Forward Today: Seasons of expectation

Note: As we continue to pray for healing for the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, this weekly message will feature guest writers from the Forward Movement staff and board of directors. Today’s message comes from Margaret Ellsworth, Forward Movement’s Marketing Coordinator.


The AdventWord of the day is “mountains.” Here’s the photo I shared today.

As we enter December tomorrow, I’m acutely aware that I am living in two calendars at once. On the cultural calendar, we are well into the “Christmas season.” Twinkling lights and red coffee cups, just to name two signs of the season, have been around for a few weeks already. But in the church’s calendar, we are just beginning our season of Advent, our liturgical new year.

In his book Inwardly Digest, Derek Olsen points out how the church calendar helps shape us in the Christian affections: “emotional habits, patterns of feeling that we choose and cultivate.” Each season of the year highlights one of the affections that we might practice their patterns of feeling. “We focus on particular affections as we move through particular seasons,” Olsen writes, “in order that these patterns may become features of our long-term way of being in the presence of God.”

The affection of Advent, according to Olsen, is “watchful expectation.” Expectation is a key emotional habit of the Cultural Christmas season too – in a different way. The expectation of “holiday magic” in our decorations and activities. The expectation of family togetherness, or end-of-year achievement at work. And of course, the expectation to give or receive the perfect gift. 

These expectations can often feel, as Anne Lamott puts it, as “resentments waiting to happen.” Add “watchful” to expectation, though, and the focus shifts. It’s not as much about what we do (or fail to do); rather, it’s about noticing what God is doing, and what God will do.

I’m grateful in this season for AdventWord, which is helping me watch for Christ this week. AdventWord takes words from their familiar context, in the readings for the Sundays of Advent, and asks where YOU see these words in your world. I love seeing how people all over social media are interpreting the words. And when I look for my own photo of the day, I’m watchful. I’m noticing where God is throughout my day. 

AdventWord is only one of the ways we can lean into this season of watchful expectation. It’s a great time to begin (or begin again) in praying the Daily Office, as our liturgical calendar turns over. Or join our newest Forward Day by Day author tomorrow as the new month’s meditations begin. 

We can’t avoid the cultural Christmas season entirely, and truth be told, I wouldn’t want to – it’s a wonderful time of year. But I hope this year I can lay down the expectations it presents, and watch instead for what God is doing in the world.

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Ellsworth
Marketing Coordinator


More from our ministry:

Find gifts for the disciples and evangelists in your life with our Holiday Gift Guide

Look for God’s work in creation: The Creation Care Bible Challenge

From Grow Christians: Expanding Our View of Gratitude

New from ChurchNext: Introducing the Quaker Tradition 

Forward Today: Seeing Jesus

Note: As we continue to pray for healing for the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, this weekly message will feature guest writers from the Forward Movement staff and board of directors. Today’s message comes from Miriam McKenney, Forward Movement’s Director of Development and Mission Engagement.


Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd, he could not because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

Driving home from picking up my youngest daughter from college, we noticed several well-fed hawks sitting on farm gate posts across the hundred-plus miles of our trip. “Look at that!” I pointed when I noticed the first one. By the time we saw the third one, Jaiya had observed, “I’ve never seen so many plump ones just sitting there like that. I wonder if it’s something new or I just never noticed them.”

We can learn so much from Jesus’s noticing Zacchaeus. When I heard this scripture read aloud recently, I wondered: Why did Zacchaeus try to see who Jesus was? Did someone tell him about Jesus, or did he overhear something someone said? Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector—what was it about Jesus that made him run, not walk, to climb a tree? Was watching things from trees common in those days? Or was something else going on, like the man being Jesus?

If we knew Jesus was coming our way, I don’t doubt that we would be climbing trees, telephone poles, and more to catch a glimpse. But how do we know? Can we know? Zacchaeus teaches us something about how to respond when we see Jesus. What if we acted like we saw Jesus in everyone?

We all want to see and be seen. We long to see something that matters, like it’s already a part of us, even as it feels fresh and new. I’ll never know precisely why Zacchaeus knew to run and climb that tree. I’m thankful to have had the chance to think about the questions. Thinking about why Jesus drew people to him draws me to Jesus.

Being drawn to Jesus often happens in my work as a person who receives requests for copies of Forward Day by Day. I see Jesus in each request because one more person will know God’s love for the world. We’re blessed to offer all we can as God calls us to give.

My prayer is that you will join our ministry of yes, as we see Jesus in every person who writes to us in need, every person who comments on our Forward Day by Day meditation on our prayer site, and every person who comes into contact with our work. Our goal this year is to send copies of our new gift edition of The Book of Common Prayer to incarcerated individuals across The Episcopal Church.

Thank you for your continued support and generosity. We thank God for you, and we pray for you.

Yours faithfully,

Miriam McKenney
Director of Development and Mission Engagement


More from our ministry:

From Grow Christians: CS Lewis’ Compelling Representation of Christ

Notice God in the world through our social media devotion, AdventWord

Get your copy before Advent begins: Holy Is His Name

Donate today to send beautiful prayer books to incarcerated individuals

Forward Movement’s Holiday Gift Guide

This holiday season, give the gift of learning and spiritual connection with Forward Movement books. We’ve put together a set of curated recommendations for the disciples, evangelists, and book lovers in your life.

The impact of your gift stretches farther when you purchase directly from Forward Movement. Each purchase supports our ministry to provide free books and devotionals to prisons, nursing homes, hospitals, and military bases. Order today – and see more of our bestselling books – at forwardmovement.org.


For a friend who wants to pray, but doesn’t know where to start:

Invite your loved one into a rhythm of prayer with the beautiful, lightweight Hour by Hour. Or share the wisdom of a new writer each month – delivered to your doorstep throughout the year – with a subscription to our beloved devotional Forward Day By Day.


For anyone looking to deepen their spiritual life:

The Way of Love is a wonderful jump-start for spiritual reflection, giving you space to write your own thoughts in the pages. Seek and You Will Find offers a dozen different practices of prayer – which one will speak to you in the New Year?


For the new or longtime Episcopalian in your life:

Our bestselling volumes Walk in Love and Inwardly Digest are perfect for new church members or for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of our tradition.


For those who love beautiful ways to pray:

Even the person who has many prayer books already will be enchanted by our new Gift Edition of the Book of Common Prayer. The BCP Gift Edition has red-letter rubrics, elegant leather, and gold edging. Another beautiful favorite from our collection is Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book. This small volume can help you begin and continue a holy habit of prayer.

Forward Today: Inwardly digest the Word of God

Note: As we continue to pray for healing for the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, this weekly message will feature guest writers from the Forward Movement staff and board of directors. Today’s message comes from Richelle Thompson, Forward Movement’s Managing Editor.

Veggie Tales should not be a primary source for biblical knowledge. But as I started preparing for Forward Movement’s upcoming Good Book Club Bible study, I realized that most of what I knew about the book of Esther came from the toddler days of my children, when the cartoon was on incessant repeat.

Through the singsong of animated vegetables, I learned the story of Esther. But I didn’t know it.

The Good Book Club LogoOver the years, I’ve found that each time I encounter with scripture—even the same passages—I discover something new. Certainly, my understanding of Noah’s Ark has changed since my Sunday School, finger-puppet days. Exodus challenges me in new ways as I learn more about racial injustice and examine my heart for its unbidden prejudices. My response to the Gospel of Luke has varied, from when I was pregnant and scared to when my daughter was a young teen, the age of Mary when the angel Gabriel tells her she will bear a child.

The words of scripture don’t change. But I have. Through the various seasons of life, the Word of God speaks to me in different ways. And it’s not just a matter of aging or my own personal experience. The affairs of the world—climate change, political strife, natural disasters—influence how I read and understand scripture.

That’s why reading the Bible can never be a one-and-done thing. Numerous studies show that reading scripture is directly related to our spiritual health and vitality. We know that intellectually, just like we know vegetables (real ones, not animated ones) are better choices than Snickers and ice cream. But it’s all too easy to fall into bad habits or be apathetic to our spiritual health.

On Sunday, one of my favorite prayers from the Book of Common Prayer was the collect—the words at the beginning of the service that call us into worship:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Read. Mark. Learn. Inwardly Digest. What a wonderful process for engaging in scripture! It’s not just a matter or reading or hearing it but about letting scripture nourish our souls and permeate our lives. For me, the most effective way to do this is through a daily guide for reading the Bible — and if possible, to do it in community, in small-group studies or as part of an online program. There are lots of resources out there, but naturally, I’m partial to Forward Movement ones. These include the Bible Challenge series. These books offer 40 or 50 (or even 365) days of daily scripture reading, reflection, and prayer. They’re a great resource for personal and group reflection.

I’m also a fan of the Good Book Club. During the season after Epiphany, Forward Movement invites the church to join in reading through a portion of the Bible—together. Over the years, we’ve moved through the four gospels, Acts, Romans, and Exodus. This year, starting on January 6, we’ll read the books of Ruth and Esther. The Good Book Club offers weekly emails as a companion through the readings, study guides for group discussion, and a live, online ChurchNext class. I might have learned the story of Esther from dancing cucumbers, peas, and leeks, but now it’s time to inwardly digest the Word of God. I can’t wait.

Yours faithfully,

Richelle Thompson
Managing Editor


More from our ministry:

Explore Luke’s Gospel with this reflection from author Miguel Escobar

New from ChurchNext: Introducing the Quaker Tradition

Follow the narrative of the Bible with The Path

Read through biblical canticles in our Advent devotional, Holy Is His Name

Forward Today: The joy and privilege of generous giving

Note: As we continue to pray for healing for the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, this weekly message will feature guest writers from the Forward Movement staff and board of directors. Today’s message comes from Miguel Escobar, author of the book The Unjust Steward and Executive Director of Anglican Studies, Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary.


One of the strongest memories I have from the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic is of the long lines of people waiting for food, as well as the many news stories of pantries and soup kitchens being in short supply of both staples and volunteers. Hunger, already a pervasive problem in New York City, descended upon my city in ways that I never imagined I’d experience in my lifetime.

As I witnessed hunger overtake New York City, I found myself reflecting on the earliest historical reference to Christian communities taking up a collection in response to famine, an event described in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, written around 50 CE. Frequently called “the Jerusalem collection,” it was a collection taken up for famine relief for the Christian community in Jerusalem.

As early as 50 C.E., the energetic Paul was giving pragmatic instructions to the Corinthian community for a collection of monies to be sent to Jerusalem: “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me” (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).

Monies would eventually be taken up in Galatia, Corinth, and Rome and would be physically brought to the Jerusalem assembly. Logistics were arranged (1 Corinthians 16:1-4), accusations of impropriety made, transparency ensured by having multiple people handling the funds (2 Corinthians 12:14-18), and protection against theft/robbery secured as the funds were brought to Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-29).

These practical details are intriguing in that they describe both the antecedents of current relief efforts as well as give a glimpse into the economic network of assemblies that characterized early Christianity. But what’s inspiring—and potentially transformative in our stewardship season today—is the theology behind how Paul discusses this collection.

In 2 Corinthians 8–9, Paul says that the joy and privilege of an assembly’s generous giving is ultimately rooted in God’s grace of becoming poor for our sake. We are to join in this divine journey as well. He states that even after Christ’s resurrection, the need for fair balance between those with great wealth and those in poverty, hunger, and destitution remains. This collection for famine relief is a way of addressing this imbalance.

Indeed, it is from a deeply rooted sense of bondedness and economic fellowship with one another (koinonia) that Christians have the grace and privilege (charis) of sharing our resources as an economic network and community, and our giving should be especially aimed at alleviating the poverty and hunger of the most vulnerable members of the body of Christ. Through our generosity, we join Jesus in becoming poor for the sake of our siblings in Christ who are suffering.

I believe this Jerusalem Collection should inform the way we think about all our collections, including the pledge cards taken up during stewardship season. Will your gift touch the lives of those who are in hunger? Are they reflective of what Paul described as “fair balance” between those who have much and those who have little? Does one’s gift honor an economic fellowship between those assemblies with much and those who are most vulnerable?

These are important questions to ask of the various stewardship campaigns that have taken place across the Church this fall. How might our stewardship campaign reflect this more so?

Yours faithfully,

Miguel Escobar
Author, The Unjust Steward
Executive Director of Anglican Studies, EDS at Union


More from our ministry:

Read more from Miguel Escobar in his book The Unjust Steward

Consider giving as a Vital Sign of Faith in Kate Moorehead Carroll’s new book

Explore scripture as a resource for action: The Social Justice Bible Challenge

Prepare for Advent with our annual calendar and newest book of meditations

Forward Today: Partners in proclaiming the Gospel

Note: As we continue to pray for healing for the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, this weekly message will feature guest writers from the Forward Movement staff and board of directors. Today’s message comes from Beth Lewis, Interim Executive Director of Forward Movement and Executive Director of the Protestant Church-Owned Publishers Association (PCPA).


When St. Paul wrote to the Galatians (3:28) “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” I don’t think he was contemplating people in The Episcopal Church, AME Zion and Southern Baptist Convention working together to proclaim the Gospel and serve God’s people in the world. But I like to think that through his words we are encouraged to do exactly that!

I am privileged to work with the talented staff of Forward Movement as the interim Executive Director while Scott Gunn continues to heal during his medical leave. I’m a member of the ELCA and served as President & CEO for 1517 Media, the ELCA’s ministry of publishing for sixteen years, so we’re already in ecumenical-land!

Like The Episcopal Church, Forward Movement has many ecumenical partnerships. One you might not know about is the organization’s long-time membership in PCPA: Protestant Church-owned Publishers Association. This 71-year-old trade association for denominational publishers is a shining example of collaboration across denominational and theological lines. PCPA’s Heads of Houses (aka CEO’s & Executive Directors) met this past week in Minneapolis. At this meeting we focused on our common ground of praying for one another (especially Scott!), sharing joys and concerns about publishing books, curricula, devotionals and much more during times of turmoil and change. We talked about best practices for supply chain management and organizational culture with a hybrid workforce. It was a rich, mutually supportive gathering.

Forward Movement belongs to PCPA because focusing on best practices in their business helps provide sustainability for their mission to “Inspire disciples. Empower evangelists.” In my brief time as interim Executive Director, I have come to appreciate both the business and the ministry of Forward Movement for both The Episcopal Church and ecumenical partners. I support them with my financial contribution; I hope you will too, whether by purchasing resources for your church, as gifts or for your own faith journey or as a direct contribution to Forward Movement’s ministry.

Yours faithfully,

Beth Lewis
Interim Executive Director, Forward Movement


More from our ministry:

Sign up for AdventWord updates and join this wide-ranging community

Give the gift of Forward Day By Day: Order a gift subscription

Prepare for Advent with our annual calendar and newest book of meditations

A story of connection from Forward Day By Day

We’ve enjoyed hearing from Mallard Benton this month in the Forward Day By Day reflections for October. This month’s writings sparked an unexpected connection. We received this letter from a reader to pass on to Mr. Benton:

Mr. Benton:

I am fairly sure you are the man I have remembered for more than 40 years.

As a high school senior at Briarwood High School in East Point, Georgia, I worked at the bookseller at Greenbrier Mall.  I believe it was a B. Dalton Bookseller.  The store manager was an African-American man. He had a deep knowledge and love of books that he shared readily with his employees and the store’s patrons. He had a gentle energy. It was my first job, and the experience left me believing managers made a positive impact in the world. And while not distinctive at the time (thanks to parents and an Episcopal church), working for a wonderful African-American man surely shaped my world view.

That start in work life shaped my career.  This year, I am a fellow in Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative, following a 30-year career in higher education and a business education and experience. 

I think that man may have been you.

 I’d love to connect if you have the time and energy.  

With hope,
Beth

Mallard confirmed he was, in fact, Beth’s supervisor all those years ago. Praise God for the connections that these words of reflection can bring!

AdventWord: Announcing the daily prompt words for 2022 | Palabras que invitan a la reflexión

Forward Movement has announced the 2022 reflection words for AdventWord, a global online advent calendar and community of disciples. For nearly a decade AdventWord has inspired followers of Jesus who wish to add an accessible prayer practice to their daily routine during this holy season.

Daily meditations and images—inspired by a prompt word selected from the daily lectionary readings—will be released at adventword.org, beginning Sunday, November 27.

Participants can sign up to receive this daily message, in English and Spanish, by email or by following AdventWord on social media.

Many followers join the creativity each year by sharing their own personal reflections across social media using #AdventWord. Participants respond with photos, written responses, crafts, drawings, poems, found art, and other creative expressions inspired by the day’s selected word.

List of the 2022 AdventWord prompts

“This year we enlisted volunteer community members to help with the selection of prompt words from the daily lectionary readings,” said Richelle Thompson, managing editor at Forward Movement. “The online gathering of dozens of AdventWord community members was an inspiring way to kick off the planning for 2022 and a strong reminder that AdventWord is community-driven.”

All-in-one graphics, bulletin inserts and printable calendars of the 2022 prompt words are available for download at adventword.org.

The reflection prompt words for AdventWord 2022 are:

  • 27-Nov: Walk | Caminar
  • 28-Nov: Together | Juntos
  • 29-Nov: Teach | Enseñar
  • 30-Nov: Mountains | Montañas
  • 1-Dec: Make | Hacer
  • 2-Dec: Ready | Preparado
  • 3-Dec: Unity | Unidad
  • 4-Dec: Delight | Deleite
  • 5-Dec: Rain | Lluvia
  • 6-Dec: Welcome | Acogida
  • 7-Dec: Winnowing | Zarandear
  • 8-Dec: Breathe | Respirar
  • 9-Dec: Fire | Fuego
  • 10-Dec: Flourish | Florecer
  • 11-Dec: Messenger | Mensajero
  • 12-Dec: Wilderness | Desierto
  • 13-Dec: Stranger | Forastero
  • 14-Dec: Beloved | Amados
  • 15-Dec: Thirsty | Sediento
  • 16-Dec: Traveler | Viajeros
  • 17-Dec: Majesty | Majestad
  • 18-Dec: Purify | Purificar
  • 19-Dec: Sign | Señales
  • 20-Dec: Hear | Oír
  • 21-Dec: Obedience | Obediencia
  • 22-Dec: Choose | Elegir
  • 23-Dec: Restore | Restaurar
  • 24-Dec: Birth | Nacimiento
  • 25-Dec: Emmanuel | Emanuel

 


Follow AdventWord for more information and updates:

 


AdventWord: Palabras que invitan a la reflexión

Forward Movement acaba de anunciar las palabras de AdventWord para el Adviento de 2022. AdventWord es una iniciativa anual que incluye un calendario de Adviento y una comunidad de discípulos que se enfocan en una palabra diaria que invita a la reflexión.

Por casi una década AdventWord viene inspirando a los seguidores y seguidoras de Jesús que desean hacer la meditación parte de su rutina diaria durante el tiempo de Adviento.

Las meditaciones y las imágenes diarias provienen de las lecturas del leccionario diario. Las comenzaremos a publicar en AdventWord.org a partir del domingo 27 de noviembre.

Los participantes pueden inscribirse para recibir un mensaje diario, en inglés y en español, por email o siguiendo a AdventWord en las redes sociales.

Muchos seguidores se unen al proceso creativo y comparten sus propias reflexiones en las redes sociales usando la etiqueta #AdventWord. Y los participantes responden con fotos, escritos, manualidades, dibujos, poemas, arte creada por otros, y otras expresiones creativas inspiradas por la palabra del día.

las palabras de AdventWord para el Adviento de 2022

Richelle Thompson, editora gerente de Forward Movement, declaró: “Este año logramos enlistar a voluntarios que nos ayudaron a elegir las palabras tomadas de las lecturas del leccionario diario. Reunimos en línea a docenas de miembros de la comunidad AdventWord, lo que fue una manera muy inspiradora de lanzar el planeamiento de 2022, y nos recordó vívidamente que AdventWord es un programa de participación comunitaria”.

Se pueden descargar boletines y calendarios para imprimir con las palabras de 2022 en este enlace: AdventWord.org.

Las palabras seleccionadas para AdventWord en 2022 son las siguientes:

  • 27-Nov: Walk | Caminar
  • 28-Nov: Together | Juntos
  • 29-Nov: Teach | Enseñar
  • 30-Nov: Mountains | Montañas
  • 1-Dec: Make | Hacer
  • 2-Dec: Ready | Preparado
  • 3-Dec: Unity | Unidad
  • 4-Dec: Delight | Deleite
  • 5-Dec: Rain | Lluvia
  • 6-Dec: Welcome | Acogida
  • 7-Dec: Winnowing | Zarandear
  • 8-Dec: Breathe | Respirar
  • 9-Dec: Fire | Fuego
  • 10-Dec: Flourish | Florecer
  • 11-Dec: Messenger | Mensajero
  • 12-Dec: Wilderness | Desierto
  • 13-Dec: Stranger | Forastero
  • 14-Dec: Beloved | Amados
  • 15-Dec: Thirsty | Sediento
  • 16-Dec: Traveler | Viajeros
  • 17-Dec: Majesty | Majestad
  • 18-Dec: Purify | Purificar
  • 19-Dec: Sign | Señales
  • 20-Dec: Hear | Oír
  • 21-Dec: Obedience | Obediencia
  • 22-Dec: Choose | Elegir
  • 23-Dec: Restore | Restaurar
  • 24-Dec: Birth | Nacimiento
  • 25-Dec: Emmanuel | Emanuel

 

Para más información y noticias sobre AdventWord, seguir estos enlaces:

 

 

Forward Today: The rhythm of prayer book living

Note: As we continue to pray for healing for the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, this weekly message will feature guest writers from the Forward Movement staff and board of directors. Today’s message comes from Margaret Ellsworth, Forward Movement’s Marketing Coordinator.


There are a LOT of prayer books on my shelf. (Occupational hazards of being a clergy kid, religion grad student, and now staff member at a publishing ministry.) The oldest one is this little Book of Common Prayer, here at the top. It’s worn at the edges, and features some extra decoration from a scribble-happy younger sister. This prayer book has traveled with me for a long time.

I received this BCP in my Easter basket when I was a kid. But after the Easter treats were eaten and the Easter basket was put away, the BCP went up on a shelf, mostly unused. Until I graduated from college and prepared to head out to a new city for a summer internship. When I was packing, I slipped this prayer book into my suitcase almost as an afterthought. Just in case it might come in handy.

It was during that internship, living on my own for the first time, that I really got to know the prayer book. I read through the psalms and the lectionary and realized that if I really stuck to this seven-week cycle I could write these poems on my heart. I prayed Compline in my little room. I stepped into the rhythm of prayer book living, which has sustained me in the years since.

I’ve got a new prayer book on my shelf now—Forward Movement’s new Book of Common Prayer, Gift Edition. This book is designed to be portable, just as my first little BCP was, so it can fit in a backpack or a purse or a suitcase. It’s also designed to be beautiful, because the God we praise in its pages is the maker of beautiful things. Because giving thanks to God, always and everywhere, should be a good and joyful thing.

I recently read through the prayer book on sacraments as part of an inquirer’s class. The folks reading with me, from all ages and stages of life, are all preparing for a sacramental encounter of their own. Some are being received from other traditions, exploring the rich heritage of prayer that characterizes the Episcopal Church. Some are preparing for confirmation, getting ready to claim familiar words and actions as their own. Some are preparing for baptism, or to stand up with children and godchildren to support them in their life in Christ. All of them find their place in the Book of Common Prayer.

I’m saving my newest prayer book for my three-year-old daughter, who will by God’s grace be baptized soon. It’ll stay on her shelf for now—she’s a scribbler too, and a notorious page-ripper to boot. But I’ll fill out the presentation page with her name anyway, and hold it for her until she can open it herself. Whenever and however she takes it up on her own, I hope she knows that this book—and the rhythm of faithful life it represents to me—belongs to her already. I hope and pray that she will carry that joy with her wherever she goes.

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Ellsworth
Marketing Coordinator


More from our ministry:

Dig deeper into sacraments and practices: Walk in Love

Practices to sustain a life of faith: Vital Signs of Faith

Join ChurchNext’s live class with the author of Vital Signs of Faith

Check out the Top 5 Courses for Fall from ChurchNext

Forward Today: Luke the evangelist

Note: As we continue to pray for healing for the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, this weekly message will feature guest writers from the Forward Movement staff and board of directors. Today’s message comes from the Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook, Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego and member of the Forward Movement Board.


“Saint Luke” by James Tissot, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I love the Gospel of Luke, whose feast day is this week. It is full of joy, prayer, and awareness of both the suffering of the world and what Jesus has done to bring healing and restoration. Luke was a physician. He knew a great deal about the human body and about the cures that doctors could bring, and he probably also despaired as he saw people suffering from ailments that doctors could not cure. But then he heard the gospel of Jesus, and realized that Jesus came to heal the world in a new way: body, mind, and spirit.

So Luke became an evangelist. And what an evangelist he was, writing more of the New Testament than anyone else (the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles). Because of Luke, we know stories we read nowhere else, from Christmas to Pentecost. As the only writer who recorded the experiences of the early church after Jesus’ resurrection, Luke tells us how the church understood its mission, as Jesus tells the apostles in Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Sharing the gospel of Christ rarely happens in a smooth, graceful progression. In Acts, the apostles have successes and setbacks. They work wondrous miracles and make rookie mistakes. They struggle over different interpretations of their mission, and they follow the lead of the Spirit in fits and starts. They fail to take literally the mandate from Jesus to go to the ends of the earth, and they stay in Jerusalem where they are comfortable—until they just can’t stay there anymore.

In other words, those early apostles are a lot like us. We too have setbacks, mistakes, struggles, divisions, and failure. Yet the Holy Spirit is with us, prompting us to courageously care for the world around us. Like those early apostles, we have a gospel of healing, wholeness, reconciliation, and restoration to share. Like them, we need the courage the Holy Spirit brings to share that good news. And like them, we know that the good news of Christ can still transform the world.

Yours faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook
Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego
Member of the Forward Movement Board


More from our ministry:

Journey with St. Luke through Bible Challenge volumes on Luke and Acts
More from Bishop Snook: Acts to Action
Read the new interview with Miguel Escobar from Duke Divinity’s Faith and Leadership
Join ChurchNext’s live class with the author of Vital Signs of Faith