome once again to In Case You Missed It, our new blog roundup of the latest stories around the #Episcopal world. Here are some of the topics that captured our attention this week.

Lots of Episcopal folks were at the Claggett Center in Maryland for the Discipleship Matters conference, hosted by RenewalWorks and Jay Sidebotham. For those who couldn’t attend, the lively #discipleship16 hashtag archives some of the highlights and key takeaways. For another good read on the meaning of discipleship, check out this reflection from Scott Gunn.

We also enjoyed the photos we saw from Claggett—check out this one from Scott next to the conference logo!











There is still much work to be done to support those affected by Hurricane Matthew. Episcopal Relief and Development issued this press release detailing their efforts, in Haiti and elsewhere, and how you can help. You can also download bulletin inserts here.



If you haven’t checked it out yet, the Episcopal Church’s ‘Thursdays at 2’ video series is really terrific—great stories every week, beautifully produced. Here’s the latest, on The Crossing, a group of young adults meeting in community weekly in Boston.


At Forward Movement, we’re continuing to share prayers each day leading up to the election. It’s been amazing to see the response to these–a testament to the power of prayer and the Episcopal community (and beyond). Here’s a favorite from this week:

OCT 20: Pray for peace in the world and in our nation


To join us for each day’s prayer as it’s posted, follow/like Forward Movement on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can read the full season of prayers and download them as bulletin inserts at forwardmovement.org/election.

Wishing you a peaceful week.

New for Advent: What Are You Waiting For?

Get in line. Take a number. Count down the days. 


We’ve got a wonderful new Advent resource to share for 2016. Written by Christine McSpadden, it’s centered on a unique theme: waiting.

We spend so much of our lives waiting: waiting for a new job or a well-deserved vacation; for love or an apology; for test results or cures to kick in; for things to stabilize or to get shaken up. At no other time of the year may the theme of waiting feel so poignant than the season of Advent. 

This year, while waiting for things mundane to things sublime, embark on a seasonal journey with daily meditations that will work on your soul to bring a richer quality and depth to your waiting. 

These reflections are perfect for individual use and are affordably priced to share with your entire congregation.

#2428 | $5 | Buy Now

Also available on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes.

Forward Today: Discipleship Matters

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes from the Claggett Center in Maryland–where RenewalWorks is hosting the Discipleship Matters conference–and reflects on why real, difficult discipleship is so critical in our faith.

Dear friends in Christ,


I am writing this as the Discipleship Matters conference comes to a close. Hosted by the Rev. Jay Sidebotham and the RenewalWorks ministry of Forward Movement, we have gathered to focus on how to create a culture of discipleship in our congregations. In other words, how can we get past maintenance and instead foster spiritual growth and commitment to following Jesus in our churches?

There is much good news here. In congregations small and large, people have shared ways in which their efforts have worked. People have found ways to get people reading and engaging with scripture. Others have changed the focus of adult formation to make room for transformation. Preachers have gotten more serious about their craft. Lay leaders have found it rewarding to consider vocation in their ministry both outside and inside the church. Where congregations have been willing to make the commitment to discipleship, there has been much fruit.


So what keeps us from getting serious about Jesus in our churches? One speaker contrasted the forces of life in Christ with the forces of death that resist growth and transformation. I think there’s something to this. At a less cosmic level, being a disciple of Jesus is costly and uncertain, whereas many come to church seeking comfort and constancy.
Is it worth it? Absolutely! Jesus is the only source of an abundant life that has nothing to do with material goods or external measure. In Jesus Christ, we find our true joy. When the church is about Jesus Christ and not mere comfort, we find that we have a precious gift to share with the world. Look around, and you’ll see people everywhere who are longing for hope, meaning, and purpose. We Christians have something to offer, especially when we get serious about the hard work of following Jesus.
Check out the tweets at hashtag #Discipleship16 for some insights from the conference. I don’t think we’re ever done learning how to follow Jesus. Our prayer book talks about growing into the full stature of Christ, and we never quite get there in this life. What is next for you? What does discipleship look like in your life?


Yours faithfully, 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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

ICYMI: Week of 10/14/16

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

Last Sunday, we launched A Season of Prayer: For an Election, an effort to engage in a prayerful and nonpartisan way with this contentious election season. As Scott Gunn wrote in a recent edition of the Forward Today newsletter, “For Christians, there is always one thing we can do, every one of us. We can pray.” Each day, we’ve been posting a prayer image on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Adelante Dia a Dia. Here’s what they look like:


We’ve truly been overwhelmed by the response to these. Across our social media platforms, we’ve heard testaments to the power of prayer and seen the #Episcopal community in action. We’ve also seen users share their own specific prayers and images, such as this one from St. Michael’s, NYC:


On Monday, we posed a new Question of the Week:


We got a ton of great answers to this one, with Mary, Mary Magdalene, Paul and Peter leading the way. Some creative responses:

“David, whose passion and pathos before God created a graciousness which made his name, ‘Beloved of God’ unique in Holy Scripture.”

“Jonah. He’s a reluctant prophet who has a tantrum when God does what God says. I find him relatable.”

“Peter—both of us are hardheaded.”

Check out more responses and weigh in on the Forward Day by Day Facebook page here.

And as the #Episcopal conversation starts to turn toward Advent, it’s time to get excited for… Advent calendars! We leave you with a sample of the new 2016 edition from Susan Elliott and Jay Sidebotham, which you can now order here:


Have a great weekend!

Forward Today: The Gift of Communion

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes about his recent trip to England, and the fellowship he experienced with fellow members of the Anglican Communion.

Dear friends in Christ,

I’m writing this on a plane on my way back from England. For the last few days, I’ve been in London, where I’d gone to preach, to speak, to meet with partners, and to have a bit of fun.
Once again, I’m struck by the gift of the Anglican Communion. At every turn, I was warmly welcomed. Friends asked for updates on life in the Episcopal Church, and we traded stories about the common joys and challenges we face. It was also fascinating to note differences between the Anglican church in America and in England. Above all, there was the gift of a shared ministry, or being part of a worldwide communion. Though there are challenges we surely face, it is a gift to sort out our differences and unity in the body of Christ.



Serving at Forward Movement, I am naturally interested ways that people work to inspire disciples and empower evangelists.  Again and again, I heard how congregations are thriving where discipleship–commitment to following Jesus in a costly way–becomes important. As in America, churches in England are eager to sort out what evangelism in the 21st century looks like.
One friend and I talked about a particular African bishop we both know. We talked about how our lives as Christians had been enriched from knowing this man and from hearing about ministry in his context. His joy is contagious. Relationships like that, along with ministry partnerships, are enlivening for us and for Christ’s body, the Church.
So, today I am giving thanks for the worldwide Anglican Communion. Perhaps you will pray with special fervor the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, which we include with every day’s meditation in Forward Day by Day. And as you do that, know that Anglicans around the world are praying for you and your ministry. Isn’t that a great blessing?


Yours faithfully, 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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

ICYMI: Week of 10/7/16

Welcome back to In Case You Missed It, our new blog roundup of the latest stories around the #Episcopal world. Here are some of the topics that captured our attention this week.

Last Sunday, many churches participated in A Blessing of the Animals. Some of our favorite pics came from Grace Church in St. Francis’s namesake city of San Francisco. And if you just can’t get enough parish pup pics, this compilation should have you covered.

With the election approaching, we’re seeing many excellent resources relating to our call to participate in the civic process. Forward Movement is excited to be launching A Season of Prayer: For an Election on Sunday 10/9.


For the 30 days leading up to the election, we’ll be posting daily prayers on our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Adelante día a día. If you’re not already, follow those feeds to join in. You can also download weekly bulletin inserts for your church (available in both English and Spanish) and see the full schedule of prayers here.

Over on #GrowChristians, Nurya Love Parish drew some compelling connections between St. Francis and the election. Here’s that post.

And here’s a roundup of additional election resources from other churches and organizations.

If you and your parish are looking for a way to help Hurricane Matthew relief efforts, both in the Southeast US and countries affected abroad, Episcopal Relief & Development has bulletin inserts with donation info and prayers. ERD is updating regularly at this link.

We’ll end on a meditative note. Earlier this week on Facebook and Twitter, we posed the following question: Where is your holy place? We heard and saw some lovely and eclectic responses, ranging from “In the pew” to “in my tug, in the middle of San Francisco Bay” to “England. Just England” to “Home.”

You can see the responses here and here (including that beautiful shot below, of Little Redfish Lake in Idaho, shared by Lisa Raymond).


Have a peaceful week.

Author Interview: John Ohmer (Slaying Your Goliaths)

In the fall issue of Odyssey, we featured an interview with author John Ohmer, whose book Slaying Your Goliaths: How God Can Help is a wonderful and fresh look at the David and Goliath story and its relevance to our lives. (If you haven’t read that Q&A yet, check it out!)


We wanted to hear more from John, so we caught up with him for a few more questions for the blog. Here’s what he had to say:

1) What makes this book different from others about David and Goliath?

JO: I’d say the first thing that makes it different is perspective, the author’s perspective. Because Slaying Your Goliaths was written by someone who has worked in parish ministry for over twenty years, I think readers will find it to be a very practical book. My job, each time I preach or teach, is to show the daily relevance of the Bible to people: to show them how their faith can help them not just on Sunday mornings, but Tuesday in traffic, on Wednesday while worrying about a work project, and on a Friday while getting together with family. Also, this book takes seriously the fact that the original David and Goliath story was written BY people of faith to people of faith. The hero of this story is not David, but God. And so while it is a very helpful book, it is not a “self-help” book. It is a “God-help” book: how can God help you, like David, overcome the seemingly impossible odds you face?

2) What’s the most compelling part of the story?

That’s the beauty of Bible passages: what’s most compelling about the story will vary so much from person to person. So a high school kid who is being bullied might find the pre-battle taunts, and my observation that “a giant’s greatest weapon are words” the most compelling part of the story. Someone wrestling with difficult family dynamics might find David’s toxic encounter with his brothers—and how David handles his brothers—the most compelling part of the story. Someone struggling to introduce a new idea at work or break through institutional structures or habits might find the “you must reject Saul’s armor” the most compelling. And someone feeling overwhelmed by life’s circumstances will like the part of the story where David compares Goliath not to his own size, but to God’s size.

3) Give us an example of one way the lessons of David and Goliath might impact our lives.

Let’s go back to the example of someone struggling to introduce a new idea at work – someone who is running into institutional resistance, or is being told “that’s not the way we do things around here.” Then re-read the parts of the story where David is offering to fight Goliath, but his offer is being resisted: first by his brothers and then by King Saul. You see two very different reactions by David. In the case of the resistance from his brothers—which is nasty and personal, having nothing to do with the actual issue at hand—David simply walks away, and keeps repeating his offer. In the case of the resistance by King Saul—which is valid and helpful—David makes a careful and persuasive case that God will use his skill and experience and defend him and allow him to defeat Goliath.

And after the case is made, and King Saul agrees to let David fight Goliath, but insists that he, David, do it “his way,” using Saul’s armor, David continues to use wisdom in how he handles King Saul. David tries Saul’s armor on. He walks around in it. Then he diplomatically rejects it by saying “I cannot move around in this; I am not used to it.” In other words, he rejects Saul’s armor—old institutional ideas and customs that worked perfectly well for Saul—without rejecting Saul himself. That’s a masterful lesson in dealing with well-intentioned people who try to force their ideas or systems onto us.

4) What are the best ways to use this book/How do you envision people using this book?

As I say in the book, the best advice I’ve ever seen for reading the Bible—and a book about the Bible—is the advice given hikers: “if you get winded, slow down. If you get bored, speed up.” So the best way to use this book is to read it until something jumps off the page at you, and then slow down or even stop. Savor and meditate slowly on that part. Allow God to speak to you. Go to the discussion questions and spend time with those. Stay there until you start to get bored. Then speed up. Move on through sections until you find something speaking to you again. Then stop again, and savor that part.

The book can also be read in book groups, taking one chapter at a time and using the study guide at the end of each chapter as a way to start good group discussions.

5) Why did you choose Forward Movement to partner with for the book?

Scott Gunn believed in this project from the very first time I floated the idea to him. His passion is to bring resources to people that will make them better disciples: more faith-full followers of the God made known to us in the Bible. And since that—moving people away from being paralyzed by fear and forward toward conquering, with God’s help, their seemingly impossible obstacle—“Forward Movement” was a perfect partner.

Thanks, John! You can learn more or pick up a copy of the remarkable Slaying Your Goliaths here.

Forward Today: The Joy and Hard Work of Discipleship

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes about the inspiring conversations he experienced at Forward Movement’s recent board meeting, and what our mission is really all about.

Dear friends in Christ,


I have just spent two days at our semi-annual Forward Movement board meeting. It was a gift to share this time with committee and faithful volunteers who travel from across the Episcopal Church to do the work of leading Forward Movement. Of course, much of our meeting was filled with what you’d expect at a typical board meeting: budget reports, approval of minutes, and nominations. But when this group gathers, we also pray morning prayer, noonday prayer, evening prayer, and compline.
In other words, we are anchored in prayer. And this is how it should be. Forward Movement is more than a publishing company; we are a discipleship company. Our job is not just to sell books, but to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. In fact, we give away loads of books, copies of Forward Day by Day, and other materials every year, especially to prisoners, hospital patients, nursing home residents, and deployed military personnel.



Our board meeting was filled with conversation about how to enliven the church and its members through transformation. How can we share the Good News of God in Jesus Christ? How can we encourage people to engage with the wondrous story of God’s love revealed in the scriptures? How can we meet the needs of a changing church and a changing world? They were vigorous conversations, held with much urgency. Stay tuned to see the result of this meeting as it comes to bear fruit in new offerings from Forward Movement.
Often I encourage you, dear reader, to pray and to work for the needs of the world. Today I am giving thanks for the ministry of Forward Movement and asking you to do the same. If you are so moved, we would gladly receive a gift to celebrate what has been done and what is yet to come. But in any case, I invite your thanksgiving and prayers for Forward Movement, our board, and our staff.


Yours faithfully, 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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

In Memory of Michael Phillips

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. michael-phillips

At least that was the passionate belief of Michael Phillips, the creative lead, graphic designer, and cover artist for Forward Movement.

Michael died suddenly on September 24. He was 46 and leaves his wife, Michelle, and their two children, Hannah, 14, and Noah, 12.

When our editorial and marketing teams gathered, Michael was often the spark, throwing out wild and incredible ideas and keeping us laughing. His creative process was an enigma: When we began a project, he would lead us in brainstorming, asking questions like: What kind of car is the book? What is on this project’s mixtape? What superhero or historical character is the book? (Michael loved superheroes).

Somehow he mixed all of our brainstorming into a creative stew and then served up design concepts that reflected and expanded our vision, art that amplified the text and elevated the content. Sometimes you could even see a hint of superhero or VW Bug. 

His work for Forward Movement won many accolades, from awards bestowed by Episcopal Communicators to comments from authors and readers. Michael had tremendous talent, and his gifts will be deeply missed.

But Michael’s contributions to Forward Movement were far more than the work he produced. For most of his life, Michael was searching. He explored different faith traditions, spending time with Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Four years ago, he found the Episcopal Church, a place that became home for his wandering soul. Professionally, he spent much of his career doing corporate design work. But he often talked about how it was only in his two years of work at Forward Movement that he had found his vocation. For the first time, his gifts as a designer matched his profound desire to help; his work became his ministry.

While he took this calling seriously, he embraced life with verve. His office space was full of toys: Lego renderings of Dr. Who, a light saber from Star Wars (with real light and sound), Nerf guns that he used to fire upon colleagues when they were sad/stressed/focused/annoyed/sitting at a desk/walking down a hall. Michael was loud. Really loud. And he was quirky. We have laughed many times this week through our tears about his idiosyncrasies. On his last day at the office, he wore Italian leather loafers without socks. He loved them and how they looked, but they gave him terrible blisters. No matter. In an office of sensible shoes, he was willing to suffer for fashion. A coworker also gave him a ride to his car so he didn’t have to walk several blocks. He could (and would) regale with movie quotes, song lyrics, and theories about what Luke Skywalker was doing between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

michaeldesk-copyHe loved being a part of the Forward Movement team, and he organized happy hour just two weeks ago. He had plans for a costume party.

Grief is a demanding master, and we are succumbing in different and staggering ways. Stepping off the elevator and expecting to see him grinding and brewing his coffee (the regular house blend wouldn’t do). Walking down the halls adorned by book covers, each works of art. The empty chair during our morning prayer time. A draft for a new project on his desk.

Yet while we are torn by grief, we are not broken. Michael’s search and discovery of the risen Christ is ours. We find comfort in our living, loving God who promises to be with us when we mourn and to help us rediscover joy. In memory, we recall Michael’s many gifts. With a commitment to embracing life with zeal and zest, day by day, we honor him. 


Forward Movement will close its offices on Friday, September 30, so all of our staff can attend the celebration of Michael’s life at Church of the Redeemer in Cincinnati. For those who wish, his family has offered two places for memorials: the Phillips Children Education Fund at US Bank, or Forward Movement, 412 Sycamore Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

A Season of Prayer: For an Election

This election season has been among the most contentious in recent memory. But whatever our politics, as Christians we always have something we can do. We can pray. For the 30 days leading up to the election, Forward Movement is calling Episcopalians and all others to join us in a time of prayer. (Read Scott Gunn’s full invitation to prayer here.)

Below is the list of downloadable bulletin inserts for A Season of Prayer: For an Election. (We will also be sharing the prayers daily on our Facebook and Twitter feeds, and in Spanish on Adelante día a día.)


A Season of Prayer: For an Election (all)

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5


Ciclo de oración por las elecciones (paquete completo)

Semana 1

Semana 2

Semana 3

Semana 4

Semana 5