Pray Always

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott ponders the power of unceasing prayer.


Dear friends in Christ,

Today’s assigned readings include a passage from James, with these instructions, “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise” (James 5:13).

In my limited experience talking with people – and reflecting on my own life – too often we tend to pray to God when we want something. The scriptures suggest another approach. We should, instead, pray without ceasing. We should pray to give thanks, to praise God, to seek God’s will, and, yes, to implore God’s action in the world. Sometimes I’m better at this than other times. Does prayer work? Absolutely. I know that when I pray more often, I discover a sense of God’s grace in the world and in my life that I might not otherwise find.

Man prayer in church

A rich prayer life moves beyond asking God to do things for us and toward a life in which we commit ourselves to God. We pray not for God to fix everything for us, but for God to accompany us in our brokenness and in the broken places of the world.

Forward Movement has all kinds of resources on prayer, but today’s message won’t point you toward something to buy. Instead, I invite you to try a kind of prayer you haven’t used lately. Haven’t spent time telling God thanks? Try it. Or try praising God in prayer. Or asking for God’s direction. There isn’t a right or a wrong way to pray, but I do believe we are blessed when we push ourselves toward a deeper life of prayer.

How will you pray today?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Save the EpiscoCat Calendar

Save the EpiscoCat Calendar“Meow culpa.” Mourn-no-more cat lovers.

Rising from the crowded cutting room floor, the canceled cat calendar that caused a church-wide hairball crisis is BACK!

With your help, Forward Movement is reintroducing the popular EpiscoCat Calendar in 2018!

Your GoFundMe donation will support our mission of inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists, one Jesus Meow-vement feline at a time. As a thank you, all donors will receive gifts to support daily spiritual practices. Gifts will ship in September.

  • Donations of $25 or more will receive one copy of the calendar to keep, and one to share.
  • Donations of $50 or more will receive 4 calendars, and a one-year email subscription to Forward Day by Day
  • Donations of $100 or more will receive 6 calendars, a one-year email subscription to Forward Day by Day, and a copy of Forward Movement’s 2018, 365-day book of daily devotional meditations


Donate now to help make our church cat…holic again!


Forward Movement will also accept photo submissions to be included in the Episcocat Calendar through May 2017 (guidelines below). Please note, a donation does not guarantee that your photo will be selected for the calendar.


The EpiscoCat calendar is a collaboration between faithful readers, their beloved cats, and Forward Movement. This thirteen-month calendar (December 2017-December 2018) includes all the major feasts of the Episcopal Church, color-coded to coordinate with the liturgical seasons. Photos of esteemed felines from around the church—along with humorous captions—make this unique calendar a perfect gift for the Episcopal cat lover in the office, at home, or for yourself.


Photo submissions for EpiscoCat Calendar

Send Us Your Cat Photos!

Forward Movement is accepting photo submissions for the EpiscoCat Calendar – our 13-month, wall-hanging calendars. If we choose your photo, you’ll receive photo credit and a complimentary calendar.

Photo Requirements and Suggestions:

  • High resolution: 300dpi high-quality or better, check the file size before sending to ensure it’s at least 2-3 MB
  • Let your furry friend shine – please, no people in your photos
  • Images must be crisp and in focus.
  • An interesting background and setting is encouraged.


All submissions must include (please read carefully):

  • Your Name
  • Address (so we know where to send your calendars if your photo is selected)
  • Email
  • Phone number (best way to reach you through September 2017)
  • Cat(s) name(s)
  • Suggested caption(s) for your photo (optional).


How to submit your photo:

Email your photos, along with the information listed above to episcopets@gmail.com. Please use the subject line: EpiscoCats Photo Submission

Submission Deadline: May 31, 2017
Only photos received on or before May 31, 2017 will be considered for this year’s calendar.

Caption Contests:

Check our Facebook page starting in June for daily contests to help us write photo captions for the selected cat photos. If your caption is selected for print, you’ll receive a calendar as a thank you.

Forward Today: 50 Days of Fabulous

In this week’s Forward today, Scott reminds us that the Easter season isn’t over, and suggests we double down on our celebration.


Dear friends in Christ,

There’s big news! Everyone’s talking about it! It’s hard to focus on anything else! Yes, that’s right. The big news is that it’s Easter!

Maybe that’s not what you were expecting me to write. Sports, politics, world affairs, local news – it all seems to become so loud it drowns everything else out. And, yes, as Christians, we are in the middle of celebrating an event that makes everything else seem unimportant by comparison. You could be forgiven for thinking that Easter is over, because we Christians don’t always do a good job of keeping up the celebration.

By my count, today is very near the middle of the Easter season, which lasts 50 days. The church’s calendar gives us 50 days to celebrate an astonishing truth: God’s love is stronger than death or anything else that the evil powers of this world can think up. This doesn’t make our problems and concerns vanish, but it does mean that the power of God’s love is greater than anything we might face. Easter ought to be the headline story today and every day. At least for Christians it is the headline story for this whole season. To coin a phrase, Jesus is the reason for the season. So let’s talk about Jesus, and what he has done for us and our world. Let’s talk about Jesus and the salvation and grace he offers.

I suggest that we Christians double down on celebrating Easter. We do this not to deny problems, but to proclaim hope.

How can we double down on Easter? Check out 50 Days of Fabulous, a wonderful website for this Easter season with daily meditations. Greet someone with “Happy Easter” or “Christ is risen”. Insist on hope, not fear. Proclaim God’s love.

So, I’ll start. Christ is risen!

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn

Executive Director

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Forward Today: Inspiring Disciples, Empowering Evangelists

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott writes about Forward Movement’s shift from print-centric ministry to one that covers many platforms and digital initiatives. We hope you’ll help us in this effort!


Dear friends in Christ,

 

This week, on Monday and Tuesday, the Forward Movement board of directors met in Cincinnati. Twice a year the board meets to hear reports, to set policy and strategy, and to pray together. I’m always grateful for this time together and for such gifted leaders who give their time and skill to Forward Movement in service to the wider church.
For the past few years, Forward Movement has been transitioning from print-centric ministry to a ministry that seeks to meet needs across many platforms and channels. It’s exciting and challenging to do this work. Just as pamphlets were the right technology when we started in 1935, today we seek to inspire disciples and empower evangelists on social media, with digital products, with websites and online conversation, and more. Our board has courageously allowed us to invest in new initiatives so that we can serve the needs of today’s church. 

 

Take, for example, RenewalWorks. This ministry allows congregations to understand, in great details, the spiritual needs and strengths of a local community. And as we step back and aggregate data from thousands of Episcopalians across the church, we now understand well where our church is strong and where we need to grow. 

 

As I am grateful for our board, so I am grateful for our readers and friends who pray for our work every day. It matters. Thank you. 

 

If you are passionate about making disciples and sharing the Good News of God in Christ, I hope you might also consider a financial gift to support digital and online efforts for which we cannot get sales income. Our work in social media and online — sharing hope and offering resources — relies on your gifts. 
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Video: May Forward Day by Day Author Jerusalem Greer

We’re really excited about this month of Forward Day by Day reflections. May’s author is Jerusalem Greer (whose posts for Grow Christians have been awesome, if you haven’t checked them out). Editor Rachel Jones recently did a video interview with Jerusalem and learned more about her writing, her perspective on daily practice, and more! Here it is:

Forward Today: Christ’s Vision of Unity

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott considers Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s concept of “cheap grace,” and asks: do we often pursue “cheap unity” as well?


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Today, as I was praying morning prayer, I was struck by the assigned gospel reading, from the 17th chapter of John. Verse 20 has Jesus praying to the Father on behalf of his disciples, “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.”
 
That they may all be one. Of course, Jesus is talking about us, his disciples, just as surely as he was talking about his followers seated around that table twenty centuries ago. What does it mean to say that we may all be one?

 

 

It seems to me there are a couple of dangers lurking here. One would be to say that we are all different, and so the quest for deep unity is pointless. On the other hand, we might be tempted to work for a kind of false unity that obscures or ignores our very real differences, creating an illusion of unity. I see quite a bit of the latter in our churches today.
 
Much as Bonhoeffer talked about “cheap grace,” I think there is such a thing as “cheap unity.” The antidote to cheap grace is costly discipleship, and I think the same cure works for cheap unity. If we see ourselves as followers of Jesus, people who give everything over to following him, I believe Christ’s vision of unity may be possible. To be bound together by baptism, by grace, by discipleship, and by our place in the Body of Christ, is to be bound together in unity. When we see ourselves in this kind of unity, we can acknowledge and even celebrate our differences and our unique giftedness.
 
Jesus prayed that we may all be one. What would need to happen in your life for Jesus’ prayer to be fulfilled? What would our world be like if the church were truly and deeply at unity?
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: Happy Easter! It’s a Season, Not a Day!

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott reflects on spending Holy Week in Jerusalem, and the ways it inspired him to think about the fullness of Easter.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

I wish you all a very blessed and joyous Easter! I am still basking in the glow of my pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where I celebrated Holy Week and Easter with Ethiopians, Greeks, Armenians, Russians, and Anglicans. You can see photos from my pilgrimage on my flickr page. It was inspiring to walk through Holy Week in the places Jesus and his disciples inhabited.

 

 

One thing that struck me is the exuberant way people shouted the Easter Greeting. “Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!” That’s Greek. Anglicans of course shouted, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” These shouts came in sets of three and they were repeated many times throughout liturgies. These were not the subdued liturgical speech that I’ve come to expect among my fellow Episcopalians. Rather, people shouted with reckless abandon, befitting the absolute triumph over death, fear, sin, and destruction that Christ’s Resurrection represents.
 
I wonder what our lives would be like if we celebrated the fullness of Easter for the fullness of the entire Easter season. Our church has set side 50 days for Easter. You might follow along on a wonderful website, 50 Days of Fabulous (www.50days.org). Or maybe you’ll take on an “Easter discipline.” Read a book, maybe one of Forward Movement’s 50 Day Bible Challenge readings of the gospels. My favorite habit to suggest is one that comes from some of our Orthodox friends. During the entire season, instead of greeting people with a hello or a good morning, they greet everyone with “Christ is risen!”
 
However you choose to celebrate Easter, I do hope you’ll make the joy and the transformation last longer than a day or a week. Easter isn’t just one day with full churches, extravagant music, and beautiful flowers. When we celebrate Easter, we are celebrating God’s absolute victory over death and our captivity to sin. Easter means that there is always hope, and that is good news, indeed.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: Holy Week for Holy Lives

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott writes from his Holy Week pilgrimage in Jerusalem, where he’s reminded that Holy Week isn’t just historic–it’s “very much about today.”


Dear friends in Christ,

 

As I mentioned last week, I’m in Jerusalem on pilgrimage for Holy Week. You can follow along on Twitter or Instagram or Flickr (where I’m posting lots of photos). It’s been an extraordinary experience. On Palm Sunday, I marched with tens of thousands along the traditional route from the Mount of Olives to the Old City of Jerusalem. I suppose much like the original parade, there was both joy and sorrow, hope and dread.

 

 

Later in the week, the group I’ve joined from St. George’s College here will worship with Anglicans here in the Diocese of Jerusalem. Perhaps if you are an Episcopalian, your church will take part in the Good Friday Offering for the work of the Diocese of Jerusalem. If so, please be generous. They do much good and vital work under very difficult circumstances.
 
This week, something has struck me in a particularly strong way. Holy Week is not, of course, just a re-enactment of past events, even here in Jerusalem, where some of the processions and services take place in the very locations the commemorated events took place some 2,000 years ago. No, Holy Week is very much about today.
 
This week, our liturgies draw us toward a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. They invite us afresh to glorify God. Maundy Thursday, for example, surely reminds us of an ancient meal. But it also invites us to glorify God for God’s great mercy and love for us. Maundy Thursday invites us to loving service in our whole lives. Here in this week, past, present, and future all meet.
 
How will you move through Holy Week? What will it show you about God?
 
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: Getting Ready for Pilgrimage

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott writes about Holy Week pilgrimages, both mystical and literal. He’s headed to Jerusalem this year!


Dear friends in Christ,

 

One way to understand Holy Week is as a great pilgrimage, in which we are mystically transported to Jerusalem to walk alongside Jesus during the events of his final week and, ultimately, his great triumph on Easter Day. This is not a historical re-enactment, but a holy journey for every those of us to who “enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby [God] have given us life and immortality” (Palm Sunday collect). There is a flip side, of course. Maybe it’s more useful to think of Jerusalem, and Jesus’ great journey, being brought to us. It’s not that we go away, but rather that the Paschal Mystery is manifest for us. Either way, we realize that we are entering a great mystery, a Love that is larger than we either deserve or conceive.

 

Usually around this time, I’m preparing for the pilgrimage of Holy Week by writing sermons or proof-reading bulletins or leading rehearsals. It’s a lot of work, but I’ve always found it deeply rewarding. This year, I’m doing a different kind of preparation. I’m blessed to be heading to Jerusalem for Holy Week. So I’ll be savoring both a mystical and a literal pilgrimage this year. This year’s preparation involves suitcases and travel logistics and exercise. I expect to do a lot of walking and standing as I attend many services during the week. I’m taking the St. George’s College Easter Fire course, and they’ve got us quite busy! I’ve always wanted to do this, and I’m not sure yet how it will form my observance of Holy Week in future years. Ask me next year.
 
I invite you to join my pilgrimage, and I’d be blessed if you prayed for me and for all pilgrims (literal and mystical) in this holy time. If you want to follow along on my particular journey, you can find me on Instagram or Twitter, and I’ll probably blog a few thoughts along the way. I’m taking along a list of people to pray for while I’m in Jerusalem, so please do let me know if I can pray for you while I’m there.
 
Wherever you are, I do hope you’ll make time in your life for Holy Week. If you can set aside time during the Three Holy Days (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Eve) for worship, you will find yourself transformed by the stories, the liturgies, and Christ’s presence with us through the journey.
 
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: The Church in Our Time

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott reflected on John Keble, who we remembered on the church calendar this week–and what his ministry can teach us in tumultuous times.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Today the church remembers John Keble, an English priest who died in 1866. He lived in a time of foment, when the role of the church in society was under debate. Pitched battles were fought over the church and how worship was offered. Keble and others insisted that the church is a divine institution with a purpose beyond the earthly realm. Keble didn’t just launch the Oxford Movement within the church, but helped to reclaim the church from secular forces, insisting on the primacy of prayer and sacraments. High church, broad church, low church – all have benefitted from Keble’s ministry.
No time in history has ever been completely peaceful. In this present time, conflict and strife are more visible to more people, perhaps because of 24/7 news and social media. The good news in this is that oppression and suffering are manifest for all to see, so that all might work toward justice and peace. Of course, the difficulty is that we can be overwhelmed by all the challenges.
 
What are we Christians to do? Perhaps Keble offers a way ahead. We might do well to remember that the church, the Body of Christ, is divine in nature. This means, on the one hand, that the church must surely align itself with the suffering of all kinds. But it also means that the church is bigger and holier than our human frailties. We don’t have the rescue the church from anything. Rather, the church points us all toward Jesus, who rescues us and the whole world.
 
How does the church propel you into the world? How does the church draw you to Jesus?
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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