Forward Today: Joining the work of prayer

Several Forward Movement staff members sitting in a circle of chairs in a small chapel.
Morning Prayer at the Forward Movement staff retreat

We welcome back Margaret Ellsworth, Forward Movement’s Marketing Coordinator, as our guest author this week.

Dear friends in Christ,

I’m writing you this message from the Forward Movement offices in downtown Cincinnati. Which probably sounds like the most normal thing in the world to you – but for me, it’s a novelty and a blessing. Usually I do my work for Forward Movement from my home office in Boise, Idaho. But this week (or last week, as you’re reading this), I got to join my colleagues in-person for a Forward Movement staff retreat.

We dreamed about what Forward Movement might look like in ten years, living out our mission and thriving in new ways. We got to know our colleagues as people, not just folks in the next cubicle or faces in a Zoom window. We brainstormed and we laughed and we prayed.

Something I noticed here in Cincinnati, for this rare moment when we were all gathered together in one place, is how everyone here at Forward Movement knows prayer to be part of their work. Not just helping our readers to pray. But praying for our readers, for each other, and for Jesus’ presence among us, all along the way.

Every member of this team – editors and fundraisers, email experts and data-gatherers, folks who ship the books and answer the phones – is holding you up in prayer, on a regular basis. Today I ask you if you’ll pray for us as well. As we dream about Forward Movement’s next projects and how we can support you in your discipleship and ministry, keep us in your prayers. And thank you for being part of this community.

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Ellsworth
Marketing Coordinator

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On sale now: Our newest Advent devotional

A prayer book portable enough for any situation: BCP Gift Edition

Data-driven insights for spiritual growth: Signs of Life

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Forward Today: Renewing prayer

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve just come back from leading a prayer retreat. Forward Movement offered this time to folks as a pilot event as we consider offering spiritual practice retreats. But this wasn’t just a test: the time together with real people doing real prayer led to real results.

Over three days, we spent time in conversation and prayer. We practiced several kinds of prayer, and there was plenty of time for quiet and reflection along with group time. I was inspired hearing people share their prayer practices and the impact of a life of prayer. God really is amazing.

As I reflect on our time, several things stand out. One is that every person’s journey is different, and it’s not uncommon to have a “dry spell” in which one feels less connected to God. Over the course of our lives, our prayer practices will almost surely need to change with us.

Even a seasoned person can learn new ways to pray, and I think most folks at the retreat were stretched in some way or found some new accent in their practice. In other words, we all do well to stay attentive as God calls us into new practices.

If you have not yet developed a daily prayer rhythm, it’s not too late! Forward Movement offers several resources to help you discover or new a daily habit of prayer. Rhonda Lee’s excellent book, Seek And You Will Find, offers a guided introduction to several ways to pray. Our prayer website offers the Daily Office and Forward Day by Day, and that same content is available as a free app. We have podcasts. And plenty more!

Do you feel like you could go deeper in prayer? You probably can. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to a wise spiritual friend or to your priest. Or reach out to us at Forward Movement. Prayer changes the world, one life at a time.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Take prayer with you in your pocket: Prayers for All Occasions

Take the pressure off with Devotions for People Who Don’t Do Devotions

The Prayer Book as training for a spiritual life: Inwardly Digest

Get ready to start the new quarter: Subscribe to Forward Day by Day

Forward Today: Changing church for a changing world

Evening session in the House of Deputies. Photo: Scott Gunn

Dear friends in Christ,

If you follow news of the Episcopal Church, you will know that leaders from across the church gathered recently in Louisville, KY for our triennial General Convention. Just about 1,000 lay leaders, deacons, priests, and bishops from 16+ nations spent a little over a week deliberating matters important for our common life as Episcopalians.

We also worshiped together and enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones in fellowship time. There was much joy.

For the first time, I was dreading General Convention before I went. I was worried that the bitter and angry discourse of our wider cultures would permeate our conversations. But I am pleased and inspired to report that, though at times we sharply disagreed on important things, all the conversations I heard met the standard to which we hold ourselves, to “respect the dignity of every human being.”

Perhaps this is because we spent plenty of time in prayer. It turns out that when we open ourselves to God’s presence, the Holy Spirit really does lead us. It’s a good lesson to ponder.

The President of the House of Deputies, Julia Ayala Harris, asked me if I would take photos for the House of Deputies, since I was sitting there with my camera anyway. I was glad to play my small part in the process, and you can have a look at some photos of General Convention (mostly the House of Deputies) on my flickr album.

Some of my Forward Movement colleagues came to staff our booth in the exhibit hall, and I know they had some wonderful time with lots of folks. We always learn so much when we listen to one another.

But the thing that excited me the most about this convention is our willingness to embrace our calling in a challenging time. We’ve chosen a new Presiding Bishop who has said he will lead our church to realign its resources for the mission God has given us in this time and place, not for an age that no longer exists. We chose new ways of doing things at several points.

It won’t be easy. But the Gospel is never about making our lives easy. Just when we need him, Jesus always shows up. And if we can have the strength and courage to embrace our calling, we can offer our Lord’s saving message of mercy and grace to the whole world.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

A practical guide for church stewardship: Finance Resource Guide

Are your lay leaders tired? Give the gift of Revive

Pray in new ways with our newest podcast: Compline

Simple devotions for hard times: Forward Day by Day

Forward Today: The gift of the Holy Spirit

A crowd of people in seats at the Louisville Convention Center. The stage at the center is draped with red and yellow banners. An altar stands at the center of the stage, with candles on either side.
Opening Eucharist at General Convention in Louisville, KY. (Photo: Scott Gunn)

Dear friends in Christ,

I write this from Louisville, KY, where I am serving as a deputy to the 81st General Convention of the Episcopal Church. About 1,000 bishops and deputies gather every three years to worship together, enjoy fellowship with one another, and deliberate on matters that affect our common life as a church.

Sometimes it looks messy. Debate gets heated. Mistakes are made. Coffee queues are lengthy. Results may go differently than we hoped.

But, despite all these things, the Holy Spirit shows up.

My hope always is that when any group gathers to make decisions, we pray for guidance and listen attentively for the still, small voice of God. It’s never easy, but sometimes— despite ourselves—it happens.

At our service of Holy Eucharist this morning, the Rev’d Yejide Peters-Pietersen preached a brilliant sermon about how we can trust God to be present. Yejide is Associate Dean and Director of Formation at Berkeley Divinity School, and she’s a former Forward Movement board member. She reminded us all that the world does not depend on our striving but on God’s providence and action.

Please pray for the General Convention and our work. Pray today, especially, for the bishops who are voting to select our next Presiding Bishop as I write this. Pray for the laypeople and clergy in the House of Deputies who will discern whether to confirm the the bishops’ vote.

The Spirit does amazing things when we make room, whether at the local, diocesan, or churchwide levels. And this is true for our daily lives, too. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. I’m posting some photos from the floor of the House of Deputies throughout the convention. Have a look if you want to see what our governance looks like.

More from our ministry:

Announcing our newest podcast: Compline: Late Evening Episcopal Prayers

Visit this form by Friday 6/28 to help us choose the words for AdventWord 2024

Pray with us every day:

New Compline podcast from Forward Movement launches

Compline podcast cover image, featuring a campfire and view of trees as dusk.A new daily prayer podcast has joined Forward Movement’s popular podcasts of morning prayer and evening prayer.

Compline: Late Evening Episcopal Prayers – prayers said just before bedtime – is now available thanks to the work of the Rev. Wiley Ammons.

Every day thousands of people pray with A Morning at the Office and An Evening at the Office, produced and hosted by the Rev. Wiley Ammons, Laura Ammons, and the Rev. Lisa Meirow.

“Over the last few years, lots of people have asked me if we could add a compline podcast, and I’m thrilled that Wiley has been able to do this,” said the Rev. Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement.

The service of compline is found in the Book of Common Prayer, and it is one of the four times for which daily prayer services are provided. The liturgy is brief, drawing on ancient prayers, canticles, the Psalms, and a short lesson.

All of our podcasts are free of charge, made possible by generous donors. Join our donor community at

You can find these podcasts wherever you listen to podcasts, or by visiting our website.

Gunn noted, “Forward Movement knows that daily prayer is an essential habit for every Christian, and we want to support your life of prayer wherever you are.”

Forward Movement is a ministry of the Episcopal Church that inspires disciples and empowers evangelists. Offices are in Cincinnati, OH. You can learn more at

Help Forward Movement make selections for AdventWord 2024

Text reads "AdventWord" in bold purple letters. In smaller letters underneath, text reads "from Forward Movement." Background is a gray starburst, Forward Movement's logo.Forward Movement invites you to participate in selecting the daily prompt words for AdventWord 2024. AdventWord is an inspirational online Advent calendar featuring a daily prompt word chosen from the Sunday Lectionary readings.

Visit this online form to make your submissions by June 28, 2024. The form includes convenient links to the lectionary readings from which participants may choose and five fields to submit suggested words from the readings.

Forward Movement will announce the complete list of prompt words for AdventWord 2024 later this summer.

AdventWord is an offering of Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church. Forward Movement provides this resource free of charge, thanks to the generosity of our donor community. Learn more, see past words, and donate at

Forward Today: Celebrating freedom, lamenting captivity

A spherical candle, brown with white etched patterns on it. The candle's light is the only light in the image,
Photo by Andrew Itaga on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

Every year on June 19, the people of the United States celebrate Juneteenth. As a 2022 General Convention resolution puts it, this day is a way to “lament the historic evil of slavery and celebrate the emancipation of enslaved peoples.”

We can hold two things together in tension. We lament the evils of slavery, past and present. We celebrate freedom. We can celebrate today’s commemoration of the emancipation of enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865, and we can mourn the fact that it took so long after the Emancipation Proclamation for these people to receive their freedom.

Sadly, slavery of various forms continues in our world, today, both far and near. I hope that we Christians—who follow the liberating Lord Jesus—can work to end the enslavement of people. But today, we celebrate freedom. It’s a core message of the Gospel. In Jesus Christ, we are all set free. We are freed from our captivity to sin and death. And, God willing, I pray all people are freed from any other captivity.

On this Juneteenth, I encourage us all to read and study Exodus 14, the story of the Crossing of the Red Sea. This chapter, and the ones just before it, center God’s desire to free his people. May we work so that all are freed. May we lament enslavement past and present. May we celebrate freedom.

A blessed Juneteenth to you.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. At the end of next week, Forward Movement will be at General Convention. If you’re there, come visit us in the exhibit hall.

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Lament and celebrate with the Spirituals: Face to the Rising Sun

Follow the story of God’s liberating love: The Path

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The Social Justice Bible Challenge

Forward Today: What helps a church grow?

A small plant with a red stem and a few green leaves, against a blurry background of green plants.
Photo by Austin D on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve been visiting churches all over the country. Most of the churches I’ve had a chance to visit have experienced remarkable growth lately, both in numbers and in depth. Yet the overall picture of the Episcopal Church suggests that we are seeing decline in more places than we are seeing growth.

Of course, church growth for its own sake is never the point. Jesus gave the church one primary task: to make disciples. Numbers help us know when we’re effectively making disciples, but those numbers are, in and of themselves, never the point. Still, Sunday attendance and participation in faith formation are critical windows into how well we are carrying out the Great Commission.

Our RenewalWorks data and my own anecdotal experience suggest that churches which prioritize spiritual growth experience numerical growth, too. This means focusing on worship as our primary task as a church. It means encouraging habits of daily prayer, studying the scriptures, and teaching the faith.

I’m always interested in data, because it helps us see what practices bear fruit. Our friends at TryTank are conducting a study of how faith formation impacts church growth. If you are a warden or a clergy leader, would you consider completing their survey for your congregation? This will help them put together a comprehensive picture that will be helpful for our whole church. Fill out their form if you are able to add your church’s experience to the survey.

In a little over two weeks, church leaders will gather in Louisville for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. We will spend almost all our time talking about things other than the Great Commission. Pray for this gathering, and pray that all our leaders (including yours truly, who serves as a deputy) will keep our eye on Jesus Christ and consider how we as a church can share his grace and mercy with the world. When we manage to do that, our church will be stronger because we are doing the thing that Jesus wants us to do.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. If you are going to be at General Convention, please visit Forward Movement in the exhibit hall. We’d love to say hello and talk about how we can support your work of disciple-making.

More from our ministry:

Data-driven insights for spiritual growth: Signs of Life

A simple, accessible journey through scripture: The Path

Share scripture and prayer with others: 10-packs of Forward Day by Day

St. Paul as a model for church mentorship: The Heart of a Leader

Roger Hutchison announced as cover artist for 2025 issues of Forward Day by Day

Author, artist, and youth minister Roger Hutchison has contributed four striking covers for the 2025 issues of Forward Movement’s flagship devotional, Forward Day by Day. Starting in February 2025, subscribers will receive quarterly issues featuring Hutchison’s illustrations.

Four covers in a row of the pamphlet Forward Day by Day. Each cover has a bright watercolor illustration: from left to right, dragonflies, birds, a bare tree trunk, and a mother holding an infant.Roger Hutchison is the author and illustrator of ten books for children and adults, including The Art of Calm: Spiritual Exercises for the Anxious Soul and the bestselling Sparrow’s Prayer. Roger also serves as the Director of Children’s and Youth Ministries at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, TX. Roger’s mission is to use art, color, and poetic language to communicate love and promote healing and hope in today’s hurting world.

Forward Day by Day is a booklet of daily inspirational meditations, first published in 1935 and read by over half a million Christians around the world. Each quarterly booklet features three authors who reflect on daily Bible passages. Each quarter, Forward Movement distributes more than 200,000 printed copies in Spanish and English.

“Growing up as a “PK” (priest’s kid), one of my earliest memories dates back to when I was about 12 years old and exploring the Episcopal Church where my dad served,” says Hutchison. “I distinctly remember being intrigued by the piles of Forward Day by Day. Even at that young age, I found myself drawn to both the cover art and interior words—dreaming of one day maybe being the artist invited to create the cover art for those booklets.”

Forward Day by Day is available in pocket-sized and large print editions, and is also offered in Spanish (Adelante Dìa a Dìa). Visit Forward Movement’s website to subscribe to Forward Day by Day.

About Forward Movement
Forward Movement inspires disciples and empowers evangelists. We offer devotions, Bible studies, formation courses, and other resources to equip and support people in their walk with Jesus Christ. Visit to learn more.

Forward Today: The subversive act of resting

A white hammock with a white blanket draped across it, hanging between two trees in front of a white house.
Photo by Steph Q on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

A few days ago, I preached about Jesus’ encounter with some critics on a sabbath day (Mark 2:23-3:6). These critics failed to see that mercy always wins. Jesus kept the sabbath, but he was willing to work on the appointed day of rest in order to do good.

What struck me as I was preparing for my sermon is how the commandment to honor the sabbath is rarely kept these days. Most of the time, we at least try to honor the rest of the ten commandments. We all agree that murdering is bad. Stealing is bad. Coveting is bad. And so on. But when it comes to the sabbath, it’s common to trample right over the commandment to rest.

Our culture tells us that our meaning and our salvation comes from productivity. We are what we accomplish. We delude ourselves into thinking we have “earned” this or that. We must go, go, go.

Taking a day to rest—to rest from our work, but also to rest in the glory of God’s presence— is positively countercultural. When we step out of the hamster wheel of productivity, we are saying that there are things more important than accomplishments. We are reminding ourselves that our meaning and our salvation does not come from shiny things, but from the Lord who made us.

For many people summer is a slower-paced time. If you are a person who rests regularly, I hope you’ll do it more. Let your light shine before others, and share with them what good comes to you from resting. And if you are a person who needs encouragement to rest, let me offer it here: rest.

Resting is good for us. Resting from our work reminds us that our meaning comes not from accomplishments. Resting is also healthy for our bodies; it is the way God made us to be. We are not made to stay busy every moment.

Rest might look different from person to person. Maybe it means sleeping in. Perhaps you’ll leave your phone out of reach and stay away from its seductive notifications. You might take a way to go for a walk to enjoy this beautiful world God has made. Prayer could be an important part of rest, not to accomplish a to-do but to delight in God.

So, from the bottom of my heart, I hope you have a day soon when you can honestly say to someone, I did nothing today except rest. And it was a gift.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Come pray, learn, and rest together: Register for our prayer retreat

Rest as part of a rule of life:  The Way of Love Practical Guide

Delight in prayer made easy and beautiful: Hour by Hour

Finding health in your spiritual life: Vital Signs of Faith