Forward Today: Omicron, Alpha, and Omega

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent has begun, but I suspect plenty of us are focused on the Omicron variant more than on Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega.

It’s an understandable worry. We all want the pandemic to end, and we want our loved ones to stay healthy and safe. The headlines about the Omicron variant are sometimes terrifying. But articles are often less frightening than their sensational titles may suggest. Still, every time you flip on the TV or open a news site, those headlines scream out at you again.

Reading the articles is not just a good way to be informed, but it can be an essential spiritual discipline. If we leave ourselves to headlines, we may let ourselves be ruled by fear. If we move beyond the headlines to the substance, we can experience a more balanced approach to any news story.

What do we know about Omicron as I write this? Not too much, other than it’s a significantly different COVID variant that has already spread around the world. Vaccines may or may not work against it. It may or may not be more contagious and more deadly than previous variants. It may or may not respond to new treatments. Those facts are a lot different that the initial impression the headlines give us.

If our hearts are ruled by fear, they cannot be ruled by love. And, indeed, love casts out fear. It’s not that fear is bad. Fear is an evolutionary necessity that keeps us alive sometimes! It’s just that we can’t let ourselves be defined and governed by our fears. Rather, our perfectly reasonable and necessary fears should be governed by our Christian hope.

Not long ago on Thanksgiving Day, we heard the Gospel from Matthew 6. “And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Worrying doesn’t change anything, except that it consumes us.

I get afraid sometimes, just like everyone else. It’s almost impossible not to be afraid with all those screaming news sites! But on a good day, I make sure I don’t spend too much time with scary headlines. And on a great day, I spend plenty of time with God’s trustworthy and true message of hope in the scriptures.

In this Advent season, I hope we will all turn to hope and love more than fear. A good way to get daily inspiration is the Advent Word devotion, based on words from the Sunday lectionary. Or there’s always Forward Day by Day.

The Omicron variant – and plenty of other things in the news – might be truly and rightly terrifying. But none of these things need to define us. We are defined by Jesus Christ, who always stands ready to offer hope, mercy, justice, grace, and peace. Greek-letter COVID variants are big, but they are not as big as Jesus Christ, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

More from our ministry:

Our Christmas shipping deadline is this Monday, 12/6 – order your items today!
Turn to hope and love in prayer with this new book: Seek and You Will Find
New ChurchNext course on interrupting cycles of violence: Each Other’s Keeper

Forward Today: The spiritual practice of gratitude

Dear friends in Christ,

The word THANKFUL in gold letters laid on a wooden table, surrounded by crafty cutouts of leaves and pumpkins

Tomorrow those of us in the USA celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It’s a holiday with a complex and complicated history, but I am delighted to keep this day. In the Book of Common Prayer, it is a major feast, right up there with Sundays and big-time saints’ days.

We live in a culture that teaches us to value things about all else. People with more stuff, culture says, are worth more. Our happiness, culture says, comes from what we possess. Thanksgiving upends all that.

This holiday is about gratitude for what we have. In the prayer book celebration of Thanksgiving, we give thanks for God’s gifts to us, and we pray for God’s help in being faithful stewards of these gifts not only for our good but for the good of all who are in need. In other words, for Christians, Thanksgiving is all about God. It is a day to give thanks for all that God has done for us and for the whole creation.

We are living through a time of disruption and upheaval brought about by the pandemic and by the public revelation of deep chasms diving our society. We’ve always lived in a fallen world, but somehow it seems more visible now. It might be easy to become discouraged, to begin to believe that evil, sin, and death define our world.

Thanksgiving reminds us that God’s grace defines our world. We just need to see that, and perhaps reorient our lives toward gratitude. While a sense of gratitude doesn’t banish evil or remedy injustice, it does enable hope and enliven our hearts with an awareness of God’s grace.

What if we changed the narrative? Consider this recent story from CNN about how an accidental Thanksgiving invitation forged a new friendship. I think everyone in this story must have had some deep gratitude. And I also see how their gratitude is magnified by friendship.

I’ve been working on my own sense of gratitude – seeking to be more aware of God’s blessings so that I can be more open to the possibilities of grace in a broken world.

I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving Day. Beyond the turkey or tofu or whatever you eat, I hope you and yours will find some time to share stories of God’s blessings.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

More from our ministry:

Meet the artist behind one of our most striking covers: Joseph Holston Q&A
From the RenewalWorks blog: Jesus and the law 
Nationalism vs hospitality, from Grow Christians: Margaret of Scotland
New ChurchNext course on interrupting cycles of violence: Each Other’s Keeper



Artist Q&A: Joseph Holston

Joseph HolstonToday we spotlight the artist behind the striking cover image of Mark Bozzuti-Jones’ book, Face to the Rising Sun. Joseph Holston, an American artist, painter and printmaker, has been working in the fine arts for more than 40 years. The cover image for this book, Jubilation, is part of Holston’s visual narrative “Color in Freedom: Journey along the Underground Railroad.”

I hope [the Color in Freedom series] resonates with viewers everywhere, as the world continues to grapple with people who, escaping from whatever chains bind them, seek freedom and opportunity to live their lives.

Cover of the book "Face to the Rising Sun: Reflections on Spirituals and Justice" by Mark Bozzuti-JonesThis image made a great fit for the cover of Face to the Rising Sun, rooted in the deep faith of African American story and the celebration of the Black spirit. Fittingly for a book centered on justice, Holston’s fee for use of the image was donated, at his request, to two local charities: the Manna Food Center and the Maryland Food Bank.

Read on to hear more from Holston about his background, his art, and his work on this book cover! Continue reading Artist Q&A: Joseph Holston

Forward Today: Planning for a future, even with uncertainty

Dear friends in Christ,

The Board of Forward Movement outside Christ Church Glendale in Cincinnati

Last week, Forward Movement’s board of directors met near Cincinnati. It was our first in-person meeting since late 2019. Of course, we were all profoundly grateful just to be together. But beyond our joy at gathering, we had important work to do.

The board has been working on strategic priorities for Forward Movement for several months now. The days of thick three-ring binders with strategic plans are over. The world is changing too fast for that. Instead, many organizations set strategic priorities. Where should an organization invest its time, energy, and money? What are the areas of work that need to be pushed to grow and change to meet the needs of a quickly-changing world?

We’re still working, so I’m not ready to share all the results yet. But I will say this. One of our emerging priorities is to capture data. We want to understand what the church needs, where it is strong, and where it needs help. We want to understand what Forward Movement does well and what we could do better. These things will help us map out our work to serve the church in the months and years to come.

This time of pandemic may seem like a strange time to be thinking strategically, but. The church was already changing quickly before the pandemic, and many of those changes have been dramatically accelerated. Whatever is coming next for the church, it will not be going back to life before the pandemic. There’s no “back to normal” because norms have shifted.

Good leaders and healthy organizations will take advantage of this disruptive time to make changes that might have seemed impossible before the pandemic. Is your church changing now? I suspect so, but is it changing in a purposeful way? If ever there were a time to let go of things that needed to end or to take up bold new ventures, this is it.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is unchanging. The hope of God in Christ is our anchor in a turbulent time. But how we preach the Gospel and how we live as a church must surely change. I am delighted that our board did hard work to help steer Forward Movement through this time so that we can emerge stronger and healthier than ever, ready to meet the needs of the church in our time.

May God bless you in this time and fill you with strength and purpose to discern how you might be called to change and grow.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Strategy and vision in this ChurchNext course: Vision and the Vestry
Leadership in families, from Grow Christians: Leo the Great
Give the gift of prayer: Forward Day By Day gift subscriptions

Forward Today: The gift of daily devotions

Dear friends in Christ,

The cover of a Forward Day By Day pamphlet, November-December 2021, January 2022I recently had the opportunity to visit three different churches on three different Sundays. At each one, people told me how much they love Forward Day by Day. In case you’ve never run across it, each day Forward Day by Day offers a snippet of scripture, a brief reflection, a suggested action, and a place in the Anglican Communion for which you are encouraged to pray.

The stories I hear about Forward Day by Day amaze me. A man once told me how it helped him discover his vocation. A woman once told me it sustained her while her husband was fighting during a war. People tell me how it’s an essential part of their day. Lots of readers talk about how the practice of daily prayer and reflection keeps them anchored as followers of Jesus Christ.

That’s just it. Being a Christian isn’t a Sunday job. It’s all encompassing. The habit of daily prayer and reflection helps us remember God’s love for us and the call of Jesus Christ to follow him.

In every church I visit, there are always people – usually the majority – who don’t have a habit of daily prayer and reflection. There are lots of ways to pray daily, and you can certainly study the scriptures on your own. But Forward Day by Day offers an accessible entry to a life-changing practice of prayer and study.

If you haven’t tried Forward Day by Day, you can read it online or listen to our podcast or get the free app for your iPhone or Android smartphone. Of course, it’s also available in print. Thousands of people love our pocket-sized edition.

This is the time of year when many start to think about Christmas gifts. As we celebrate Christ’s birth, how about giving someone a gift that will help them follow Jesus day in and day out? Amid all the chaos of this world, Forward Day by Day makes an easy gift to give. It might just be life-changing for the recipient. You can order a gift print subscription online. If you want to give several, or if you have questions, feel free to call us.

I know it’s true in my own life: daily prayer is hugely important. It’s never too late to start, and it’s never too late to invite someone else to give daily prayer a try.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Pray with us any time of day: Daily Prayer Podcasts

Explore new forms of prayer: Seek and You Will Find

Get ready for daily prayer through Advent: Promise and Praise

Forward Today: Beauty and holiness

Dear friends in Christ,

When I’m not traveling, I hang my proverbial hat at Christ Church Glendale near Cincinnati. In addition to Sunday morning duties, I lead a midweek Bible study.

Stained glass windows in Christ Church Glendale near CincinnatiThis fall, as I was seeking the topic for our Bible study, someone suggest that we look at the Bible stories behind the stained glass windows in our church. I loved this idea, and we spent eight weeks looking at windows and talking about the related Bible passages. One of the members has done quite a bit of work on the windows, including reading notes made by the artisan who made most of the windows. It’s been a team effort.

I know that the Bible study has helped me notice things in some of the windows, and I just about always learn something new when I dive into a Bible passage. Just about everyone talks about their newfound appreciation for the windows that we see every week but not have seen fully. And we also have been able to make deep scriptural connections with the windows and our own lives.

This got me thinking. What else is in our church that we might have seen but not noticed? For that matter, it’s a good reminder that our world is full of delights if we slow down to appreciate them more fully. But churches are special places that are often rich with symbols and images. Sometimes churches make their point by the sheer absence of these things. But good art and architecture always teaches us something if we are willing to be students.

What about your church? Have you slowed down to notice the small and big things? Are you ready to learn from the beauty around you?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

ChurchNext course: Praying with Visual Art

Explore new forms of prayer: Seek and You Will Find

Order your calendar now: Slow Down. Quiet. It’s Advent

Forward Today: Advent and beyond

Dear friends in Christ,

I’m looking forward to Advent Word again this year. In case you haven’t heard of it, Advent Word is an international community of prayer through the Advent season. For the eighth year, Christians around the world are joined together as each day of Advent invites a focus on a particular word drawn from the lectionary.

This is an ideal social media devotion—a way to claim an often unholy space with the holiness of preparation and repentance. Whether on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, you can follow along for meditations or images through the season. You can savor Advent Word as an individual practice or you might form a group in your congregation.

So why am I mentioning this now, when it’s not even November? In addition to the free online materials, Forward Movement has published Promise & Praise, a book for this Advent season based on this year’s Advent words. In addition to reflections by yours truly, the book includes reflections by Miriam McKenney, Hugo Olaiz, Richelle Thompson, Lisa Kimball, and Michael B. Curry. In an ordinary year, I’d wait a couple more weeks to mention a book, but this year, with shipping delays, I encourage you to order the book soon.

Unrelated to Advent Word, we are also offering Jay Sidebotham’s wonderful Slow Down. Quiet. It’s Advent colorable calendar. Again, to ensure timely delivery, order soon!

Whatever your Advent plans are this year, I encourage you to think ahead to make sure you have what you need if you’re counting on resources. But of course, it’s enough to use the gift of this season as a time to prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus Christ, and you don’t need to buy anything in order to repent.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

2021 AdventWord prompt words announced

For the eighth year in a row, #AdventWord will gather prayers via a global, online advent calendar.

Forward Movement, the new home of AdventWord, will offer 28 daily meditations and images during this holy season beginning Sunday, November 28. 

Gathering a worldwide community, #AdventWord provides a daily meditation, visual image, and invites your personal reflections via social media to share your own Advent journey. Thousands have participated each year, responding to the words with photos, written responses, crafts, drawings, poems, found art, and Holy Spirit-filled posts. 

“A wonderful diversity of our church is witnessed in the reflections this year,” says AdventWord program director, Sarah Stonesifer Boylan. “The beauty of AdventWord stretches out to include a myriad of voices each Advent. I am looking forward to seeing the prayer-filled responses!”

A new Advent devotional published by Forward Movement, Promise & Praise, corresponds with the daily reflection words of AdventWord. The book features reflections from Scott Gunn, Miriam McKenney, Hugo Olaiz, and Richelle Thompson, with special contributors Michael B. Curry and Lisa Kimball. Promise & Praise is available for sale at, along with a reading sample.

The Advent Sunday lectionary readings inspire the word list for #AdventWord. Discover the visual and written meditations and give yourself the opportunity to dive deeper into the stories of this waiting season. 

The prompts for 2021 #AdventWord are: 

November 28: Promise

November 29: Strength

November 30: Soul

December 1: Path 

December 2: Justice

December 3: Fulfill

December 4: Heart

December 5: Praise

December 6: Everlasting

December 7: Offering

December 8: Messenger

December 9: Splendor

December 10: Repent

December 11: Compassion

December 12: Expectation

December 13: Share

December 14: Exult

December 15: Stir

December 16: Gladness

December 17: Bountiful

December 18: Sing

December 19: Blessed

December 20: Feed

December 21: Generations

December 22: Magnify

December 23: Flock

December 24: Greeting

December 25:  Child

The #AdventWord Images and meditations can be experienced through, direct daily emails, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and ASL videos via YouTube.

Meditations will also be available in English, Spanish, and French via email and on

Find Promise & Praise on

For more information:

Contact us by email at


En español

Por el octavo año siguiente, #PalabrasDelAdviento recogerá oraciones a través de un calendario global, en línea, del adviento. Forward Movement, el nuevo hogar de #PalabrasDelAdviento, ofrecerá 28 meditaciones diarias e imágenes durante esta santa temporada, empezando el domingo, 28 de noviembre.

Reuniendo una comunidad global, #PalabrasDelAdviento provee diariamente una meditación, un imagen visual, e invita tus reflexiones personales a través de las redes sociales para compartir tu propio camino por el Adviento. Miles han participado cada año, respondiendo a las palabras con fotos, respuestas escritas, artesanía, dibujos, poemas, arte descubierto, y publicaciones llenas del Espíritu Santo.

“Se ve una magnífica diversidad de nuestra iglesia en las reflexiones este año,” dice la directora del programa de #PalabrasDelAdviento, Sarah Stonesifer Boylan. “La belleza de #PalabrasDelAdviento se estira para incluir una gran variedad de voces cada Adviento. ¡Tengo ganas de ver las respuestas llenas de oración!”

Una nuevo devocional para el Adviento publicado por Forward Movement, Promise & Praise, corresponde con las palabras de las reflexiones diarias de PalabrasDelAdviento. El libro presenta reflexiones de Scott Gunn, Miriam McKenney, Hugo Olaiz, y Richelle Thompson, con contribuyentes especiales Michael B. Curry y Lisa Kimball. Promise & Praise está disponible para la venta en, junto con un fragmento.

Las lecturas dominicales del leccionario para el Adviento inspiran la lista de palabras para #PalabrasDelAdviento. Descubre las meditaciones visuales y escritas y date la oportunidad sumergirte en las historias de esta temporada de espera.

Las palabras para #PalabrasDelAdviento 2021 son:

Noviembre 28: Promesa
Noviembre 29: Fortaleza
Noviembre 30: Alma
Diciembre 1: Sendero
Diciembre 2 Justicia
Diciembre 3: Cumplir
Diciembre 4: Corazón
Diciembre 5: Alabanza
Diciembre 6: Eterno
Diciembre 7: Ofrenda
Diciembre 8: Mensajero
Diciembre 9: Esplendor
Diciembre 10: Arrepentirse
Diciembre 11: Compasión
Diciembre 12: Esperanza
Diciembre 13: Compartir
Diciembre 14: Regocijarse
Diciembre 15: Avivar
Diciembre 16: Alegría
Diciembre 17: Abundante
Diciembre 18: Cantar
Diciembre 19: Bendita
Diciembre 20: Apacentar
Diciembre 21: Generaciones
Diciembre 22: Magnificar
Diciembre 23: Redil
Diciembre 24: Saludo
Diciembre 25: Niño

Los imágenes y las meditaciones de #PalabrasDelAdviento pueden ser experimentados por, correos electrónicos diarios y directos, y también por Facebook, Instagram, y Twitter, y videos de ASL a través de YouTube. Las meditaciones también serán disponibles en inglés, español, y francés, a través de email y en Encuentra Promise & Praise en

En français

Pour la huitième année consécutive, #MotsDelAvent va recueillir des prières par le biais d’un calendrier de l’Avent mondial et en ligne. Le Forward Movement, le nouvel hôte de MotDeL’Avent, offrira quotidiennement des méditations et des images pendant les 28 jours de cette saison sainte commençant le dimanche 28 novembre.

Rassemblant une communauté mondiale, #MotsDelAvent propose tous les jours une méditation, une image, et invite vos réflexions personnelles par le biais des réseaux sociaux afin de partager votre parcours personnel pendant l’Avent. Des milliers de personnes participent chaque année, réagissant aux mots avec des photos, des réponses écrites, des œuvres artisanales, des dessins, des poèmes, des découvertes artistiques et des messages remplis du Saint-Esprit.

« Nous assistons à une merveilleuse diversité de notre Église dans les réflexions de cette année » déclare Sarah Stonesifer Boylan, directrice du programme MotDeL’Avent. « La beauté de MotDeL’Avent s’étend pour inclure une myriade de voix lors de chaque saison de l’Advent. J’ai hâte de voir toutes les réponses remplies de prières ! »

Un nouveau livre de piété pour l’Avent publié par le Forward Movement, Promise & Praise, résonne avec les paroles de réflexion quotidiennes de MotDeL’Avent. Ce livre présente les réflexions de Scott Gunn, Miriam McKenney, Hugo Olaiz et Richelle Thompson, avec en contributeurs spéciaux Michael B. Curry et Lisa Kimball. Promise & Praise est disponible à la vente sur, avec un échantillon de lecture.

Les lectures du lectionnaire du dimanche de l’Avent inspirent la liste de mots de #MotsDelAvent. Découvrez les méditations visuelles et écrites et donnez-vous l’opportunité de plonger plus profondément dans les histoires de cette saison d’espérance.

Novembre 28: Promesse
Novembre 29: Force
Novembre 30: Âme
Décembre 1: Chemin
Décembre 2: Justice
Décembre 3: Accomplir
Décembre 4: Coeur
Décembre 5: Louange
Décembre 6: Éternel
Décembre 7: Offrande
Décembre 8: Messager
Décembre 9: Splendeur
Décembre 10: Se repentir
Décembre 11: Compassion
Décembre 12: Espérance
Décembre 13: Partager
Décembre 14: S’exalter
Décembre 15: Agiter
Décembre 16: Joie
Décembre 17: Bienfaisant
Décembre 18: Chanter
Décembre 19: Béni
Décembre 20: Nourrir
Décembre 21: Générations
Décembre 22: Magnifier
Décembre 23: Troupeau
Décembre 24: Salutation
Décembre 25: Enfant

Vous pouvez faire l’expérience des images et des méditations de #MotsDelAvent par le biais du site, mais aussi par le biais des courriels quotidiens, ainsi que sur Facebook, Instagram et Twitter, et des vidéos en langue des signes américaine (ASL) sur YouTube. Les méditations seront également disponibles en anglais, espagnol et français par courriel et sur Découvrez Promise & Praise sur

Forward Today: Becoming evangelists

Dear friends in Christ,

A couple of days ago, we celebrated the major feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist. Sometimes he is known as Saint Luke the Physician. I love the way the collect for the day ties together the themes of healing and evangelism:

Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I wonder if we would think of evangelism differently if we thought of it as a way of sharing the “love and healing power” of Jesus Christ. That’s certainly more compelling than inviting people to church so we can have a few more committee members or pledge units! Too often we confuse our internal need for institutional survival with the world’s need to hear the healing and freeing Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the church, and it’s critical for the mission of the church that its institutions be healthy. But the structures of the church are a means, not an end. Our mission is to make disciples of all nations. Making disciples means offering the Gospel of Jesus Christ that offers people true healing, freedom, wholeness, and salvation.

Our world sometimes seems overrun with chaos, fear, greed, and violence. What if we were out there more often to share a different way? What if we followed Saint Luke’s example and offered the Gospel as healing? What if we told everyone that we live in a world that is ultimately governed by grace, mercy, hope, and love?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Explore the Lord’s Prayer in this new book: Bold to Say
From Grow Christians:  The Good News as Luke Understood It
50 Day Bible Challenge: A Journey With Luke

Forward Today: Living as those who serve

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday brings another challenging Gospel reading from Mark. This time, Jesus is talking with his disciples about status and role. Who is called to what role? Who is important? As usual, his disciples don’t get it right.

I find the ineptness of the disciples strangely comforting. It makes me feel a bit more at ease about my own frequent ineptness as a follower of Jesus, and it also gives some comfort when I see the church so often get it wrong.

But, also, the Gospel is clearly a summons to do better. Jesus has a clear message to impart, and it’s a message that’s tough for many of us. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

Jesus’ disciples have been jockeying for position and prestige, which is exactly the wrong thing to do. Instead, they should be quick to yield position and jettison prestige. After all, the way of Jesus is a servant ministry.

We live in a culture where the myth of the self-made person dominates. People are told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. The cultural message often says, those who have less simply need to try harder. But that’s all messed up, and it’s certainly not what Jesus teaches and demands of his followers.

Jesus says we should be quick to give away our power and status. Let someone else have the good seats, the best job, the favorable deal. Point the spotlight at another. Those who have more power and more status need to work harder to give it away.

Are you a servant? Can you give away power and privilege? How about your church? Are there ways your congregation can be a servant community, offering resources to others without expectation of reward?

My experience is that it’s easy for us individual Christians to rationalize the power and status we keep. And it’s effortless for churches to do the same. But, like Jesus’ disciples, we sometimes need to listen to the voice of God or the call of a prophet to pay attention.

I do know this. When I manage to get it right, giving things away feels a lot better than keeping them. The life abundant that Jesus offers all of us paradoxically arrives when we are quick to serve and slow to acquire.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Pray with the Spirituals in this new book: Face to the Rising Sun
Explore the Lord’s Prayer in this new book: Bold to Say
From Grow Christians:  Saint Francis: For the Love of God
Explore this ChurchNext course: Yes, We’re All Called to Mission