Forward Today: A zeal worthy of his grace

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday’s epistle offers a compelling invitation from St. Paul. He writes, “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:2b).

There’s a reason this epistle is assigned to the Ash Wednesday liturgy. St. Paul is inviting us to repent, pronto. I love how John Chrysostom reads this invitation:

Let us not let the opportunity slip, but rather let us display a zeal worthy of his grace. We press on because we know that the time is both short and opportune. The acceptable time is the time of the gift, the time of grace, when it is decreed that not only will no account of our sins be demanded from us, but that we shall also enjoy abundant blessings, righteousness, sanctification and all the rest.

Sunrise over the mountains

Can you imagine? If we all had a sense of the astounding grace of Jesus Christ, we would want to bear fruit and to share the Good News with those around us.

Do you see how it works? We repent and change our lives not to earn God’s love but in thanksgiving that God loved us first. It’s a life-changing way of seeing the world.

I invite you to bask in grace. And then display a zeal worthy of that grace. Today is the best day to set a new course; to manifest the transforming love of Jesus in our hearts.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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*John Chrysostom quote taken from Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (p. 255). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, via Logos software.


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Forward Today: Making it up as we go along

Dear friends in Christ,

Just yesterday, I had a chance to talk with a priest at a medium-sized church in the middle of the country. I was interested to hear how this church is coming out of the pandemic – what is changing and what is staying constant. The priest was asking me for examples of how similar-sized churches are adapting Christian formation to the needs of today’s church. It was a lively conversation.

This priest told me about some of the vibrant lay-lead pastoral care ministry, the beloved Bible study, and other ways lay leaders and clergy work together to make disciples. It was, for me, inspiring. At one point, I said to her, “I hope you’ll find ways to share the amazing work you’re doing with the wider church. Other congregations could learn from what you’re up to.” She said, “Well, we’re making it up as we go along.”

Making it up as we go along is actually a useful practice. Of course, our faith is eternal and constant. We don’t have to make that up! And we are blessed as Episcopalians with an ancient and comprehensive liturgical tradition that we don’t have to make up. But a lot of parish ministry benefits from a spirit of improvisation.

Interior of a church with stained glass windows

Making it up as we go along could be alternative language for, “We’re adjusting our practices to changing circumstances.” It requires the willingness to try something and fail. It requires a desire to find ways to share our ancient faith for today’s church. It makes us like St. Paul, who sought to “become all things to all people.”

Making it up as we go along doesn’t sound like much, but it is essential in today’s church. We’re emerging from a pandemic. We’re emerging from Christendom. We’re entering into a time when we can’t take anything about the church for granted.

Is your church adapting for our time? Are you discovering new practices that you could share with others? Are you running into roadblocks that others might have figured out? We’re all in this together.

I’ll be checking in with the priest I spoke with in a few months. She’s an amazing leader serving a wonderful church. I can’t wait to hear what they’ve discovered in their efforts to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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More from our ministry:

RenewalWorks: Connect: Hybrid Church: A Way Forward, with the Rev. Tim Schenck
Wednesday, June 9 from 7-8pm ET
RenewalWorks: Connect is a monthly online conversation series with Jay Sidebotham, Director of RenewalWorks and other thought-leaders exploring ways to continue the work of spiritual growth. Watch past recordings here.

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Forward Today: Summer reading

Dear friends in Christ,

Summer is getting closer, at least for most readers of this email. Lots of websites and organizations offer summer reading lists. This is often a time to relax a bit more, perhaps to dig into a good book.

We at Forward Movement have plenty of books you might like to read. We have a whole catalog of suggestions, but here are just a few ideas for summer reading.

The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus. You’re probably heard a lot about the Way of Love, our Presiding Bishop’s invitation to engage in the seven spiritual practices of turn, learn, pray, worship, bless, go, and rest. I wrote this little book with the assistance of seven lay people who share testimonies about how the practices of the Way of Love have shaped their lives. Bishop Curry was kind enough to write the foreword. It’s a practical guide aimed especially at people who might like to refresh their prayer lives or their efforts at evangelism or any part of our journey as followers of Jesus.

With Gladness: Answering God’s Call in Our Everyday Lives. Christopher Martin wrote this book we just published not long ago. It’s a fresh Benedictine-inspired way to answer the question, “What is God calling me to do today?” Martin believes that sometimes we get hung up on the big questions but miss opportunities to serve God in this moment. There’s also a video course based on the book. You’ll love Christopher, whether you read his book or enjoy his teaching on video.

Gifts of God for the People of God: Exploring Worship in the Episcopal Church by Furman Buchanan explores worship, especially the Eucharist. After a time when many of us were not able to share Holy Communion together, what better time to re-engage our experience of Eucharist. Moving from the first spoken word of the service—blessed—to the last phrase—Thanks be to God—Buchanan explains the theological and scriptural elements of the service, helping newcomers and longtime members alike gain a deeper understanding of this gift of God.

There are plenty of other books on our website. And of course, lots of other publishers have great books, too! Whatever you read, I hope you’ll make good use of a slower time of year to learn and to grow as a follower of Jesus.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


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Forward Today: Can we understand the Trinity? Does it matter?

Dear friends in Christ,

I love Trinity Sunday, but I often despair at going to church on this glorious feast day. You might ask, what’s not to love? We get to sing some fantastic hymns! We get one last dose of white vestments before the long, green season coming along. We get to offer our praise of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And therein lies the rub. Too many preachers decide this is the day to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity in eight minutes or less. It usually doesn’t go well, especially if the preacher decides to use metaphors for the Holy Trinity. This hilarious video explains the problem nicely.

Today is a day to bask in the glory of God. To use this day to delve into theological teaching would be a bit like going to your wedding and then offering a scientific explanation of what might be happening in our brains when we experience love. You see? It’s not a bad activity, but it’s the wrong activity for a moment that should be a celebration.

Can we understand the Holy Trinity? At a basic level, yes. The creeds do a pretty good job of summarizing things. Basic theological teaching, or a study of scripture can unpack how God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s also not the most complicated. I mean, plenty of people enjoy watching a good cricket match without understanding all the rules! Or, to use a scriptural example, we don’t have to understand where the wind comes from to know that we need to pay attention to the weather forecast (John 3).

On Trinity Sunday, I hope we can simply enjoy the glory and majesty of God. Rather than get out our flowcharts, we do well to belt out the hymns.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

P.S. If you can’t sing because of the pandemic, find some good renditions of the hymns on YouTube and have a bit of Hymnal 1982 karaoke at home!

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Image: Wikimedia


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


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Forward Today: Making room for the Holy Spirit

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday is the Day of Pentecost, when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.

My experience of this feast day is that it’s often accompanied by gimmicks. People make cakes and sing happy birthday to the church. The red balloons come out. And so on.

Now I have no objection to any excuse to enjoy a good cake. And if balloons liven up your worship, you’ll get no complaint from me!

Still, I wonder if we are doing these things to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit or precisely because the Holy Spirit makes us a bit uncomfortable. As one who has a habit of making jokes in awkward situations, I know what it’s like to try to distract away from serious topics.

If we read the Book of Acts, we’ll see that the Holy Spirit led the church into all sorts of amazing new ministries and opportunities. The Gospel was spread in places that would have been inconceivable without the Spirit’s leading. The Spirit is not something that made folks smile so much as the force that compelled people into terrifying but fruitful directions.

In the days leading up to Pentecost, I encourage you to sit down and read the whole Book of Acts. It won’t take too long. It’s filled with amazing stories about what happens when the church lets the Spirit lead.

I wonder what would happen if we let the Holy Spirit lead us as a church? What if we used the Day of Pentecost as an opportunity to open ourselves up to what God wants, not what we might personally prefer? What are the places in our world that need Gospel witness, and how might the Spirit lead us there?

Let us pray that the fire of the Spirit animates our hearts to take us where we could not go on our own.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Image: Ted, Pentecost Icon, Flickr


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


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Job Opening: Marketing Coordinator

Marketing Coordinator
Position Description

Forward Movement seeks a part-time Marketing Coordinator, 20-25 hours per week. This role will be responsible for product maintenance on our eCommerce website, creation and planning of promotional content for blogs, emails, and social media campaigns, and execution of special projects and initiatives to support the overall sales and marketing goals of the organization. Duties will include creative work, such as product photography and graphic design for digital promotions, maintenance of customer facing web pages, and building regular email marketing campaigns.

Inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists worldwide every day, Forward Movement produces excellent, innovative resources to encourage spiritual growth in individuals and congregations for more than eighty years. Our flagship offering is Forward Day by Day, a quarterly devotional with a circulation of 300,000. Forward Movement is a non-profit ministry of The Episcopal Church based in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Key Responsibilities and Tasks

  • Maintain the Forward Movement eCommerce website, using a custom content management system which interfaces with other departments within the organization.
  • Maintain several WordPress websites and blogs, serving as support for staff and contractors who utilize these systems.
  • Plan email marketing campaigns to promote Forward Movement offerings and products, including ongoing newsletters, seasonal campaigns, and one-time promotional opportunities.
  • Create visual content for digital and print product promotions, with photography and basic graphic design.
  • Update Forward Movement blogs with regular new title announcements, press releases, author interviews, and special announcements.
  • Work with the Marketing Director to plan annual promotional campaigns based on strategic business objectives and missional goals of the organization.
  • Research the current and future needs of various targeted interest groups, and present regular ideas to reach and engage through digital and print marketing.

 

Skills/Qualifications: The ideal candidate for this role with be a creative thinker, as well as disciplined in execution and time management. Organization and attentiveness to details are critical, along with flexibility to respond to the changing needs of the department and organization.

The successful applicant will be knowledgeable about The Episcopal Church. Must be comfortable working in a faith-based environment. Demonstrated work in a creative field of study and/or past work experience, including some graphic design, photography, and email communications and marketing. General technical aptitude to learn new systems and troubleshoot web and email problems and hurdles. Working with strategic plans for the organization will require existing knowledge of, or a willingness to learn and adapt to, the historical context and current needs of the Episcopal Church and the Christian faith. Bilingual candidates, fluent or proficient in Spanish, are encouraged to apply, however this is not a requirement. Occasional travel may be requested. Location is flexible for this position.

Forward Movement hires without regard to race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities, or age.

Email cover letter and resume to tjones@forwardmovement.org by June 9, 2021.

Forward Today: Don’t look for a magic elevator

Dear friends in Christ,

Tomorrow is Ascension Day. It’s one of the Principal Feasts of our church right along with Easter and Christmas, and most churches won’t even celebrate it. It’s a pity. Ascension Day is worth celebrating for lots of reasons, and not just because our prayer book tells us to.

On Ascension Day, we celebrate the day that Jesus left us to carry on his earthly ministry. As he was departing, he blessed his followers to carry on. Instead of sorrow, they were filled with great joy.

I think Jesus blesses us, too. Jesus trusts that you and I will carry on his earthly ministry of proclaiming the kingdom, teaching, healing, truth-telling, and reconciliation. We should be filled with joy at the honor to do this work.

So why don’t we celebrate Ascension Day? I think people get hung up on the physics of it. Too many bad teachers have undercut the faith by saying this feast day is an intellectual embarrassment, an old-school way of looking at the world. Jesus can’t go up, they say, because heaven isn’t really “up”.

So don’t look for a magic elevator. To do so misses the point of this day. It’s all about Jesus trusting his followers to carry on, and that includes us. It’s all about joy. It’s all about the promise of the Holy Spirit.

If your church isn’t celebrating Ascension Day, find one online. Or you can at least say prayers of the day on the Forward Movement prayer site.

A blessed and joyous Ascension Day to you.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Image: Pixabay


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


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AdventWord finds new home at Forward Movement

Beginning in 2021, the multilingual, interactive online Advent calendar known as AdventWord will be offered as part of the ministry of Forward Movement, whose mission is to inspire disciples and empower evangelists.

The project has grown for the past several years under the stewardship of Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), having originated from the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) in 2014.

Forward Movement will continue to work with current AdventWord project manager, Sarah Stonesifer Boylan, and VTS is excited to continue its participation and support of the project.

“Since its origins, the AdventWord hosts have brought unique strengths to the devotionals during the Advent holy season. As I enter to my fifth year shepherding this ministry, I look forward to collaborating with Forward Movement to bring their commitments discipleship and story-sharing into this multimedia initiative,” said Stonesifer Boylan. “The AdventWord prayer-filled community has been made possible by coordinating efforts from the committed organizations of SSJE, VTS, and now, Forward Movement.”

Gathering a worldwide community, AdventWord provides a daily meditation, visual image, and invites personal reflections via social media to share in a community-driven 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. Short daily meditations are sent out each day through Advent via email, social media, and as a podcast, in English, Spanish, French, and American Sign Language videos. Sign up for email updates at www.adventword.org and follow AdventWord on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and use #AdventWord in your own posts.

AdventWord is now an offering of Forward Movement

For the second year, Forward Movement will be releasing an Advent devotional to coincide with AdventWord, with each daily reflection drawing inspiration from that day’s selected word. The book, Promise & Praise: Advent Word Reflections, will be available at www.forwardmovement.org in early fall.

“Daily prayer and reflection are a central values at Forward Movement, and we try to show that through our resources and offerings,” said the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, executive director at Forward Movement. “AdventWord offers a stirring way for disciples to practice daily reflection with others around the world as we all prepare to meet Jesus Christ in the season of Advent.”

Sign up for email updates about AdventWord!

Forward Today: Love one another

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday, we hear verses from John 15 in the Gospel reading. Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

I know I say this a lot, but we Christians really have to work at understanding what Jesus means when he talks about love. It’s not a feeling. It doesn’t come with a Hollywood soundtrack. It’s not just being extra-nice to people.

Christian love is work. It’s not always easy. It doesn’t care about our preferences or convenience. Christian love takes practice. A lifetime of practice.

Think about what Jesus is saying when he tells us we are to love one another as he loves us. He loved us perfectly. He loved people who convention said should be unloved. He always told the truth. He challenged assumptions. He loved us sacrificially.

That means we are called to do the same. We are called to love the unlovable. We are called to speak the truth always. We are called to challenge assumptions. We are called to love others sacrificially. We are called to love perfectly.

It’s an impossible commandment to keep. After all, we are not Jesus Christ! But Jesus sets our direction, the way we should orient our lives. Our baptismal liturgy challenges us to grow into the full stature of Christ. Part of that is growing toward perfect love. We’ll never make it, but it is our hope.

How can we do this? Left to our own devices, we can’t. But we have two secret weapons.

First, Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would abide with us. We are not left on our own.

Second, we have the church. We have a bunch of other disciples who are stumbling along with us trying to figure out what it means to love others as Jesus loved us. We can celebrate when we get it right, and we can hold each other up when we get it wrong.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Image: Pixabay


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

The Way of Love | A Practical Guide to Following Jesus

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Forward Today: Hope and reality

Dear friends in Christ,

The last week or so has brought strange weather to Cincinnati where I live. We’ve had some gorgeous, sunny spring days of almost 70 degrees. And we had snow. It’s almost cruel to experience the glory of spring and then have to wear full-on winter garb.

As I was walking around some gardens downtown lately, it occurred to me that the weather isn’t so different from my engagement with other parts of my life.

On the one hand, we have vaccines and in many places COVID numbers are going down. On the other hand, variants are spreading, people engage in reckless behavior, and COVID cases are surging in some places. Should I be filled with hope? Or despair?

More people are broadly aware of systemic racism now, and George Floyd’s murderer was held accountable. On the other hand, I know that racism abounds and we have so very much work to do to create an equitable, just society. Should I be filled with hope? Or despair?

Mainline churches were in decline before the pandemic, and it’s likely that these tough times will cause many churches to close. On the other hand, I think more leaders are gaining clarity on what the church is here for in the first place, so perhaps we’ll actually get to the business of making disciples. Should I be filled with hope? Or despair?

It can seem naïve to cling to hope when the immediate picture is grim. I don’t blame people who get worn down by life’s circumstances and lose hope. But I think hope is where we’re called.

Things looked grim for Jesus and his followers on Good Friday. But Easter was coming. It wouldn’t have been wrong for Jesus’s disciples to shed tears and bemoan their situation while also hoping for something better. Hope does not deny our experience of pain and grief.

In fact, I think hope can be exactly what allows us to take an honest look at the challenges in our lives, in our church, and in our world. We can see where we are. We can dwell with all the pain we experience. And, at the same time, we can be filled with Christian hope.

There’s no better time than Eastertide to practice Christian hope. Let us all take an honest look at where we are. Name the difficulties. Experience the grief. And then let us look toward the day when God will wipe away every tear and all will be made right.

As for me, I’ll try not to grimace if I have to put on my winter coat again. It’s part of the journey, after all. Summer is coming.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Image: Scott Gunn


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


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