Forward Today: Wandering and Yearning

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes about how challenging it must have been to wander in the desert–and the yearning for home shared by all who are displaced.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

We are just a week away from Lent. I can hardly wait. This year more than ever, I will welcome this great season in which we are invited to focus on returning to God, on recommitting ourselves to following Jesus.
 
The length of the Lenten season, 40 days not counting Sundays, comes from the accounts of Jesus’ time in the desert, when we spent 40 days in prayer and fasting, meeting God and facing temptation. I was hiking in a desert not too long ago, and my appreciation for the extreme nature of Jesus’ journey only grew. The desert is not a hospitable place. Because he was fully human, he must have yearned to be home.
Jesus’ 40 days in the desert find an antecedent in God’s people wandering in the desert for 40 years. I can’t imagine. Forty years of wandering, of yearning for home, a home in the promised land.
 
The plight of refugees has recently come into focus for many of us. Their struggle is not new, but more of us are paying attention now. More than 65 million people around the world have been displaced from their homes by war, strife, or persecution. Having visited refugee camps in the West Bank and in Rwanda, I have a tiny amount of awareness of their struggles. Most refugees will live the rest of their lives in camps, unable to return home because it is not safe, and unable to find a new home because no one will let them in. All these people want is what anyone wants, a place to call home. Refugees are wandering and yearning, but for more than 40 days or 40 years.
 
This Lent, we at Forward Movement invite you to join in a Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert. During this time, we will pray and read scripture about hospitality, about wandering, and about caring for refugees. Let us all fervently pray that every person – all of whom are made in God’s image – finds a place to call home. Let us pray that those of us with homes will open them to a world in need.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Learn More about Renewal Works: March 13–14 in NC

Wondering what RenewalWorks is all about, and whether it’s time for your parish to try it? Jay Sidebotham will be holding two informational events in North Carolina in March—and they’re free! Here are the details and RSVP info from the RenewalWorks team:

We invite clergy and lay leaders to a gathering to learn about RenewalWorks and about the current state of the Episcopal Church. Nearly 200 Episcopal congregations around the country have experienced the RenewalWorks process over the last three years. That has given us some important insights into the culture of our denomination, as it has also helped congregations focus on spiritual growth and build cultures of discipleship.

The RenewalWorks process involves an online inventory taken by your congregants, exploring individual beliefs and practices, faith at work in the world, and the church’s role in all of that. The inventory is followed by workshops in which parishioners reflect on where the congregation has been, where it is and where it feels called to go. We’re looking forward to having more congregations participate in the next wave of churches, beginning in September 2017. Now is the time to begin thinking about it.

Come to a gathering at either Christ Church, Raleigh (120 East Edenton St.) on Monday, March 13th or Christ Church, Charlotte (1412 Providence Rd.) on Tuesday, March 14th beginning at 9:30 and concluding by noon. We’ll explain the background of this ministry. We’ll talk about how RenewalWorks works. And we’ll share stories of how it has impacted congregations.

RSVP: Samantha Franklin at sfranklin@renewalworks.org or cell: 919-824-9932. If you’re interested but can’t attend this session, feel free to contact Samantha or the Rev. Jay Sidebotham to talk about this work (jsidebotham@renewalworks.org; cell: 646-249-4404). Visit our website (www.renewalworks.org) loaded with information about ways to make spiritual growth the priority in your congregations.

ICYMI: Week of 2/19/17

Welcome back 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.

Lent is coming! Are you ready? In this week’s Forward Today, Scott writes that “back in the day, there was a miniature season in the church to get us ready for Lent. We had three Sundays’ notice that a penitential season was on the way. They were kind of like those rumble strips on a highway, to warn us that something is coming.”

At Forward Movement, we’re helping you get ready with a wide variety of Lenten resources this year. If you haven’t browsed books or printed materials, now’s the time! The standard shipping deadline for Lent delivery is Wed Feb 22 (UPS Ground or USPS Priority). We suggest the new Ashes and the Phoenix or newly reprinted Meeting Jesus on the Margins for your Lenten meditations. We’re also running a sale on Lent Madness bracket posters—currently just $7, and perfect for your parish hall.

Have you ever been curious where all those great saintly bios come from during Lent Madness season? All last week on lentmadness.org, the SEC ran interviews with the celebrity bloggers. They’re lots of fun to read if you’re going mad with Madness anticipation.

We’ve got another big Lenten project on the docket this year—A Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert. If you followed along with our election-time Season of Prayer, you’ll be familiar with the framework: daily shareable prayer images on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds, and free downloadable weekly bulletin inserts. This time we’re adding a bunch of additional resources (all available now here, along with the inserts). And the theme is a critical one: exile, migration, and Christian hospitality. We hope you’ll join us.

Which brings up a good question: If you have a daily prayer practice, do you have a dedicated space for it? Nurya Love Parish posed that question last week on Grow Christians, and got some cool and eclectic responses. Here are three:


If you’d like to share a photo of your prayer space, let us know on Facebook or Twitter. Have a great week!

Welcome to A Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert

We’re excited to launch A Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert—a special daily prayer practice for Lent. The new Season of Prayer will encourage people to pray and reflect on our response to the global refugee crisis and the Christian obligation of hospitality and welcome. 

Each day during Lent, we’ll be posting shareable prayer images on Forward Movement’s Facebook and Twitter feeds, and we’ll be posting the prayers in Spanish on Adelante Dia a Dia’s Facebook page.

In addition to the daily images, we’re offering the downloadable bulletin inserts below—in English and Spanish—for churches and small groups to print and utilize throughout the season. And starting today, you’ll be able to browse many additional offerings, including videos, on the official Season of Prayer resources page

Hugo Olaiz, assistant editor for Latino/Hispanic resources at Forward Movement, has led the effort. Here’s Hugo with more on this project:

 

And here are the downloadable bulletin inserts in full and for each week in Lent:

Season of Prayer: Full / Todas

  1. Week 1Semana 1
  2. Week 2 / Semana 2
  3. Week 3 / Semana 3
  4. Week 4 / Semana 4
  5. Week 5 / Semana 5
  6. Week 6  / Semana 6
  7. Week 7 / Semana 7

 
Don’t forget to follow Forward Movement on Facebook and Twitter to see each day’s prayer image on social media, starting on Ash Wednesday. We look forward to sharing this prayerful season with you.

Forward Today: Are You Ready for Lent?

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes about preparing for Lent, writing that it’s simply “too important to approach haphazardly.”


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Back in the day, there was a miniature season in the church to get us ready for Lent. We had three Sundays’ notice that a penitential season was on the way. They were kind of like those rumble strips on a highway, to warn us that something is coming. These days, Ash Wednesday pops up, and if we’re not careful it can catch us unsuspecting.

 

The point of Lent is to invite us to turn back to God, to restore our relationship with God and our neighbors. Have we ever needed this more than we do right now? Lent is too important to approach haphazardly. I hope you will join me in thinking carefully and praying diligently about the best way to use this gift of the Lenten season.
 
We at Forward Movement offer several ways to approach Lent, and you might try one or all of them.

 

  • Each year we publish a new book of Lenten meditations for the season. This year’s is Ashes and the Phoenix, and it is enhanced with art and poetry, though daily meditations are the meat of it. You can buy the paper book from your favorite bookseller or from Forward Movement. There’s also an ebook.
  • For something a little lighter, you can draw inspiration from the lives of saints as you play Lent Madness starting March 2.
  • This year we are encouraging you to pray for refugees and engage in the Christian practice of hospitality through A Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert. This offers daily prayers or scripture readings, along with resources to learn more about refugee and migrant ministries.
  • We have lots of other resources at our website. Check it out.

 

Of course, you don’t have to use Forward Movement resources. You can just re-engage with prayer, or pick up a Bible and read it, or find a way to do ministry in the world. But whatever you do, don’t let Lent pass you by. God gives us this gift through the church, and we should savor it. How will you return to God this Lent?
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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

You’ve Got Company in the Jesus Movement

When people ask me how I could leave the land of chips and queso for the land of pretzels and beer cheese, I simply tell them that I was unable to decline being offered my Barbie-Dream-Job, even though it was located in Cincinnati. And while I can still occasionally hear the wailing and gnashing teeth of the five generations of Texans that preceded me, answering Jesus’ call to this place has been one of the deepest joys of my life.

I knew that taking a job outside of parish lay ministry—where I’d spent almost my entire professional life—was going to be an adjustment.  There would be a steep learning curve, and I would make some mistakes that everyone would see and notice as mistakes. What I didn’t count on—what surprised and delighted me to my core, what made me know in the deepest part of myself that I had made the right choice—was how much more I fell in love with Jesus while just doing my job.

 

At the heart of the Christian experience is an understanding that making our lives look like Jesus’ life will require some serious individual work and intention.  We also know that we are just a part of of Jesus’ body here on earth, and we have to learn how to work well with the other bits and pieces. Making our lives look like Jesus’ life is the hardest, most rewarding, and right thing we can do. Reading the Bible, saying our prayers, praying for and serving others are ways we attempt to do this best, right thing.

 

For a long time, I imagined that saying my prayers two or three times a day, reading through one of the Gospels during Lent, mostly paying attention to the lessons on Sundays, taking communion, and not swearing out loud at people who are incapable of driving like evolved human beings was putting me pretty square with the Lord. And then I came to Forward Movement. Mostly, my job focuses on Forward Day by Day—our flagship resource. Consequently, I read almost all of the lessons for each day as I’m doing my editing job. I can’t help an author be clear about a text if I’m not familiar with the context myself, so reading what the Daily Office or the Revised Common Lectionary have to offer is essential.

 

Reading the Bible every day, looking at the ties between the Old and New Testaments, seeing the beauty of the Psalms cycle back and around every month, letting my heart marinate in the sweetness of the Word, allowing myself to ask deep questions and be relentless and fearless in ferreting out the answers (or just making peace with the questions) has radically and irrevocably changed my life.  That’s right—the thing everyone has been telling you your whole life about God is true—just read the Bible every day, and amazing things will happen. I was as surprised by that simple and not-new revelation as I was when I found out that lunch meetings were neither glamorous nor productive. Reading the Bible—and taking it seriously—has given me such joy, totally complicated my life, and demanded more of my time and energy than I would have imagined. But I also hunger for that word now. When things go sideways, I do not hesitate look up key words I’m feeling to see where they are repeated by the prophets, in the stories of Jesus, in the Psalms, and God shows me grace, shows me ways see the Kingdom that is already here and still being prepared.

 

Let’s be honest—Jesus will love you just the same as he does right this very minute even if you don’t start reading your Bible every day or develop a daily devotional habit or find ways to augment the habits you may already have. But…and we all love a big but…Can you imagine falling even more in love with Jesus—more in love with your neighbors, more in love with the world God has made and called good, less worried about other people and their weirdnesses, less concerned about what you don’t have and more concerned with how you can share what you do have? Are you willing to take that big risk?

 

If you are, I promise I’ll sit right here with you. I’m taking this risk of spending time with Jesus, of falling in love with his crazy friends, of being convinced that God is making all things new—even me, too.  At Forward Movement, this is how we participate in the Jesus Movement—so you’ve got company. Join us, either with friends or on your own, at 10 a.m. each morning to savor a sweet time with the Word and with each other. We’re here to inspire disciples, empower evangelists, and love the world for Jesus’ sake, and we’re glad you’re here with us, too.


Rachel Jones is Associate Editor at Forward Movement. You can connect with the Forward Day by Day community on Facebook, Twitter, or our prayer site forum; share your Moving Forward experiences with the hashtag #ForwardDaybyDay; and listen to the Forward Day by Day podcast on the go.

Forward Movement Is Hiring: Design and Production Lead

We’re hiring! Does this sound like a great fit for you or someone you know?

DESIGN AND PRODUCTION LEAD

This position is responsible for providing creative and compelling design for print, digital, and web projects, and for serving as the production manager for products and resources. The design and production lead will collaborate with Forward Movement staff on a variety of projects, from books and pamphlets to online offerings and marketing materials. The ideal candidate should be skilled in Adobe Creative Cloud (InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator) and have some knowledge of web design. The employee should be a creative team player with a keen sense of how to design for different media. This person should have the ability to deliver quality products on deadline and in a fast-paced environment. An entrepreneurial and playful spirit is essential.

Key Responsibilities and Tasks

1. Serve as graphic designer for Forward Movement products, including digital books, pamphlets, marketing materials, and websites. Prepares resources from creation to final production. Works closely with editorial, marketing, and development teams to produce quality content that is visually appealing and engaging.

2. Contribute to the creative work of Forward Movement. Write creative briefs in support of editorial, marketing, and business strategy and launch specific project initiatives as they relate to our core brand identity.

3. Serve as a brand ambassador for Forward Movement, working closely with the marketing staff to implement brand strategies across communication platforms such as marketing collateral, advertising, marketing campaigns, social media, trade publications, direct mail, email newsletters, video, and web presence.

4. Serve as production manager, preparing files to printing and digital specifications and working with staff and contractors through delivery to warehouse or launch. Work with a variety of contractors and printers for best quality at the best price. Coordinate and oversee preparation of print-on-demand and ebook resources.

5. Develop design-driven products to create revenue and to expand the ministry of Forward Movement.

6. Share in a collaborative, creative process to design engaging covers and internal content for printed and web-based materials. Develop creative workflow and best practices processes.

7. Position reports to the deputy director/managing editor but works closely with other departments, especially marketing. Work closely with staff and contractors to ensure quality control, with all designs suitably prepared and digital products properly formatted for distribution.

8. Establish and meet deadlines for short-and long-term products.

9. Contribute to the total effectiveness of Forward Movement, communicating openly, solving problems proactively, offering creative ideas, and working as a positive, engaged team member.

10. Perform related work as required.

This is a full-time position that reports to the Deputy Director/Managing Editor. This position receives generous benefits. Strong preference for work in the Cincinnati location. Occasional travel may be required. The successful applicant will possess Christian character and be knowledgeable about The Episcopal Church. Forward Movement hires without regard to race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities, or age.

Send cover letter, resume, and link to an online portfolio to Tania Jones at tjones@forwardmovement.org by March 7, 2017.

ICYMI: Week of 2/12/17

Welcome back 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.

Here at Forward Movement we’re in full-on Lent prep mode. And that can only mean one thing: They’re baaack:

 

That’s right: it’s just over 2 weeks until Ash Wednesday, and that means a certain annual early-spring tournament is about to sweep office coolers around the nation. We speak of Lent Madness, of course. Not familiar? Check out the video above from the SEC (Supreme Executive Committee), a.k.a. Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck.

The next step in joining the Madness is to pick up a Saintly Scorecard (also available in poster size, great for parish halls). Then make your selections, vote online during Lent, and enjoy learning more about these saints.

Lent Madness is silly by design, of course, but a funny thing happens during the March mayhem—we learn some pretty powerful stuff. Scott writes about that in this week’s Forward Today, titled “Inspiration from the Saints.” A key quote:

“Every saint we remember is known for their advocacy of the vulnerable or for calling people to transformed lives or for prophetically calling the church to return to its Gospel life. To celebrate the saints is to celebrate rocking the boat. To celebrate the saints is to discover that God works for justice through people like you and me.”

Amen!

Speaking of advocacy of the vulnerable: One powerful Lenten practice we’re recommending this year is Meeting Jesus on the Margins. We produced this book in 2016, but just reprinted it for yearly use. It focuses on Jesus’ message in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus urges us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and visit the prisoners. That message is certainly timeless.

Also: Have you been following along with Minda Cox’s Forward Day by Day meditations this month? It’s not too late to join in this daily practice for February—and to weigh in with the new Moving Forward feature, using #ForwardDaybyDay.

On Feb 6, readers responded to the following action: Take or draw a picture of your favorite real-life servant-leader in action. On the hashtag, we saw a wide variety of answers:

“One of my favorite servant leaders, @elizabethforma #ForwardDayByDay”

“Servant leader

“Father Bill Wright @eecsanangelo informs & inspires my own servanthood. He’s a blessing to our parish … & beyond. #ForwardDayByDay

Really cool to see such a range of answers! And there are more great Moving Forward questions and actions coming up. Wishing you all a peaceful week.

Forward Today: Inspiration from the Saints

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes about Lent Madness, the annual saintly smackdown that’s all in good fun–but can have a powerful impact, too.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

We are just around the corner from the eighth year of Lent Madness, the “saintly smackdown” that pits 32 saints into a competition for the Golden Halo. It’s all very silly, but it has a profound impact on participants. You see, over the course of Lent, as you vote for your favorite saints, you read about them and their witness. By the end of Lent, we get a glimpse into the extraordinary ways God works in ordinary women and men.
 

 

Some will object that this kind of silly and slightly irreverent fun isn’t appropriate in a world rife with serious problems. But as I blogged yesterday, there are no saints of the status quo. That is, every saint we remember is known for their advocacy of the vulnerable or for calling people to transformed lives or for prophetically calling the church to return to its Gospel life. To celebrate the saints is to celebrate rocking the boat. To celebrate the saints is to discover that God works for justice through people like you and me.
 
This year more than ever, I’m looking forward to a fun, informative, and inspirational season of Lent Madness. As in previous years, I know a vibrant online community will form as we discuss the merits of various saints. Perhaps you will join us, if you haven’t played before. This might be in addition to your regular Lenten discipline, or maybe it will be your first-ever Lenten discipline. Whatever you do, I invite you to use the season of Lent to recommit to following Jesus. It is hard work, to be sure. But sometimes it can be fun. This is appropriate. After all, the Book of Common Prayer describes Lent as a season to “prepare with joy for the Paschal feast.” Indeed. Let us prepare with joy.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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