Tag Archives: forward movement

The Good Book Club: Reading God’s Word Together

By Richelle Thompson
Forward Movement Deputy Director and Managing Editor

Reading scripture changes us. Encounters with God and God’s word transform us. Every time. Whether we’re looking for answers or think we’re doing just fine on our own, God’s word still speaks.

This fundamental and profound truth lies at the heart of the Good Book Club, Forward Movement’s invitation to the church to read the Book of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles together throughout the seasons of Lent and Easter. We believe engaging in scripture brings us into deeper relationship with our Savior—and that reading God’s word together will bring us into closer relationship with one another.

Throughout Lent and Easter, Forward Day by Day will move through Luke and Acts instead of our regular practice of following the lectionary. (Don’t worry: We’ll still offer the lectionary readings on our website.) I am honored to be one of the four featured writers during this time period, alongside talented, faithful colleagues, the Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman (March), the Rev. Marcus Halley (April), and Miguel Escobar (May). As always, our Forward Day by Day meditations will be available in Spanish, as a podcast, online, on an app, in Braille, and large print.

In addition, we will offer free downloadable Bible studies for individuals and congregations to explore some of the stories in more depth. We continue the Bible Challenge series with A Journey with Luke and the newly released A Journey through Acts, daily meditations by noted theologians and faith leaders from around the world. With RenewalWorks, we also present a Good Book Club calendar featuring the inspirational and thought-provoking cartoons of the Rev. Jay Sidebotham.

Reading scripture is both deeply personal and an act of community. We invited Episcopal organizations from across the church to partner in the Good Book Club initiative. The response was overwhelming. More than twenty-five organizations stepped up to partner with Forward Movement, committing time and talent to develop resources for the wider church. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a video invitation for all Episcopalians to join the Good Book Club. In my twenty years of local, diocesan, and church-wide work, I have never seen so many organizations come together for common cause. God is doing a new thing indeed.

Episcopal Migration Ministries will offer a special podcast, featuring voices from across the U.S., the church, and the immigrant and refugee community. A blog will accompany the podcast featuring written reflections, art, photography, music, and videos from podcast guests and others. ChurchNext has developed a free, five-course video curriculum for Lent called Luke the Liberator. United Thank Offering (UTO) has prepared a downloadable booklet with meditations on the readings, questions for personal reflection or group discussion, space to keep a gratitude journal, and a story of a ministry supported by UTO. Forma will offer a weekly Faith-at-Home series, featuring reflections and activities for families, and Building Faith will publish a series of articles to help Christian educators and parents read and study Luke and Acts with children and teens. These are just a sampling of the wide variety of resources that offer an opportunity for people to engage wherever they are—geographically, spiritually, emotionally. A full list of the partners is featured below, and links to the resources can be found at www.goodbookclub.org.

In addition to organizations, entire dioceses are onboard, making scripture engagement a priority. So too several congregations have committed to reading and exploring Luke and Acts together. If you’d like for your congregation or organization to be included as a partner or want to know more about how to get involved, send me an email at rthompson@forwardmovement.org.

As we began making plans for this project, we discussed our goals and what success might look like. We have some quantitative and qualitative measures, but we’re also not willing to limit how God might work in and among us. We can only dream and imagine how the Good Book Club might shape and transform us as individuals and as a church. God already knows.

Excerpt from Forward Day by Day, February 2018

Luke 2:10-11. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

You have probably heard these words dozens of times. Perhaps you were a shepherd clad in an ill-fitting sheet or a young Mary holding a burlap-wrapped baby doll. Maybe, propped on elbows on the family room floor, you watched an earnest Linus tell Charlie Brown—and us—what Christmas is all about. Maybe wax burned your fingers as you held a candle at midnight mass, listening to these words said by a priest or sung by a choir.

Luke’s telling of the birth of Christ is the familiar favorite: The emperor sending out a decree; Joseph and Mary setting out for Bethlehem on a donkey; Jesus sleeping (and crying, I suspect) in a manger.

Whether this is your first or fiftieth time hearing this story, may you meet each telling with wonder and awe. The birth of any child is amazing, but the birth of this one is miraculous. Just twenty-one verses change the course of the world. One story in a sea of stories that is the greatest one ever to be told, offering good news of great joy for all people.

MOVING FORWARD: Read the lesson out loud today. Savor the memories this story calls up for you.

Volunteer Opportunity: Share your love for Forward Movement

Forward Movement is seeking volunteers to run exhibit tables at diocesan conventions. Our staff travels as much as possible, but can’t reach every convention that we’d like to. We have packages with 6-7 sample books, copies of our catalog, giveaways items, and a table cover ready to go—the only thing missing, is a dedicated volunteer to run the exhibit table.

Our staff will handle all the logistics, shipping, and convention red-tape, allowing you to show up the morning(s) of your convention, setup the table, and spend the day answering basic questions about Forward Movement and our resources. We’ll provide a cheat-sheet about everything in the box…so don’t worry about being an expert on everything Forward Movement does.

As a thank you, we’re offering a “New Titles Subscription” to volunteers. This subscription means you’ll receive mailings throughout the year with complimentary copies of our latest books, calendars, pamphlets, and booklets.

Interested? Please contact us at volunteer@forwardmovement.org to learn more, and see if your diocesan convention is available for this opportunity.

Forward Today: Glory and majesty

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott reflects on this week’s awe-inspiring solar eclipse, and notes: “Perhaps there is a reminder here we all needed.”

And today in our Wednesday sale, take 25% off The Power of Imperfection: How to Have the Courage to Be Yourself.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Like many millions of others, I traveled a few hours to see the total solar eclipse on Monday. I dithered for a long time, wondering if the time off and the hassle would be worth it. I sure am glad I went. Wow.
 
I had seen solar eclipses before, but this was my first time seeing a total eclipse. As many others have reported, the moment of totality was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Nature seemed confused, and people were gobsmacked. Amazing. Life-changing. Awe-inspiring. Wonderful. People used words like these over and over. In the park where I watched the eclipse, applause broke out. Others reported screams, but I mostly heard “wow” and soft, gleeful sounds.

 

What is going on here? The eclipse had been predicted for years. We were told what to expect. You could see videos of what an eclipse looks like. And, yet, it had a profound effect on us. It was one of those moments when we all realize that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. This universe we live in is pretty stunning. For people of faith, an eclipse is one of those things that reminds us of God’s glory and majesty.
 
Psalm 8 is on point:
 
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for them?
 
God’s creation is more beautiful and more vast than we can imagine, and yet God cares for each of us. Perhaps there is a reminder here we all needed.
 
Have you ever been gobsmacked by nature? What did you allow that to do in your life? What can we apply from our encounters with an eclipse to our encounters with God’s people – equally stunning in their own way?
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: Grant us grace

In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott offers reflection and prayer in wake of hatred and racism in the country.

Today’s Wednesday sale features: Hour by Hour.


Dear friends in Christ,

Like many of you, I was shocked and saddened by images and news coming out of Charlottesville, VA last weekend. The presence of racism in our nation should shock no one, because racism has been the original sin of the United States from its founding. What I found shocking is the boldness with which white nationalists now pursue their racist agenda using Nazi symbols without apology or shame. And, sadly, many of these racists attempt to deploy Christian symbols in their campaign of fear and hatred.

In thinking about writing this week’s message, I was tempted not to write about these events. After all, I wondered, what can one more white person say that hasn’t been said? But then I thought about the cost of remaining silent at a time when some misuse the Christian story and in a time when we Christians sometimes have trouble facing up to our own complicity and troubled history of racism.

So, speaking as the leader of Forward Movement, let me suggest three things that might help us all in our effort to proclaim a Gospel of love in a world that is sometimes dominated by the din of hatred.

  • First, we must remember that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is utterly incompatible with white supremacy and all forms of racism. So redoubling our work of discipleship is itself an inherent rejection of racism. I say this because a life of discipleship means daily prayer, and when we pray, God will guide us away from fear and hatred toward hope and love. A life of scripture study will remind us that God’s will is for all people to thrive and that Jesus Christ stands especially with those at the margins. A life of generous giving will show us that there is always more than enough, and that God’s love can only be magnified, never diminished. A life of evangelism will bless us with joy as we share the liberating news that all people are beloved and that Jesus Christ has offered himself for the salvation of the whole world.
  • Second–here I am speaking to my fellow white people–rather than heaping scorn on others or imagining that this is a problem that afflicts only certain parts of the nation, we do well to look inside our own hearts. As with all sins, facing our shortcomings is never easy. As with all sins, God stands ready to forgive us if we but repent. “What sins of racism demand my repentance?” is the question we white people must relentlessly ask ourselves.
  • Thirdly, we might take a careful and thorough inventory of our churches. Where is racism found in our churches? This is the most pernicious place for racism, because it directly undermines our Gospel witness, and for that reason it is crucial that we do an honest examination. How does the racial composition of my church differ from that of my neighborhood or town? What do the leaders of my church look like? How has my church stood with–or failed to stand with–those who are the victims of racism, hatred, and fear? Has my church benefitted from white supremacy, and, if so, what must we do to repent?

 

Doing this work is hard, and if it’s easy, we’re not doing it right. The reward though is that we and our world become more Christlike, as all of God’s beloved children may flourish as the people God has created them to be. We can’t do this on our own, but with God all things are possible.

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: Our hope and strength

In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott offers reflection and prayer in these times of worry and fear.

Today’s Wednesday sale features: God’s Grace & Robert’s Rules.


Dear friends in Christ,

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, the news has been frightening recently. World leaders are speaking about nuclear war in a way we haven’t heard for decades. Terrorists have been, well, terrorizing people in many nations. Every day seems to bring about a new outbreak of violence, famine, or disaster. We can remind ourselves that, statistically speaking, most readers of this message will be quite safe, but that may not calm our fears.

Wave crashing on rock

What is a Christian to do? Certainly, we ought to work and pray for justice, freedom, and peace for all people. We Christians are called to serve Jesus Christ in strangers, the sick, prisoners, and all those who are at the margins of our society. I also think we do well to anchor ourselves in prayer, trusting that God will guide our actions and shape the hearts of people everywhere.

I am not suggesting that we should ignore our fears. Far from it. Fear is a natural human response to what threatens us, and it is even essential for our survival. But we are not mere animals, and we must not be governed by our fears along. Particularly for a people who profess faith in a God who said, “Be not afraid” again and again, we must face our fears squarely and then see our fear in perspective.

Today I ran across a lovely prayer in Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book. I commend it to you, and I know that I will be praying this prayer regularly in the hours, days, and weeks to come.

O God, thou art my hope and strength, a very present help in trouble; grant me faith and courage, that I may not fear, though the earth be moved, and the hills carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof rage and swell, and the mountains shake at the tempest of same. O be in the midst of my soul, that I may not be moved, but may be still and know that thou art God. Amen. (Based on Psalm 46 and a prayer attributed to Archbishop William Laud)

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo Credit: Amit Patel


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Forward Today: A shift in perspective

In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott reflects on the importance of mountains in scripture in preparation for the Feast of the Transfiguration.

Today’s Wednesday sale features The Bible Challenge.


Dear friends in Christ, 

This coming Sunday, we will celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Every now and then, when this feast falls on a Sunday, we set aside our usual Sunday readings to focus on what is, by any reckoning, a wondrous occasion. You probably know the story, which we’ll hear from Luke this year. Jesus takes three of his disciples up a mountain, and there he is transfigured before them. In a stunning moment, Peter, James, and John see Jesus for who he is, the eternal Christ, the fulfillment of the law.

Jesus at Tranfiguration

There are lots of ways to approach this story, but this year I’m struck by how it’s really a story about new perspectives. Jesus doesn’t change. He was the eternal Christ before the Transfiguration. Jesus is the same, but the disciples become different through their experience.

It’s interesting that this takes place on a mountain. Of course, the story echoes the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, which also takes place on a mountain. Perhaps mountains are on my mind because I’ve just come back from Colorado. Last weekend, I preached in Breckenridge, which is up at almost 10,000 feet elevation. It’s beautiful there, and even on the last day of July, snow was visible on the mountain peaks.

The thing about mountains is that they give us a new perspective. You see the world differently as you ascend and look down. The experience of hiking (I’ve never done real climbing) up a mountain itself can change our perspective, because it can be a real accomplishment just to get to the top! So it’s no wonder that scriptures are filled with amazing encounters with God in the mountains.

Here’s the thing: the disciples probably didn’t know they were going to see Jesus change when they started to hike up Mount Tabor. They just went. I wonder if we are ready to answer our Savior’s call? Are we ready to look at our world differently as we meet Jesus in the sacraments? Are we ready to see Christ’s dazzling presence in the most vulnerable people in our society?

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo Credit: Cosmosphilly.com


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Forward Today: Grace and Welcome

In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott ponders the importance of welcoming strangers, both in our churches and in our lives.

This Wednesday’s sale features Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book.


Dear friends in Christ,

A couple of days ago I saw a Facebook friend post about her experience visiting a church. Lots of us do that during the summer as we travel. Anyway, her experience was not good. No one spoke with her. No one welcomed her. No one invited her to coffee hour. No one said they’d love to see her again next week. Now, she was just passing through, but her experience does raise an important question. Are we surprised our churches aren’t growing?

red door

My guess is that if I called the church office my friend visited and spoke with the staff or some members, they would assure me that their church is very friendly and welcoming. And they wouldn’t be wrong. I’m sure the regular members there have a wonderful greeting each Sunday. But clearly, this church misses the mark with guests.

 

We need to do better. For one thing, welcoming guests is the basic stuff of healthy church development. There are lots of resources out there, from Forward Movement and others, to help with this. But that’s not the best reason to welcome guests. In Matthew 25, we read Jesus’ teaching about welcoming strangers. Now, I’m quite sure Jesus wasn’t thinking of welcoming people to houses of worship when he said that welcoming strangers is a core value for those who want to live righteous lives. But I am also quite sure that welcoming strangers is always important, in any setting. Jesus ranks it right up there with feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Yes, it’s that important.

 

This summer, as you travel, make note of your experience when you visit churches. Are you learning things that you can bring home? And how is your congregation welcoming strangers? Can you improve? Welcoming strangers and offering hospitality is great fun — and the wonderful side effect is that our churches will begin to grow.

 

Yours faithfully,
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: From Generation to Generation

In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott reflects on how scripture is an intergenerational way to learn about and experience God’s love.

This Wednesday’s sale features The Path: Family Storybook.


Dear friends in Christ,

Last week, as I wrote here, I was at the Episcopal Youth Event in Oklahoma. It was a grand event with 1,300 teenagers and adults. One of my roles there was to staff the Forward Movement table in the exhibit hall, and I had the chance to have good conversation with lots of folks. There was a good deal of interest in The Path: Family Storybook. It goes with a whole set of resources designed to encourage children, youth, and adults to engage with scripture. The core idea is to present the stories of scripture in a way that reveals the grand narrative arc of God’s great love for us from the moment of creation, through Jesus Christ, up to today, and for ever.

The Path Family Storybook

I’ve been thinking about all this lately. We in the church sometimes wonder why younger people aren’t as interested in church as we might hope. Never mind that our picture of the past might be rosier than reality, the fact is that it’s no surprise. Why would anyone–of any age–be interested in church if they don’t know about God’s love for them as revealed in Jesus Christ? It isn’t enough to say God loves you, but we need to teach some of the ways God loves us.

Imagine if I told my spouse I love her, but never acted like it. Now imagine if I told people God loves them, but didn’t act like it or show how that’s true. Opening the pages of scripture is an amazing way to see God’s love for people from generation to generation. It’s something that we can all do, regardless of our age. Adults can fall in love with scripture, and so can children. There are loads of ways to do this, and one of the great gifts of God’s word is that it creates a level playing field. The eight year-old and the seminary graduate can sit together and bask in the glory of God’s great love.

Have you read the Bible lately, for the sheer joy of it? Have you looked for a way to share the amazing riches of scripture with a child or younger person you know? Let us all commit to engaging the scriptures. It will change us and our world.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Movement Launches the Good Book Club

We’re excited to announce the Good Book Club—a church-wide invitation to all Episcopalians to read Luke and Acts during Lent-Easter 2018. Participants in the Good Book Club will begin reading Luke the Sunday before Lent, February 11, 2018, and finish up the Book of Acts on the Day of Pentecost, May 20, 2018. We hope you’ll join us, and the many churches, individuals and organizations who will be a part of this special project.

Several organizations have already announced partnerships with Forward Movement on the Good Book Club, including Episcopal Church Foundation, ChurchNext, Episcopal Migration Ministries, and The Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry. Partner organizations are creating resources or encouraging their constituents to take part in the effort. A list of current partners can be found here.

The Good Book Club website (goodbookclub.org) lists the daily readings, as well as available resources to support people as they read the scriptures. Resources also will be available in Spanish at clubbiblico.org.

And a note to Forward Day by Day readers: Forward Day by Day will use Good Book Club readings during Lent-Easter 2018, instead of the usual daily lectionary.

For now, you can sign up for updates or learn more about partnering with us at goodbookclub.org. We hope you’ll read along with us, and Episcopalians around the globe!

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

 


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