ICYMI: Week of 3/12/17

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.

Lent Madness got going in earnest this week—how’s your bracket looking? In their weekly video, Scott and Tim shared snapshots from some brackets around the globe. We enjoyed this picture from Marin Catholic in Kentfield, CA.

And here’s a post on how we play in the Forward Movement office.

Last Wednesday was #InternationalWomensDay, and we saw some excellent posts from across the Episcoplan/Anglican social media community (and across the world). A particular favorite was this photo of Trinity Wall Street staff with the new ‘Fearless Girl’ statue across from the famous Wall St bull.

Daily meditation and prayer are for many a solo practice, but it can be immensely rewarding when we realize we’re part of a larger prayer community. We saw two examples of that this week. Our Question of the Week asked:

A few of the many answers we received:

  • “First thing with my coffee. Sets up the day for a better chance at being, well, better…”
  • “Early before anyone is up around 4:45 am, then again later in the evening.”
  • “Around 6:00 AM. Peace on porch.”
  • “I try to do before work and before bed, but the times vary because my schedule varies.”
  • “Lunch time. If the morning was bad, it helps me turn the day around.”

 
It’s pretty cool to think that when you’re reading the daily Forward Day by Day meditation, or whatever you use in your practice, there’s a community of many others reflecting on those same words at the same time.

Speaking of community, we also read a great blog post on ECF’s Vital Practices from Linda Buskirk, a regular contributor to Forward Day by Day’s daily comments forum. Linda writes:

Nearly every morning, I enjoy morning prayer time with a group of friends. I think most of us are Episcopalians, but I don’t know for sure. We come from all over the United States, the Caribbean, and beyond … We’ve done this so long now, we call each other family. Sometimes people share their worries, ask for prayer, or admit struggles and questions. In response, many prayers and words of encouragement offered. New people easily come into the mix and are welcomed. Anyone can participate.

We’re so glad this forum has become such an important place for so many Day by Day readers. If you haven’t checked it out, it’s here. And of course, you can also connect with Day by Day readers on Facebook and Twitter.

Have a great week!

Lent Madness at Forward Movement

In Cincinnati, the weather can’t make up its mind between rain and shine. Plants peep shyly out of the thawing earth. Birds return with their happy chirps, foraging for worms in the wet dirt.

It’s beginning to feel like… Lent Madness!—the most holy competition of them all.

Last year I predicted Sojourner Truth—influential abolitionist—would win the coveted Golden Halo. Lent Madness voters had a different idea, however, and she lost to a worthy competitor: Dietrich Bonhoeffer—pastor and anti-Nazi activist.

Here at Forward Movement, Lent Madness brings a friendly competition between co-workers. After filling out our brackets (some meticulously, while others play a wild card), we submit both our brackets and $5. Whether purposefully or not, a particular co-worker has become chief-of-brackets (aka Bracket Boss or Scorecard Supreme). She keeps track of our points during the Lent Madness season and sends us rankings every few weeks.

At the end of the Lent Madness season, the employee with the most points receives our collective donations and gives the money to the charity of their choice. Last year, the winner donated the money to the Stray Animal Adoption Program (SAAP), an organization dear to her because she had adopted her own dog from the group. Past donation recipients have included a food pantry, a church, and a reading camp. If I win this year (fingers crossed), I’d like to see the donation go to a local women’s shelter.

In the end, everyone’s a winner, even if we don’t all get Golden Halos. Lent Madness builds camaraderie, teaches us about the saints, and we get to contribute to a worthy cause.

Who are you rooting for this Lent Madness?


Alyssa Finke is Marketing Coordinator at Forward Movement.

Forward Today: Christ, Be Present With Us

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on a letter he recently received, from an inmate on death row—and shares a powerful prayer.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

This week I received a letter that I won’t forget any time soon. As you may know, we at Forward Movement donate resources to prisons and prisoners. Sometimes it is a chaplain who contacts us, and sometimes it is an inmate. This unforgettable letter was from a man who is now on death row. He was writing to thank us for Forward Day by Day, which he said had given him lots of comfort over the last few years. He also shared that the date of his execution has been set for April, and he was asking for prayers.

 


Photo by Flickr user VSmithUK / Creative Commons

I can’t imagine what his life is like right now. What is it like to know the exact date of your death? As I was trying to decide what I might say in response, I happened to come across a prayer card. The prayer, which comes from Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, seemed just right for him, and, I think, for all of us.
 
Be Thou, O Lord, a light unto mine eyes, music to my ears, sweetness to my taste, and a full contentment to my heart. Be thou my sunshine in the day, my food at the table, my repose in the night, my clothing in nakedness, and my succor in all necessities. Amen.
 
Jesus is everything for us and for all who follow him. I pray that not only those who are near death, but all who are in the midst of life, will find strength and courage from Christ’s presence in our lives. In this Lenten season, we remember that Jesus was tempted in the desert, knew every human pain, and suffered the sting of death. God loves us so much that Jesus Christ dwelled with us in great humility. And, in the end, Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, showing us that God’s love is stronger than death.
 
May we all be inspired to live fearlessly and compassionately, confident in Christ’s presence. And I beg your prayers for all who face death, whatever the reason or circumstance.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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

ICYMI: Week of 3/5

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.

We began our Lenten journey this week—but before we did, we asked:

We saw some tasty responses to this one. A few favorite answers:

  • “Definitely pancakes, and ham, and lemon curd, and real maple syrup at Epiphany’s annual Pancake Supper….I’ve been working at it for the past 35 years!”
  • “I gorge on whatever my fast will be in any given year. Tomorrow I will be feasting on “appetizers”–mozzarella sticks, onion rings, potato skins.”
  • “Paczki! Detroit is all about paczki.”
  • “Homemade potato salad and fried chicken on the parade route.”
  • “A truly decadent desert: Charlotte Malakoff a la Russe, for instance.”
  • And this photo response from Trinity Episcopal Church’s dinner in West Pittston, PA:

We hope you had a fun feast on Tuesday.

What’s your family’s Ash Wednesday tradition? Do you receive ashes to go? We saw some cool pictures—from around the world—on the #ashestogo hashtag.

A favorite, from our friend Fr. Albert Cutie:

Do you take your kids to church on Ash Wednesday? What sorts of questions have they asked about the service, or the ashes? Nurya Love Parish wrote a terrific post on the subject for Grow Christians this week. We heard from a lot of readers on our Twitter feed who said they absolutely take their kids. Some responses:

  • “I took mine! The little one had to go outside for parts, but my oldest (6) asked questions like why we cover the cross. Good conversations!”
  • “Why on earth would you cheat children out of Ash Wednesday??”
  • “Pro-tip: When kids are little, make sure they know the ashes are from palms. Not bodies! (True story.)”

 
On “Ash Thursday” this week, Lent Madness started. You can listen to Scott and Tim discuss this season on the excellent Priest Pulse podcast, and cast your votes at lentmadness.org.

And at Forward Movement, we began A Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert. We’ll be sharing daily prayers and readings as images on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and you can download weekly bulletin inserts (and browse many other resources, including videos) at forwardmovement.org/seasonofprayer. The project focuses particularly on themes of exile, hospitality and migration. We’ll close with today’s image:

Have a great week.

Forward Today: This Lent, Renew a Right Spirit

As we begin Lent, in this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes about Ash Wednesday, noting that this reminder of our mortality may “at first seem grim,” but also reminds us we should savor our gift of life.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

I hope every Christian will find their way to a church today. Today, we receive a great gift. We are reminded of our mortality, which at first might seem grim. But in this invitation is also a reminder that our time in this earthly pilgrimage is precious, and we should savor our time and use it wisely. We have only a little time to know God’s love and to share that love with our neighbors.

Photo by Flickr user John Ragai / Creative Commons

After we receive the somber mark of ashes, the congregation kneels as Psalm 51 is sung or said. Near the end, we find these words.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
               and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence *
   and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again *
               and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
 
I love these prayerful words, because they remind me that my renewal comes not through my own doing but through God’s doing. Praying this way teaches me that my task is to open my heart and my life to God’s presence. Praying these words reminds me that the Holy Spirit will lead me, and guide me, if I am listening and willing.
 
Let us this day commit to savoring the gift of life our Father has given us. Let us commit to following Jesus, even and especially when the path is rocky or uncertain. Let us commit to renewing our hears by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
 
How will you renew and recommit this Lenten season?
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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

Resources for Your Lenten Journey

Lent has begun, but it’s not too late to make good use of this holy journey toward Easter. The Book of Common Prayer, in the invitation to a holy Lent, suggests some ways to observe Lent, “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”

You can do all these things with a prayer book and a Bible, and if you don’t have copies of both, we encourage you to get them! But if you’re looking for some resources to take with you on the journey, Forward Movement offers some digital resources–no need to head out to the bookstore or wait for something to ship.

We offer several different little books of daily meditations for your Lenten time. New this year, Ashes and the Phoenix brings together daily meditations, powerful poetry by Len Freeman, and Jason Sierra’s inspiring woodcut art on your Kindle, Nook, or iBook device. If you are looking for a resource focused on mission outreach and social justice, check out Meeting Jesus on the Margins (Kindle, Nook, or iBook), featuring meditations from Becca Stevens, Richelle Thompson, and Hugo Olaiz, among other excellent writers.

At this time in our national life, when there has been much conversation about refugees, even as the number of displaced persons continues to rise around the globe, we invite you to engage this season in A Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert. Each day will offer a prayer or scripture reading focused on themes of hospitality, migration, and refugee welcome.

You can download free Season of Prayer resources in English or Spanish, or follow along on social media on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

If you want to focus on self-examination and prayer, you might find the Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book especially helpful. If you want to think about repentance and reconciliation, Living Reconciliation is just right.

For fun and inspiration, there’s always Lent Madness, in which you can learn how God works through ordinary women and men in extraordinary ways. Throughout Lent, you’ll vote for your favorite saints until one saint wins the coveted Golden Halo.

We offer a number of resources to help you read and meditate on God’s holy word. Of course, there’s Forward Day by Day, which you can get via email subscription, ebook, podcast, Facebook, Twitter, or app, in addition to print options. If you’ve never sat down and read the Bible before, you’ll receive a stunning gift as you read The Path: A Journey Through the Bible, which takes you on a magnificent journey from Genesis to Revelation, with helpful signposts along the way. Read to take on the challenge of reading every page of the Bible? Then you want the The Bible Challenge.

Last, but not least, you can read and study every word in the Bible that is spoken by a woman with Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. In addition to women’s voices, you’ll learn their back stories and discover reflection questions.

Whatever you do, please find a way to savor this great gift of forty days to return to God, and recommit to following Jesus.

ICYMI: Week of 2/26/17

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.

Did you make it to Kanuga last week for the Church Leadership Conference? Or DC for CEEP? If so, we hope you stopped by the Forward Movement table and checked out some of our resources! Here’s a shot of our DC setup:

We’re looking forward to meeting even more #Episcopal folks at the Episcopal Communicators conference in April, in our hometown of Cincinnati. Will you be joining us in Ohio? The conference is always a great opportunity to share knowledge and ideas—and it’s a blast.

We also met more of the Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger crew this week. Pop quiz: Which Lent Madness blogger owns a horse? Who moonlights as a romance novelist, and who wrote a book called The Use of Scripture in the Apocryphon of John: A Diachronic Analysis of the Variant Versions (which we’re pretty sure is not a romance novel)? All those answers and more here.

On a more serious note, Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee member Scott Gunn—who himself moonlights as the Executive Director of Forward Movement—shared some thoughts in his weekly newsletter on the meaning of 40 days in the desert, and what that must have been like for Jesus.

“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.”

We’ll be deepening our reflection on the desert this year in our Season of Prayer project, which will explore themes of exile, hospitality and migration. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter for daily shareable images, and watch related videos or download weekly bulletin inserts for your church at forwardmovement.org/seasonofprayer.

We’ll close with a sneak peek at one of the daily images. We hope you’ll join us in this time of reflection.

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

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

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!