Tag Archives: scott gunn

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 Today: The Gift of Common Prayer

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott suggests a practice for prayer: “Perhaps you might find a collect or two from our prayer book and memorize them. Then when your heart demands it, you will have the words at hand.”

And to help you get started, today in our Wednesday sale, take 25% off Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book as Guide to a Spiritual Life.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

There are as many ways to pray as there are people on earth. I don’t really think there is a right or a wrong method of prayer, though some may be more suitable for us at particular times.
 
Impromptu prayer leaves room for us to say to God what is on our heart at that instant. Contemplative prayer opens us to hear God’s still, small voice. Walking prayer helps us use our whole bodies in prayer. And of course, we Anglicans know a thing or two about common prayers. Our tradition is rooted in the idea that prayer forms us, and one of the ways we are formed us a community is that we all say the same prayers.

 

Most of the time, I prefer to say these prayers – ancient and modern litanies, collects, and other prayers – because they give me the words to say so that I can focus on my intention and on God’s response. Take, for example, this gem from the back of our prayer book:
 
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
The elegance of expression is a gift, is it not? However you pray, treasure the gift of prayer. Perhaps you might find a collect or two from our prayer book and memorize them. Then when your heart demands it, you will have the words at hand. This certainly isn’t the only way to pray, but I find there is a priceless gift in filling our minds with lovely prayers.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: Bless Our Land

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott writes about Independence Day–and the prayers we say for this Major Feast day.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Early next week, the United States will celebrate its Independence Day. The day is more than the sales that will probably keep malls and stores busy this weekend. The day is more than a few fireworks. Independence Day is a day to give thanks for the blessings of this nation and to recommit to treasuring and building up the ideals of our country.

 

Photo by Flickr user Celso FLORES / Creative Commons

As Episcopalians will know, this day is a red letter day in the Book of Common Prayer. It’s a Major Feast day, and churches are meant to have celebrations of the Holy Eucharist on this day. Our prayer book provides a couple of prayers and a set of readings for the occasion. There’s another prayer I quite like, a prayer that we might all say on or near Independence Day. It’s not specific to the United States, so readers from other nations might use it also.
 
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page 820)
 
This prayer reminds us – both as citizens and as people of faith – that we must remember both our rights and blessings and our duties and obligations. In particular, we have a sacred duty to look out for the lost, the least, and the last. As Emma Lazarus wrote for the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
 
Ours is a nation of people yearning to be free. Let us all seek to make a nation where all are free. And when we see that oppression and captivity are preventing freedom, let us open our hearts and the doors of our churches to give sanctuary to those in need of protection and safety.
 
This Independence Day, let us indeed celebrate our many blessings. But let us also remember that righteousness and justice demand constant vigilance.
 
However you use your time this summer, may God bless you.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: Slowing Down for Summer

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott writes about slowing down during the summer season–and how we can find a new pace in our spiritual lives.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Next week is the official start of summer, but for many people, the rhythm of life will have changed already. If you have students at your house, they’re probably done or close to done for the academic year. Many congregations’ program lives slow down for the summer. Children go to camp. Vacation plans are made. We might spend more time outdoors on the porch. Life slows down a bit.

 

 

What will you do with extra time–time that comes from the slower pace of summer, vacation time, and more hours of daylight? Maybe “nothing” is a good answer. Lord knows, in our always-on, endlessly busy culture, we need the rest. If that’s your plan, I salute you.
 
You might want to spend some time this summer taking up new habits or reading new books. Maybe this is a good time to try out the daily office as you sit on the porch. Or maybe you’ll want to do some reading that helps to deepen your faith. Lots of publishers have great titles, fiction and nonfiction. If you’re looking for suggestions from Forward Movement, I’d offer The Path or Inwardly Digest. The Path takes you on a journey through the great narrative of scripture. Inwardly Digest beckons you to encounter our Book of Common Prayer with depth and devotion.
 
We’ve also just published The Power of Imperfection. “Many of us go through life feeling as if we are failing to be the person we could be. But as this liberating book explores, there is power to be found in imperfection.”
 
However you use your time this summer, may God bless you.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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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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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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