Tag Archives: scott gunn

Forward Today: Daily Prayer Is the Key

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes that the harder it seems to make the time and space for daily prayer, the more important it is.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Sometimes it seems that our world is spinning out of control. Whatever your political persuasion or nationality, we can all agree that conflict is on the rise. Those of us on social media might feel that we’re witnessing daily stress and angst increase by the minute. And the nonstop pulse of news cycles leaves us breathless, with little room for contemplation.
 
When something terrible happens in our world, we often hear a response of “thoughts and prayers.” This inevitably leads to a conversation about whether prayer is enough. I’d like to suggest that prayer and contemplation are essential, but that when we pray fervently, we’ll often be led to other kinds of actions. The key is making space for prayer in the first place, something increasingly difficult in the chaos of the present time.
 
Habits of daily prayer and reflection are absolutely essential for followers of Jesus. The harder this seems for us, the more important it is. Prayer is our anchor. Prayer is the thing that keeps us grounded and focused.
 
Praying for our enemies will help us to follow Jesus’ commandment to love them. Praying for a decrease in violence will push us to work for peace. Praying for God’s strength when we are afraid will help us live as Jesus told us when he said again and again, “Be not afraid.”
 
It’s just a month until Lent, thanks be to God. Soon enough we’ll be in the midst of a whole season devoted to helping us follow Jesus every day. I hope you’ll find ways, during Lent or before, to join me in focusing on our lives of daily prayer.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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Forward Today: Converting Our Hearts

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott considers the Conversion of Saint Paul, just how courageous that conversion was–and what that means for us.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Today the church celebrates the Conversion of Saint Paul. On this day, we remember how Saul, who devoted his life to persecuting followers of Jesus, converted and became Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
 
Think of the courage that must have taken for Paul. He had to admit that everything he had previously stood for was wrong. He had to be willing to start over with a whole new focus and purpose in his life. He had to spend time around people who probably didn’t trust him at first, with very good reason. He had to go from being among the powerful agents of the empire to being among those who would be vulnerable to persecution or arrest.
It’s good to remember that the point of this Christian life is conversion. The Gospel invites us all, constantly, to amend our ways. We are invited to admit that our familiar, comfortable ways are not Jesus’ ways. We will be asked to admit that we were wrong – again and again – and to start over. It’s incredibly counter-cultural in a world which urges us all to resist admitting error or to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers.
 
So on this day when we give thanks for Saint Paul’s conversion and his witness, let us all think about how we might need to be converted. What do you need to stop doing for the sake of the Gospel? What does the Gospel demand that you begin? How can we all move from comfort and familiarity to welcome the inherent uncertainty and danger of the Gospel life?
 
Our world needs brave witnesses of Christ’s love. May you and I have the grace and courage to answer the invitation of Jesus Christ.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: Learning from St. Peter

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes on the Confession of St. Peter–and why Peter is such a “reassuring and empowering” figure.


Dear friends in Christ,
 

Today the church celebrates the Confession of St. Peter. I don’t know about you, but St. Peter is one of my favorite people in the Bible.
 
I like St. Peter because despite the fact that he messes up over and over again, Jesus obviously loves him and, in fact, chooses him to lead the church. Just about nobody messed up worse or more often than St. Peter. He denied Jesus three times. He said impetuous things. He got it wrong more often, it seems, than he got it right.
When Jesus took his disciples to Caesarea Philippi and asked them who people were saying he is, the disciples reported that people were getting it wrong. Then Jesus asked his disciples who they said he is, and it is mess-up-all-the-time St. Peter who answered it right. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
 
This whole story is reassuring and empowering. I mess up all the time, too. Odds are, the same is true for you. We Christians get it wrong more often than we get it right. And if Jesus could love St. Peter, he can certainly love us. The story also reminds us of another important thing. St. Peter, despite his constant mess-ups, remembered who Jesus is. We should do the same.
 
So today, I’m going to try to get it right a few times. That is, I’ll try to choose following Jesus over following anyone or anything else. I know I’ll mess up. But getting it right isn’t the only thing I’m going to work on. I’ll do my best to remember who Jesus is.
 
Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect. Jesus loves us even when we head the wrong direction. Thank God we don’t have to save ourselves, for Jesus is our Savior. And that, my friends, is Good News.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: The Word Will Stand Forever

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott suggests a remedy for challenging times: re-engaging with scripture.


Dear friends in Christ,
 

Many of us are uneasy about the political and social situation in our country now. I don’t mean this to be partisan. In conversation, I’ve heard both Democrats and Republicans bewail the division in the United States. Whatever your station in life or political affiliation, we can see division, rancor, and violence all around. But what are we do to?
 
I’ve written about this before, suggesting prayer and action. As I’ve been thinking over the last few days about how I will respond to what I’m seeing, I know that action and prayer will be important. One action that I will practice is not focused in direct political change, but it is perhaps the most important thing I will do. My plan is to re-engage the scriptures. This month, we’re promoting The Path: A Journey Through the Bible here at Forward Movement. Our own ad campaign worked on me! I plan to read this wonderful survey of the grand story of the scriptures.
 

 

Through our RenewalWorks ministry, we have a lot of data on the spiritual life of the Episcopal Church, including the catalysts that promote spiritual growth. We know that the single most important catalyst for growth is scripture engagement. Get people reading the Bible, and their lives change! Even if you’ve read the entire Bible several times, it still makes a difference to read scripture. While I read a bit of the Bible each day with the daily office, The Path will marvelously remind me of God’s saving purpose for us and all creation.
 
This puts things in perspective. It’s easy to be crushed by our fears or our anger. But as the Prophet Isaiah reminds us, “The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever ” (Isaiah 40:8). Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Whatever the newspaper says, God’s word is freshly revealed in the scriptures each day, ready to refresh and renew us.
 
Maybe you’ll join me? Whether you use The Path, The Bible Challenge, the daily office, or just open up a Bible, I know that the Holy Spirit will work in your heart, as in mine, through the scriptures. I don’t know about you, but I need the reminder these days. The word of our God will stand forever.
 
Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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ICYMI: Week of 12/16

Welcome back to In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world.

For a few months now, we’ve been posting a ‘Question of the Week’ on our social channels every Monday. Sometimes the questions are pretty major (‘When did you hear the call to ordination?’) Other times, they’re a little lighter (‘What ornament do you put on the Christmas tree first?’) Often, they’re somewhere in between.

Judging by responses, this week’s Question of the Week was our most popular yet…

Check out some of the many responses, and tell us: What’s yours?

What have you been doing to celebrate Advent? Are you overwhelmed by Christmas shopping or travel plans, or have you found some time for reflection? In this week’s Forward Today, Scott Gunn wrote about the value of taking time for silence—and his own (successful!) experience trying silence during the service as a parish priest.

Judging by the comments and likes on this one, it was a welcome sentiment! Have you found the time for silence this season? There’s still time!

It’s been a month since Episcopalians gathered to talk Evangelism in Dallas, and we’re thrilled to see that the evangelism buzz has continued. Here on the blog, we were excited to share a guest post by the Rev. Emily Schnabl, a priest in Oklahoma who attended the conference and took home the ‘cardboard evangelism’ exercise to her parish. Here’s what happened. Cool photos, too!

And of course, we’re thrilled when we see tweets like this:

If you’ve been reading this space, you know we’ve been sharing stories of the Church’s response to Standing Rock. And we wrap up this week with a powerful one: this tale of seminarians from Texas who headed to North Dakota: ‘What Sustains the Peacemaker?’

Inspiring stuff. Have a great weekend.

Forward Today: The Gift of Silence

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott suggests a practice to try when Advent (or any season) gets hectic: silence.


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Annually, right about this time of year, I suddenly realize that Advent is nearly over and Christmas is coming soon. I wish I could tell you this is a spiritual insight. But it is instead the pressure of sending cards, buying gifts, and preparing celebrations. It’s Advent preparation, but not necessarily in a good way. On a good day, I remember what Christmas and Advent are really all about and I regain my perspective.
 
For me, one of the most powerful and surprising ways I manage to center myself is with silence. Believe me, it doesn’t come naturally, which is all the more reason I need the practice. Maybe you’re a person for whom silence is a comfortable gift. If so, I commend you. Maybe you can tell us how you managed that in the comments or on social media. If you’re like me, I commend the gift of silence. Precisely because it is difficult, it is important. Silence rejects the urgency of our culture. Silence rejects the noise and the talking heads. Silence rejects agendas and opens our hearts to listen for God’s still, small voice.

 

Our liturgy demands some silence. Just after the breaking of the bread, the Book of Common Prayer requires silence. The rest of our liturgy is usually filled with constant motion and a surplus of words. But after breaking the bread, it’s as if the whole creation stops. Like on Good Friday. And in that bread-breaking, heart-breaking silence, we prepare ourselves to receive the gift of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
 
What if we managed to get everything to stop so we could prepare ourselves to receive the gift of Jesus Christ in our Christmas celebrations? Several years ago, when I was a parish priest, I had the idea to leave three minutes of silence after the sermon each Sunday in Advent. I knew that, for many, it would be an eternity. I was nervous, and I prepared myself for complaints and the failure of this experiment with silence. How wrong I was. After church, a number of people told me what a gift it was in this frenetic time to make space for silence. Even squirmy children – we had a lot of them at that church! – were affected by the mystical gift of silence.
 
I encourage you to try out the gift of silence. Spend a few minutes in silence alone. Pray or meditate or just let your mind rest. Try out silence at home. Maybe at dinner time, set aside a minute or two or five or whatever seems like just a bit too much. Savor the gift.
 
In quiet hope and silent preparation, I am,

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Forward Today: Ambassadors for Christ

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on Christmas and “this funny time of year for Christians and the public life.”


Dear friends in Christ,

 

Someone recently asked me if I’d speak to a reporter to offer a theological perspective on a game called Santa vs. Jesus. I haven’t seen the game, but of course I Googled it. It’s a hard game, meant to be humorous, apparently designed to make the point that Christmas is about Jesus. OK, fair enough. I’m sold.
 
That got me to thinking about this funny time of year for Christians and the public life. Some people wonder if it’s better to stick it out with Advent for the duration, or if we should cave and join wider culture in celebrating Christmas. And of course, certainly people try to stir a battle each year over an alleged “war on Christmas” with pointed commentary about the correct greeting for this time of year or even what color Starbucks coffee cups should be.

Mostly this is all very predictable and not a little silly. But there is a deeper issue lurking in the conversation. How should our Christian faith be lived in the public sphere? Is it OK to display our faith, or does respect for others compel us to hide our faith? Should we expect public and commercial entities to cater to our Christian faith? When can we do this lightly, and when does it become a serious issue?

 

 Photo of Glasgow Cathedral by Flickr user Michel Curi / Creative Commons

 

Around 10,000 people will receive this email, and I expect there are 10,000 different answers. I’d be interested in reading yours on social media (Facebook or Twitter) or as comments on the Forward Movement blog. For my part, I think a pluralistic culture means that I should be a proud and respectful Christian, and I should delight in meeting proud and respectful Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, and more. By being ourselves and by approaching others with openness and curiosity, we can forge deep and meaningful relationships–which is what our world and our nation needs right now. Whether you’re an Advent stickler (like me) or already in full-on Christmas mode, I hope you and I can be ambassadors for Jesus Christ–joyful, loving, penitent, generous people–this time of year and always.
 
If you see me and wish me a “Happy Holidays” I will smile and thank you. I’ll probably greet fellow Christians with “Have a blessed Advent” for the next few days, and then for the duration of Christmastide, I’ll say, “Happy Christmas.” Rather than worry about whether I got or gave the best greeting, I’m going to do my best to give thanks that I can greet another person with Christ’s love and in his name.

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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ICYMI: Week of 12/2

Welcome back to In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world.

With all that’s going on at Standing Rock, and the Church’s spotlight on the issue, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s issue to sharing Standing Rock resources.

To start, here is the Standing Rock tribe page—a great place to learn more about the history and issues at stake, and to explore ways you can take action. Head to the Stand with Standing Rock page to learn more about support you can offer.

Here’s an excellent video, including a beautiful reflection on prayer (starting at 7:27).

This interview with Teresa Pasquale Mateus offers really helpful perspective on what’s actually happening on the ground at Standing Rock, and considers the broader spiritual framework of the issue. A key quote:

“The gathering at Standing Rock is not only blocking a pipeline’s construction; it’s much more than that. These prayer-warriors are full of hope and the resilient faith that dares to envision another world. People from all faiths are participating in ceremony as an act of resistance, chanting: “Mni Wiconi, Water is Life.”

And today, Bishop Curry sent a powerful letter to the Governor of North Dakota and the Sheriff of Morton County. The full letter is here. A quote:

“The Episcopal Church is grateful to stand with the people of Standing Rock in their efforts to respect and protect the Missouri River and the sacred burial grounds of the Sioux Nation. We do so seeking to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth who taught us that love of God and love of our neighbor is the highest moral law and religious duty (Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 10:25-37).”

Lastly, the Episcopal Church homepage currently features more on Standing Rock and actions you can take.

Scott Gunn recently described Advent in Forward Today as a time for “waiting, but not for waiting around,” noting that this season lends itself to action and social justice. To that end, we’ve launched a new series of “Advent Actions” on the blog. Each Sunday this season, we’ll be publishing 3 suggested actions you can take for the week: one around civil society and government, one with neighbors, and one at the home. The project feels all the more timely given what’s happening at Standing Rock. Click on the candle below to see the first set of Advent Actions, and check back on Sunday for the second.

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“Waiting, but not waiting around.” Amen.

Forward Today: Advent Is for Waiting, But Not Waiting Around

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott reflects on the beginning of Advent, and how this season of waiting shouldn’t be equated to just “waiting around.”


Dear friends in Christ,

 

If the church were like the mall, we’d already have moved on from Advent. Thank God, the church is not like the mall. Instead of rapid-fire movement from one shiny thing to the next, the church moves a bit more slowly, with deliberation. And our things are not always that shiny.
 
A couple of weeks ago, the Rev. Susan Daughtry, a priest in Minnesota, wrote to me with an idea. She wondered if there might be a way to combine our Advent practice with the desire for social justice. Indeed, the contrast between hate-filled graffiti on the outside of some Episcopal churches and the love-filled worship could not be more extreme. Daughtry’s question led me to wonder how we might have our love-filled season of Advent spill out into the world.

 

advent-wreath-558410_1280

 

Last Sunday, we at Forward Movement published our first of four weeks of suggested activities for Advent. These activities encourage us to make real our desire to love our neighbors, and to make God’s love known in the world. They’re perfect Advent activities–slightly subversive ways of inviting God’s kingdom into our world. We might not think of Advent as a time of action, but as I wrote in that blog post, Advent is a time for waiting, not for waiting around.
 
We’re just getting started on Advent. I hope you will find your own way to enter into the fullness of this season. Pray the daily office. Use our iPhone app to color in each day in a devotional Advent calendar. Spend a few minutes in silence each day. Give to charity instead of buying gifts. Visit our blog each week to get ideas for how you can connect more deeply with your community and your neighbors. Read the scriptures.
 
Whatever you do, I urge you to use this holy season to open your heart to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas, to seek and serve Jesus Christ in friends and strangers, and to know Jesus Christ as he is revealed in Word and Sacrament.

 

Yours faithfully, 
 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


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Advent Actions: First Week

Advent is a season of waiting, but it’s not a season of waiting around. In this holy season, we remember a time when the world yearned for justice, when people hoped a mighty king would come and rescue them. We know, with 20 centuries of hindsight, that the people got their king, but that the King of Creation was born in the most humble of circumstances. God entered our history and shared our journey in the most human, vulnerable way possible. In this story, we find hope and salvation in our own story. God’s salvation – health, wholeness, redemption – comes to us not in power and might but in humility and vulnerability.
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In Advent, especially on this First Sunday of Advent, we also yearn for a time of justice, when God’s reign of justice and righteousness will be manifest. Along with the prophet Isaiah, we look for a time when “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Advent, then, is a time to remember and a time to hope. It is a time to prepare our hearts to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas, but it is also a time to prepare for God’s reign. In Jesus’ ministry, no one got upset when he said that the kingdom was coming. But he got into trouble for saying it is here, now. When God’s reign of justice and mercy, righteousness and truth is made real, we Christians know to proclaim God’s reign.

A few days ago, a priest from Minnesota, the Rev. Susan Daughtry, contacted us at Forward Movement with an idea. What if we used this Advent – this year’s Advent, coming in a time of increased division and proliferation of hatred – as a time of action and change? In other words, what if we looked for opportunities to see and proclaim God’s reign among us?

Each Sunday in Advent, we will post three suggestions for action or conversation. One will be connected with governance or civil society; one will be connected to loving our neighbors; and one will be rooted on transformation and conversation at home or among friends. We invite you to try these practices and encourage others to do the same. Please share your experiences in a comment here or on Forward Movement’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.

May Jesus Christ’s light be in your heart this Advent season, and may you be a beacon of God’s love for the world. I am,

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn


ADVENT ACTIONS: FIRST SUNDAY

· Visit a restaurant owned by someone from a different culture. Strike up a conversation. Do you share any hopes or fears?

· Call your local mayor’s office. Share your hopes for your town or city. Do your hopes sound like Isaiah 2:1-5 (the first reading from today)? Why or why not?

· Gather friends or family around a meal table. Talk about how recent trends (rise in hate crimes, increased fear, violence, division) in the United States might or might not make this Advent different from previous ones.

Remember to share your experience with friends, either in person or online. Please consider posting these stories here in the comments or on Forward Movement’s Facebook or Twitter feeds.