Forward Today: Time for New Practices

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott Gunn reflects on “fall cleaning” season as a time to discard old practices, and to welcome the new.


Dear friends in Christ,

The autumn is one of those times each year when people tend to do cleaning. It’s perhaps not as famous as “spring cleaning,” but this time of year brings cleanup, yard work, swapping out summer things for cool-weather things, and so on. The kind of cleaning where one simply removes dirt is less fun for me than the kind of cleaning where one is looking at objects and making decisions. Do I need this thing? Can I get rid of it? Will someone else want it? What is the responsible way to discard it? And then, at the end, I love the new space that opens up when we’ve discarded unused items.
 
There’s a spiritual aspect to all this. We don’t need to wait for Lent to look at our lives and our practices. Do I want to continue this practice? Should I stop it? Does it help me to be the person God wants me to be? When I manage to stop practices, it opens up time for new practices. I love that! Less time on Netflix means more time to write!

 

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We’re having to do a bit of this at Forward Movement. A few weeks ago, we learned we have to find a new warehouse. Not very exciting stuff, but yet it affords great possibility. We’ve looked at every item in our catalog, as we decided whether we’d move things to the new place. It’s been hard work, but the kind of work that keeps us focused on our mission.
 
And, while I try to keep these weekly reflections from being too commercial, I must tell you that there’s a great benefit to you, dear reader, of our warehouse move. We have decided to put loads of things on sale, and you can get some never-before-seen discounts on many items. Please do have a look.
 
How can you use this time? What practices or objects is it time to let go of? What practices or objects is it time to take on?
 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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The Tale of St. Barbara—Patron Saint of Warehouses

Saint Barbara’s story sounds like the Brothers Grimm wrote it. Complete with a tall, lonely, locked tower, truly questionable parenting methods, a poorly-chosen set of suitors, and people being turned into stone or struck by lightning, Barbara’s story is not for the faint-hearted, or for folks who have a hard time using their imaginations. Due to her childhood spent being warehoused as a commodity for trade by her pagan-merchant father, Barbara (in addition to being one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and the patron of architects, firemen, mathematicians, miners, and Syria, among others) is the patron saint of warehouses and warehouse workers. Bet you didn’t know that…

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By Wolfgang Sauber (Own work) [GFDL]

At Forward Movement, we believe that Jesus and his friends are important people to know. The books we publish, the resources we produce, the meetings we have, and our communication with our readers and customers are all shaped around our mission of inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists. That’s where the life of Saint Barbara and the life of Forward Movement meet and mingle, and the space we’re using to celebrate this dance is our warehouse—where we are currently having a sale!

Warehouse Sale Facebook Image

We’re moving warehouses, and we’d like to let you help us make that transition a little easier by buying some truly lovely books, booklets, and pamphlets. We’ve made it easy to help by marking down some of our best-loved and frequently-used seasonal offerings—including items from Lent Madness—as well as some of our more focused meditation books—like The Soul’s Journey: An Artist’s Approach to the Stations of the Cross. You can also pick up a copy of what we are sure is Saint Barbara’s favorite Forward Movement book, Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter.

Whether you take advantage of this great sale, or simply take away a new person to read about on your next trip down a Wikipedia wormhole, we hope that you know your friends at Forward Movement are always thinking about ways to help you know Jesus better, to inspire your discipleship and empower your evangelism. We look forward to talking to you soon.

Peace and Joy,

Your Friends at Forward Movement

Forward Today: Back to School, for Everyone

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott Gunn considers what would happen if we all treated autumn as a back to school season—for our faith.


Dear friends in Christ,

This week, my Facebook feed is full of families with kids headed back to school. Just about every store I’ve been in for a couple of weeks has specials for “back to school season.” Even in churches, lots of places that ended classes over the summer are starting back up again. But back to school isn’t just for kids and their parents.

The Rite I service often starts out with the Summary of the Law. “Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Did you catch that? “All thy mind.” Too many people check out of learning about their faith. We don’t take courses, we don’t read books, and we don’t wrestle with ideas that might push us to change or grow. And, yet, how can we love God with our minds if we don’t use our minds?

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If your church offers adult education courses, take a look! Sign up! If not, maybe a nearby church (even another denomination) offers something that can feed your mind. If courses aren’t your thing, how about reading a book about faith? There are loads of them. Your local bookstore has plenty of books on faith, and so does your public library. Ask a friend or your priest for suggestions.
 
Of course, Forward Movement has plenty of books for sale on our website, though we’re not the only ones. I am pretty excited about Inwardly Digest, a new book that draws us into a richer encounter with the Book of Common Prayer. Or Slaying Your Goliaths, about facing your own challenges–while going really deep into the David and Goliath story from the Bible. Or Bible Women, offering you a chance to read and connect with every word spoken by women in the Bible. Choose one of these or something completely different.
 
Whatever you do, I urge you to find a way to recommit to learning and to growth in this back to school season.
 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: Making Time to Help

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott Gunn reflects on the Olympics, and a lesson we can learn from two competitors who took time to help, in the middle of a race.


Dear friends in Christ,

If you’ve been following the Olympics like I have, you almost certainly know about the story of Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) and Abbey D’Agostino (USA), who collided during the women’s 5,000 meter race. They both ended up on the track, and in the next few seconds, each helped the other to get up and finish the race. There are lots of ways to find inspiration in this story. For me, it was a bit of an indictment.

<pPhoto by flickr user Brian Talbot / Creative Commons

I see human need around me all the time. Sometimes it’s as simple as a person on the street asking for lunch. Sometimes it’s a person who is obviously struggling, perhaps in tears. Sometimes it’s a Facebook friend who posts about their anguish over some issue they’re facing. And more often than I care to admit, I briefly consider responding and then decide I have other pressing things to do. Someone else will help, I tell myself.

Hamblin and D’Agostino have it right though. Under the glare of the spotlight, on global television, in the midst of an Olympic race, each stopped to help the other.
 
They of all people had every reason to press on with the task at hand. After working for years to get to the Olympics, what could be more important than finishing the race with the best possible time?
 
It makes my excuses seem pretty silly. “I have somewhere to be” is ridiculous compared with “I need to cross the Olympic finish line.” The difference between the response of D’Agostino and Hamblin and my own frequent neglect is so extreme that it almost sounds like a parable. You can almost hear Jesus saying, “Consider two runners who fall…”
 
What about you? Do you ever, like me, find excuses to avoid doing what is clearly the compassionate–and Christian–thing?
 
Dear Lord, give us all the grace and the strength to respond to the needs of the world when we are given the moment to act. Dear Lord, help us to serve the world in your name.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: Where Will We Be Dazzled?

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott Gunn reflects on the upcoming Feast of the Transfiguration, which lends itself to many readings—one of which is the striking importance of prayer.


Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Saturday, we will celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. The story is told in Luke 9:28-36, among other places. Jesus goes up on the mountain with Peter, James, and John, and he is transfigured for them. His clothes become dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. Peter, as usual, gets it wrong, wanting to build shelters to stay there. A voice from heaven cries out, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” It could not be more plain for the disciples: this Jesus is no mere man, but rather the divine Son of God. And then they have to trudge down the mountain to their ordinary lives.

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There is so much richness here. As a parish priest, I’ve preached on this passage many times. Luke’s telling of the story offers so many ways to enter the story. We could talk about the divine voice and its challenge. We could talk about Peter getting it wrong. We could talk about the meaning of Moses and Elijah appearing with Jesus. Or we could talk about how Jesus’ followers have to get on with it after their (literal) mountaintop experience.
 
This year, however, what strikes me is the beginning of the passage. “Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.”
 
Jesus, even though he was incredibly busy with his urgent work, took time to pray. Even the divine Son of God needed to take time to pray. Sit with that a bit. And yet I regularly hear people say they’re too busy to pray. I see myself failing to make enough time. But Jesus did it. Read the Gospels and you get the sense that Jesus was always on the move, that his work of redemption was urgent. He still made time for time away for prayer.
 
Perhaps this is just what we need in our busy, cacophonous time. We’re all too busy. The emails never stop. The news never quits. We won’t change much if we think we’re going to do it on our own. Prayer. Prayer might open our lives, our minds, and our hearts to God’s will for us and for the world.
 

Who knows what we might see if we prayed. Where will we be dazzled? How will we see Jesus differently? What will God speak to us?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: Politics and the Jesus Movement

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott Gunn considers what it means to be a part of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, in trying times such as these.


Dear friends in Christ,

If you live in the United States, you’re certainly aware of the two major party political conventions happening this week. Democrats and Republicans are each making the case for why their party should be entrusted with governance, and each attacks the other. 
 
Though this is a particularly vicious year, the pattern is pretty familiar. A fierce exchange of ideas is one of the benefits, and sometimes the costs, of free society.

As Christians, we are likely to notice how most politicians love to cloak themselves in the mantle of religion. Sometimes this is merited, but other times it’s just humorous. Occasionally, this flag-and-cross waving is even blasphemous. Make no mistake; this is not a partisan claim. I’ve seen people of both major parties try to wrap themselves in the flag and a religious mantle.

For us Christians, the scriptures actually have quite a lot to say about the relationship between politics and religion. To keep this brief, let’s just note a couple of things. Jesus says that we should offer things to our political leaders and to God. Jesus pushes us to care for people at the margins. St. Paul teaches us that, as followers of Jesus, our citizenship is in heaven; we are all sojourners in our earthly lands.

I encourage you to read the scriptures and to study the tradition of the church as you seek to carve out a Christian role in this divisive time. Don’t settle for easy answers. Being a part of the Jesus Movement means that we are, literally, never at ease and settled. One thing we can all surely agree on is that our task in this season and always is to pray for, to work for, and to proclaim the kingdom of God.

O Lord Jesus Christ, give us strength and courage to be your movement in the world, to share your love with the world, and to proclaim your hope for the world. In your most holy name we pray. Amen.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: Find Strength and Comfort in the Psalms

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott Gunn reflects on this trying, troubling year, and suggests turning to a time-tested fount of wisdom: the psalms.


Dear friends in Christ,

For many of us, each day’s news brings new horror and sorrow. It’s still not clear to me if things are really getting worse, or if we’re finally seeing more of what has been happening. Either way, this has been a rough year.
 
As Christians, we rightly want to do something to work for peace and justice. And we must absolutely do that. The Gospel demands it. Our baptismal promises demand it. And basic human compassion demands it. Deciding what you should do is something that you need to discern for your context and for your abilities. At the very least, we should be listening to those who are marginalized–who are most often the victims of violence.
 
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I do not for a second want to ignore our external responsibilities, that is, our duty to attend to the needs and to the suffering of the world. But I also think we should attend to our own hearts. We may not be able to effect change in the world, but we can all change our hearts.
 
For this, I encourage you to spend time with the psalms. Every horror and every delight is found there. Every bit of joy and every bit of rage is expressed. Every noble act of justice and every evil act of oppression is laid bare. Every hymn of praise and every rejection of God’s presence is there.
 
Grab any bible and turn the psalms. I like the psalter in our Book of Common Prayer, but you might prefer a different way to read them. Read them straight through, or read them randomly. Whatever you do, pray and study the psalms with open hearts and open minds.
 
I lift up my eyes to the hills; *
    from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the LORD, *
    the maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
Yours faithfully, 
 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Pokemon Go Resources: Free Printable Poster, Bulletin Insert & Ways to Engage

pokeFBAs Episcopalians, we love our slogan, “The Episcopal Church welcomes you!” but how often do we get to trot out our warm welcome? Thanks to the Pokémon Go game that is sweeping the country, lots of people are showing up at our churches – sometimes to play on our lawns and sometimes to go inside to catch Pokémon. What can we, as a church, do to welcome these people who may not have ever been to a church before? 

Forward Movement has prepared a simple bulletin insert that you can use in your Sunday service leaflet to educate your church members about this phenomenon and why it matters.

        pokepurple     StStephensPoke     poke3

Here are some resources that church leaders can use for their own education or to offer gracious hospitality to Pokémon Go players.

1.     Forward Movement has a poster you can print out (or your local copy shop could print it for you in full color and poster sizes). The poster is formatted to fit on 11×17 or ledger. Post outdoors where Pokemon players are congregating.

2.    The Washington Post has a fun and informative article, “Come for Jigglypuff, stay for Jesus: Church in the age of Pokémon Go” 

3.    A blog called The Wardrobe Door offers “8 Ways Churches Can Capitalize On Pokemon Go”. These are really practical tips, and we encourage you to do one or more of the eight suggestions.

4.    You can make your own flyers or resources. Create a welcome poster or pamphlet (a light touch is best) with details about your church with the basic message: “We are glad you’re here, and we’d love to welcome you another time!”

If you’re creating your own flyer, you might like to use this text, drafted by the Rev. Kara Slade, Episcopal priest and avid Pokemon Go player: 

No matter if you’re just starting out or if you’re a Gym Leader, [insert church name here] welcomes you to our [Pokéstop or Gym]. Make yourself at home and help yourself to all the items you can find and all the Pokémon you can catch. If you take some good photos with the in-game camera, we want to see them too! You can share them with us at [Instagram user id or Twitter id or other electronic contact info].

We love being part of the world of Pokémon, and we’re also a church that loves following Jesus by worshiping God, by living in Christian community with each other, and by loving and serving our neighbors. If you’d like to find out more about who we are and what we do, one place to start is to visit our church website at [address] and www.episcopalchurch.org. But we really hope you’ll visit us in person. Come and see what (and who) we’re about. We’re here every Sunday at [time].

That’s just a sample, and you should feel free to make it sound authentic for your church.

If you have created useful Pokemon resources, please let us know. We’d love to add them to this page to share with others. 

If evangelism isn’t fun, we’re not doing it right, so have fun offering Christ’s welcome to all who come.

Forward Today: The Gift of Communion

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott Gunn reflects on a remarkable week at General Synod in Toronto, and the gift of communion among Anglicans worldwide.


Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve just been in Canada for a few days, visiting the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. My primary purpose was, with a colleague, to represent Forward Movement in their exhibit hall. While we did sell a few things, our main desire was to tell Anglicans in Canada what we’ve been up to lately and to learn a bit more about how we can better serve the needs of the church there.

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As time permitted, I spent time observing the synod at work. When people stopped by our booth, I was able to talk with people about Forward Movement, but also about the life of the church in Canada. On Sunday morning, I left synod to visit a couple of Anglican congregations for worship. All of it was a gift.

Every person I met was delighted to learn that I was visiting from the Episcopal Church. Receiving the gift of hospitality is a deep honor, always. As I spent time with fellow Anglicans in worship and conversation, I was moved by how similar our churches are. In many ways, coming to a Sunday service in the Anglican Church of Canada isn’t much different at all from doing the same in an Episcopal Church. But I was also moved by differences, the sometimes subtle ways our churches address our contexts.

In particular, I was impressed by the depth of engagement at General Synod with issues of race and culture, especially the relationship between Indigenous people and Settlers. The amount of time, energy, and care invested in these issues will surely make a lasting impact on all those who were there. I wonder what would happen in our church if we did the same?

I could write a book about my gratitude for the Anglican Church of Canada and my time with them, and I could write a similar book about my time with Anglicans in many nations around the world. Today my heart is overflowing.

Every day, in Forward Day by Day, we invite you to pray for Anglicans around the world. Please join fervently in those prayers. If you have a chance to visit an Anglican or Episcopal church around the world, receive the gift of hospitality with grace. And when someone from a distant realm arrives in your congregation, receive them as Jesus Christ.
 
Let us all give thanks for the Anglican Communion and for the diversity of God’s people on earth.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: Be Not Afraid

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott Gunn reminds us of Jesus’ message for difficult times: Be not afraid.


Dear friends in Christ,

Today brings yet more horrifying news, as we absorb the tragedy of an attack on the international airport in Istanbul. Of course, we should pray for the dead and wounded. Jesus also told us to pray for our enemies, and so we too should pray for those who wish us harm.

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Jesus said, again and again, “Be not afraid.” That message is found throughout our scriptures. “Be not afraid.” It’s so easy to say, and yet so hard to do. Perhaps it will help us to infuse our lives with prayer and to drink deeply from the well of God’s word in scripture. Our story is itself a bulwark against the power of those who would sow fear. When the forces of wickedness did their best to crush God’s perfect love in Jesus Christ by killing him, God raised Jesus to new life.

The Resurrection is a forceful witness that God’s love is stronger than any evil, stronger even than death. The Resurrection taunts hatred and fear.

There are many people in our world who benefit when we are afraid. Some people would prefer that we surround ourselves with might. While we can certainly take steps to be safe, we must also remember that perfect love casts out fear, that the call of the Gospel is to proclaim God’s love, not to cower in fear. Let us Christians stand boldly and echo what our Our Lord pronounced. “Be not afraid.”
 
Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
 
(Book of Common Prayer, page 216)
 
Yours faithfully, 
 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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