Forward Today: Vitality in your church

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve been thinking about church vitality lately, especially in this time of pandemic. Some churches seem to be getting stronger, while others are struggling mightily. It might seem like we need to reinvent everything about church for this time. But I’m not so sure. Maybe the core principles stay the same, but the way we carry them out changes.

Forward Movement’s RenewalWorks program has done extensive research on spiritual vitality in congregations. There are five best practice principles to increasing spiritual health and vitality in a congregation. Maybe this time of pandemic is an opportunity for each church to ask whether it is doing these things and whether it might be necessary to change how we’re doing them.

  1. Get People Moving. Complacency is a huge challenge in the Episcopal Church. Too many of us do not expect transformation, and we run our churches so as not to rock too many boats. Disturbing complacency and starting each person in a journey of growth is exactly what we need to do.
  2. Embed the Bible in everything. Scripture engagement changes lives. Making sure that every meeting starts with Bible study—and framing all activity at the church through the lens of scripture—will lead people to read and to study the scriptures.
  3. Create Ownership. As one pastor used to say, “I can’t read the Bible for you or say your prayers. You have to do that.” We cannot outsource our discipleship work to someone else. Each one of us needs to take on habits of prayer, study, worship, and service.
  4. Pastor the Community. What does the community outside our church need? This might be a different question than, what do we want to do? Is there a need for tutoring? Shelter? Food? Meeting space? If we can learn to know and to love our neighbors, the world will be transformed one life at a time.
  5. Heart of the Leader. If the person who preaches is faking it, everyone can tell. Lay leaders can work to ensure that their clergy leader is refreshed and renewed. And clergy can make sure that their lay leaders are called to vital work, not carrying the millstone of institutional maintenance.

 

You can learn a lot more about the Best Practice Principles on the RenewalWorks website. How is your church doing? Have you seen success? Do you face challenges?

The reason for us to do this work is not to earn God’s love or our salvation. That has been accomplished on the cross. No, the reason to become effective disciples is so that we might grow into the full stature of Jesus Christ and share his love with a world in need.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Illustration by Jay Sidebotham.



Make Me an Instrument of Peace:
A Guide to Civil Discourse

Make Me an Instrument is a free, 5-week course designed to help us bridge the divides that keep us from moving forward. Taught by a team of experts in civil discourse, this course includes these five classes:

  • Civil Discourse in Context with Ranjit Matthews
  • Tenets for Civil Discourse with Shannon Kelly
  • Values-Based Conversations with Alan Yarborough
  • The Complexities of Policy with Rebecca Linder Blachy
  • Sacred Space for Debate with Marcus Halley

 

Make Me an Instrument is ideal for those who want to take dialogue between polarized people or parties seriously.


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…

Downloadable addition to Hour by Hour | Forward Movement

Giving Away the Church: Reflections on Fresh Ecclesial Expressions | Earth & Altar

Slightly Frantic Liturgy | Grow Christians

Learn more about Revive


 

Forward Today: Who’s gonna save us now?

Dear friends,

I am grateful to be Facebook friends with Howard Helvey, a renowned church musician who lives here in Cincinnati. He often posts photos from his walks around the city. This week, he posted a photo that is beautiful, poignant, and not a little provocative.

The photo was taken at the site where Calvary United Methodist Church is being demolished. Someone has written graffiti on the wall of the nave, partly still standing in defiant glory and partly razed into rubble. “Who’s gonna save us now?”

I have no idea what was in the mind of the person who painted this cry. Was it intended sympathetically, in sorrow over a church that will no longer stand? Was it hostile, mocking faith in Jesus? Was the writer channeling a couple of recent popular songs that include this phrase or ones close to it in their lyrics? Was the message a cry of anguish over the church and perhaps the state of our world?

When I initially saw the writing, my first thought was to recall the cries of Palm Sunday. Hosanna! Save us! The desperation of people groaning under the yoke of imperial oppression is palpable in the anguished shouts of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. The miseries that bind us now are different, but they are no less real—pandemic, economic disparity, systemic racism, rampant violence—and it is absolutely righteous to shout out, “Who will save us?”

Salvation is a word that I wish we spent more time with in the Episcopal Church. Thinking of salvation as “getting into heaven” is only a tiny slice of what the word means, and even that is a bit of a distorted view. The scriptures use salvation to mean deliverance, health, wholeness, and redemption. Salvation is something that most certainly begins in this life and continues into the life to come.

Who’s gonna save us now? God’s salvation is surely front and center. We yearn to be transformed by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. And salvation might involve each one of us as we choose to be means of health, wholeness, deliverance, and redemption for others. Wearing a mask, offering a word of hope, showing mercy, striving for justice, praying without ceasing, proclaiming Good News—these are all ways we share the saving love of Jesus Christ with a world in need.

Who’s gonna save us now? Jesus, without a doubt. And that’s why our work as disciples and evangelists matters now and always.

Who’s gonna save us now? Jesus, without a doubt. Thanks be to God.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


By Kate Gillooly

Jesus didn’t just call 12—he called us all.

And he called us to discern and unleash our gifts, playing our part in bringing God’s kingdom to earth. Congregational development expert Kate Gillooly unpacks this in four video presentations, titled:

  • We Are All Called to Mission
  • The Work of Discernment
  • Spiritual Gifts for Mission
  • When It Works

 

This course is ideal for anyone looking to explore mission, especially as it relates to congregational development.


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…

Special Podcast Episode (May 7th) | Women & Angels of the Bible:
Sarah Laughs with the Angels

I’m Sorry, Thank You, and the Mystery of Grace | Grow Christians

Download our Coloring Pages | Forward Movement


 

Women & Angels of the Bible: Sarah Laughs with the Angels

Forward Movement Managing Editor Richelle Thompson recently chatted with Lindsay Hardin Freeman, author of the popular book Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter, and Kate Moorehead, author of the newly released Angels of the Bible: Finding Grace, Beauty, and Meaning. This discussion focused on Sara and her interaction with angels.


“The fact is: We know we can get viruses from other people, but we forget there’s a lot of things that are contagious. Joy is contagious. The Holy Spirit is contagious. We can still get a lot of good stuff from each other, too….So even though we can’t be physically together, we should not let that make us isolated. We should remember that we can still pass on great stuff to each other, even if it’s over a Zoom phone call.”

“We are out in the wilderness, out in exile. We have been thrown into isolation, whether we want to or not, fragmented and not sure how things will come together again. But I guess our challenge is to believe and know that they will.”

Read the full interview here

You can also listen to this conversation in a special episode of the Forward Day by Day podcast, released on May 7, 2020. 

Figure 5 Basilica of San Vitale, Abraham with the Angels at Mamre and the Sacrifice of Abraham, 547, Mosaic, Ravenna, Italy

Forward Today: Signs of Love

Dear friends in Christ,

Last week, while I was out walking our dog, I noticed some kids drawing on the sidewalk. Now, kids having some fun with chalk art isn’t all that unusual. But this art was both beautiful and heart-wrenching.

I was walking past the county jail, and the kids were drawing a message for their father, who could apparently see this bit of sidewalk from his cell. It had his name and their names, and a message of love. Beautiful, right? Kids professing love for their father. And certainly heart-wrenching.

All I know is that some kids love their father. I don’t know if he was to be in the jail for a day, or for a week, or for a year. I don’t know what circumstances led him to end up in the jail. What I do know is that the father and his children are all precious people, made in God’s image and worthy of love. Everyone, without exception, is worthy of God’s love and worthy of the love of others.

For the last few days, I’ve thought about this sign of love. On the one hand, it was utterly simple. Children’s art. On the other hand, it was as beautiful as any art ever made in human history, because it was created in love, with a message of love for one person. And yet it touched me and perhaps many others who walked by that patch of sidewalk.

It got me thinking. What if our world was filled with many more signs of love? What would it be like if we expressed our love of God and our love of neighbor in tangible and visible ways more often?

Maybe we follow the lead of those children and write on our sidewalks. We could offer words of encouragement and grace to those who need to hear a word of hope. We could send a letter or a kind email. We could mail a gift.

In short, we could change our world one story at a time. If our world is defined by the news, it will seem hopeless—filled with violence, fear, and degradation. It’s true that violence, hatred, and fear are present in our world. But it’s also true that, in the end, God’s love wins. The empty tomb is a promise of the victory of love over sin, fear, violence, and death. Every sign of love is a sign of hope, a reminder that God has the last word.

Let’s make some signs of love, shall we?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


A Covid-19 Spiritual Survival Kit

What can we do to take care of ourselves and others during this difficult time? How can we rely on God to help us survive—spiritually, physically, and emotionally—and to do God’s work in the world? In this course, James Farwell, Stephanie Spellers, Dorothy Linthicum, and Bonnie Perry offer suggestions to help us manage this period of anxiety and social isolation

This course is ideal for anyone who wants to learn coping skills and keep spiritually healthy as we go through the Covid-19 experience.


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!


New Release:
Come & See: Reflections on the Life of Jesus

Each day since 1935, Forward Day by Day has offered daily devotions rooted in the Word of God and love of Jesus. Now, for the first time, some of the best meditations from the past three decades are collected into one volume and arranged chronologically, from Jesus’ birth to resurrection. Although the devotions were written in different contexts by a variety of authors, this collection offers a rich tapestry of reflections, some poignant, others pointed, but all committed to a way of love.

Come & See is curated by Sanford Smith, a pastor from Omaha, Nebraska, who began reading and collecting his favorite Forward Day by Day meditations in 1985. Today, at age ninety-five, he still volunteers four days a week as a hospital chaplain but every morning, he puts first things first and opens Forward Day by Day to read and pray.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the printing of this title has been delayed until late summer. Pre-order your print copy today, but also know that we’ve made the e-book version available early. You can find it on Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and at the iTunes store.


In case you missed it…

Free Forward Movement Resources | Forward Movement

Download our Coloring Pages | Forward Movement

Grief and Resurrection | Earth & Altar

Nuevo Amanecer goes Virtual | Latino Ministries of the Episcopal Church

Smart Speakers Now Offering Episcopal Prayer | Forward Movement


Forward Today: Crisis and mission

Dear friends in Christ,

Like many of you, I find myself balancing the need to get through each day with the need to look toward the future. Perhaps that’s always true, but in these strange times, each day seems to bring greater than usual challenges, and the future is more of a moving target.

Whether you are thinking about yourself as an individual or your church or your nation, I think I’m not alone in the difficulty of balancing today’s needs with trying to be in the right place for tomorrow and for next year.

It seems to me that some of the key elements to think about include safety, sustainability, familiarity, community, and, most important, mission. In their own way, these are relevant for you and me as individuals, and certainly for our churches.

For churches and organizations, everything else should be wrapped up in mission. Who are we? What is most important to us? How can we carry out our mission in these changing times? It would be easy to lose our focus on mission. In fact, I think one of the main reasons our churches have not been healthy is that, in many cases, we’ve forgotten our mission—the broad mission given to us by Jesus and the local mission in our neighborhoods.

Amid all the challenges of the coronavirus crisis, there are also opportunities. I don’t want to minimize the very real suffering that many are experiencing. All those hard things are true, and we should weep with those who weep. At the same time, this crisis affords the church an opportunity to refocus on its mission. There is no space for complacency now, and many of the distractions of our familiar world are melted away. How can we carry out the mission to make disciples that Jesus has given us?

For individuals too, there is a new opportunity to ask if we are answering God’s call. Are there changes we need to make?

As I continue to think and pray about today and tomorrow, I invite you to do the same. Pray for our church and its leaders. Pray for yourself. And please pray for the mission and ministry of Forward Movement and for me, too.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Image: Pixabay


A Covid-19 Spiritual Survival Kit

What can we do to take care of ourselves and others during this difficult time? How can we rely on God to help us survive—spiritually, physically, and emotionally—and to do God’s work in the world? In this course, James Farwell, Stephanie Spellers, Dorothy Linthicum, and Bonnie Perry offer suggestions to help us manage this period of anxiety and social isolation

This course is ideal for anyone who wants to learn coping skills and keep spiritually healthy as we go through the Covid-19 experience.


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!


New Release:
Come & See: Reflections on the Life of Jesus

Each day since 1935, Forward Day by Day has offered daily devotions rooted in the Word of God and love of Jesus. Now, for the first time, some of the best meditations from the past three decades are collected into one volume and arranged chronologically, from Jesus’ birth to resurrection. Although the devotions were written in different contexts by a variety of authors, this collection offers a rich tapestry of reflections, some poignant, others pointed, but all committed to a way of love.

Come & See is curated by Sanford Smith, a pastor from Omaha, Nebraska, who began reading and collecting his favorite Forward Day by Day meditations in 1985. Today, at age ninety-five, he still volunteers four days a week as a hospital chaplain but every morning, he puts first things first and opens Forward Day by Day to read and pray.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the printing of this title has been delayed until late summer. Pre-order your print copy today, but also know that we’ve made the e-book version available early. You can find it on Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and at the iTunes store.


In case you missed it…

Smart Speakers Now Offering Episcopal Prayer | Forward Movement

Little Liturgies for Uncertain Times | Earth & Altar

Forward Movement releases Listening Together | Forward Movement

Virtual Evangelism | Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices

Free Shipping on orders of over $50 throughout April | Forward Movement


Smart Speakers Now Offering Episcopal Prayers

Both Alexa and Google Assistant have learned some Episcopal prayers. Thanks to a partnership between TryTank Experimental Lab and Forward Movement, you can now say, “Alexa, open Episcopal Prayer” or “Google, talk to Episcopal Prayer” and your device will begin playing the morning or evening prayer podcasts of Forward Movement.

“Whether people are at home or on the go, these options for moving through the daily office will be both useful and inspiring,” said the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement. “As a bit of a geek, I’m excited about this marriage of technology and Anglican tradition to equip disciples for daily prayer.”

Depending on the time of day, Alexa or Google Assistant will play either the morning prayer or evening prayer podcasts, which include the full liturgy of the daily office along with the assigned psalms and readings for the day.

“We are eager to see how this initiative catches on, so that we can learn more about how to bring spiritual practices and technology together,” said the Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija, director of TryTank. “Our early tests show that it quickly became a regular part of people’s daily routine.”

The podcasts themselves are the brainchild of the Rev. Canon Wiley Ammons, rector of Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Jacksonville, Florida, who co-hosts the episodes with the Rev. Lisa Meirow, curate at All Saints Episcopal Church, also in Jacksonville. A Morning at the Office and An Evening at Prayer are available on all major podcast platforms.

 

Forward Movement’s work of discipleship has used contemporary methods since its founding. “In the 1930s, pamphlets were an excellent use of technology to reach people, and now we use all the latest digital platforms and technologies. Reaching the smart home device market is another frontier to explore,” Gunn said.

TryTank Experimental Laboratory for Church Growth and Innovation is a joint project between Virginia Theological Seminary and the General Theological Seminary. TryTank offers inventive approaches to the challenges facing the Episcopal Church. Visit www.trytank.org to learn more.

Forward Movement is a ministry of the Episcopal Church that inspires disciples and empowers evangelists. With offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, Forward Movement has been serving the Episcopal Church since 1935 by producing resources such as Forward Day by Day, books, apps, pamphlets, conferences, podcasts, and courses. Visit www.forwardmovement.org to learn more.

Forward Today: Sustained by prayer

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write to you in what feels like the tenth year of being stuck at home, I suspect you are experiencing much of the same swirl of emotions that I feel. Sometimes I am enjoying this time at home, especially since I usually spend so much time traveling. Sometimes I am bored. Sometimes I long for a return to normalcy, even as I know that “normal” will probably be different now. And sometimes I grieve the things I cannot do because of the coronavirus crisis.

I have good days and bad days, and maybe you do, too. Several things keep me going, and one of them is regular prayer.

If you have an abundant prayer life, wonderful. Maybe you wish you had a deeper life of prayer. Or maybe you have been in the habit of daily prayer in the past, but it just hasn’t seemed to work these days. We all wax and wane on our journey as disciples. There’s no shame in admitting we’ve wandered into the desert and we need to find our way to the oasis.

Someone years ago gave me good advice on prayer. Don’t wait to feel like praying. Start praying, and the feeling will come along later. We might imagine that next week we’ll feel holier or have more time. But the reality is that today is the day we can change. So let’s change today. It’s never too late or too soon to start praying.

Forward Movement has lots of resources to help you along the way. We have morning prayer and evening prayer podcasts. We have an app for Android or Apple that offers Forward Day by Day and the daily office. We have a whole website devoted to daily prayer resources. And of course, there’s our flagship offering, Forward Day by Day.

If you’re used to getting Forward Day by Day at your church, maybe they’ll be getting you your own copy at home. You can also subscribe and receive Forward Day by Day in your own mailbox or by email. If you end up with an extra, you can always give it to a friend.

And, of course, we don’t need anything to pray, really. We can just talk to God. If you talk to God regularly, I hope you’ll share your joy in prayer with others. And if you don’t, give it a try. God is always ready to hear our prayers, even when we’re not so sure we’re ready to offer them.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Introducing Matthew
With Vicki Garvey

For six weeks this Easter, meet with other students from around the world for a free, live, online class on the Gospel of Matthew with Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

In this class, Vicki will teach us about the author, origin, setting, and message of the Gospel of Matthew. Classes will meet live on Thursday nights via zoom from April 23-May 28, 2020, and they will last an hour.

This class is ideal for people participating in the Good Book Club 2020, and for anyone interested in learning more about the Gospel of Matthew.


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!


New Release:
Come & See: Reflections on the Life of Jesus

Each day since 1935, Forward Day by Day has offered daily devotions rooted in the Word of God and love of Jesus. Now, for the first time, some of the best meditations from the past three decades are collected into one volume and arranged chronologically, from Jesus’ birth to resurrection. Although the devotions were written in different contexts by a variety of authors, this collection offers a rich tapestry of reflections, some poignant, others pointed, but all committed to a way of love.

Come & See is curated by Sanford Smith, a pastor from Omaha, Nebraska, who began reading and collecting his favorite Forward Day by Day meditations in 1985. Today, at age ninety-five, he still volunteers four days a week as a hospital chaplain but every morning, he puts first things first and opens Forward Day by Day to read and pray.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the printing of this title has been delayed until late summer. Pre-order your print copy today, but also know that we’ve made the e-book version available early. You can find it on Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and at the iTunes store.


In case you missed it…

New ChurchNext course: A Covid-19 Spiritual Survival Kit | ChurchNext

Held by Baptism: Life Everlasting in the Midst of a Pandemic | Earth & Altar

Keeping our Community: spiritual connection and physical distance | Grow Christians

Virtual Evangelism | Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices

Free Shipping on orders of $50 throughout April | Forward Movement


 

A good Easter with the Good Book Club

Dear friends in Christ,

Like most of you, I spent Easter morning at home, saying prayers and watching a service elsewhere online. It was not like any other Easter in my lifetime. And while it wasn’t an Easter I would have hoped for, I was still able to celebration the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

While Easter day might be the most muted Easter we’ll know, the coronavirus crisis also creates opportunity. Perhaps as we’re all at home, we can cultivate a greater awareness of Eastertide as a season of fifty days.

We can say or sing alleluias every day. We can find an image of the resurrection of Jesus and place it in our homes to remind us of the joy and wonder of the triumph of God’s love. And we can spend time with God’s word.

Forward Movement has partnered with other organizations to offer the Good Book Club this Eastertide. Over the 50 days of Easter, you are invited to join with people around the world in reading through the entire Gospel of Matthew. If you haven’t already started, it will be easy to catch up. We’re just four days in. And that leaves 46 more days of Eastertide!

You can find the readings on the Good Book Club website. Each day we post the readings and a reflection question on the Good Book Club Facebook page. And there’s a podcast with the readings, a meditation, a reflection question, and a prayer. If you’re curious about the Gospel of Matthew, we have prepared a short primer.

Everything I’ve mentioned is free. If you’d like a guided path through this season, A Journey with Matthew is available as an ebook for only $7.99. You can buy the paper book, too, but it will take a few days to arrive. It has the gospel reading, a meditation, reflection questions, and a prayer each day (same as the podcast).

There are more resources listed online, and perhaps your diocese or congregation has created some too.

Most importantly, I encourage you to take advantage of this time at home. While we are certainly struggling with many aspects of being forced to stay home, there can also be opportunities. Perhaps this season is the means to engage in a Bible study in your home, whether by yourself, or with other members of your household, or with a friend, or with your congregation online.

Easter blessings to you all. Even in this strange time, may you know the joys of God’s word and of Christ’s resurrection.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Pixabay
Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Introducing Matthew
With Vicki Garvey

For six weeks this Easter, meet with other students from around the world for a free, live, online class on the Gospel of Matthew with Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

In this class, Vicki will teach us about the author, origin, setting, and message of the Gospel of Matthew. Classes will meet live on Thursday nights via zoom from April 23-May 28, 2020, and they will last an hour.

This class is ideal for people participating in the Good Book Club 2020, and for anyone interested in learning more about the Gospel of Matthew.


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!


New Release: The Heart of a Leader

In The Heart of a Leader, Bishop Edward S. Little moves through 2 Timothy, drawing on the lessons and teachings of Paul as a guide for mentoring and encouraging others to a life deeply committed to Christ. While we live in a radically different culture than Timothy and Paul, we struggle today with some of the same hard spiritual questions. We puzzle our way through intractable conflict. We face a world that is sometimes indifferent to the gospel and other times, outright hostile to it. Like Timothy and Paul, we wonder: What is essential to our Christian faith?

Paul’s second letter to Timothy can instruct us as surely as it taught its early readers. We are all Timothy. We stand in need of mentoring. We are all Paul, with apprentices in our care.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the printing of this title has been delayed until late summer. Pre-order your print copy today, but also know that we’ve made the e-book version available early. You can find it on Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and at the iTunes store.


In case you missed it…

The Cross and the Coronavirus | Earth & Altar

Easter is more than what happens inside red church doors | Grow Christians

Read our latest issue of Odyssey | Forward Movement

Free Shipping on orders of $50 throughout April | Forward Movement


Forward Today: Dispersed, yet gathered

Dear friends in Christ,

At beginning of the Great Vigil of Easter, the celebrant bids us, “the Church invites her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in vigil and prayer…” Perhaps there has never been a time when the church was so dispersed as at this moment. For we are dispersed not just across nations and peoples, but even from our congregational gatherings into our homes. Around the world, in many nations, there will be no full churches for Easter. Instead, we are dispersed into our homes.

And, yet, as that bidding reminds us, we are still the church. Though are we not together, our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not taken away. We are united by indissoluble bonds, even when we are not physically together.

Last week I wrote a bit about my own grief over Holy Week. This week, I want to offer some specific suggestions for ways to get through the Three Holy Days (Triduum Sacrum) of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Eve.

First of all, if your church is offering resources or online worship, by all means, join with your local congregation. Please let them know you’re grateful for whatever they’re doing. Your church leaders are trying to figure this out as they go, and they’re almost certainly doing their very best. This is a time for grace and prayer.

If your church isn’t offering online worship, don’t despair! There are lots of options. I have been enjoying the offerings from St. James’ Church in New York, NY. Another New York church, Trinity Wall Street, is also offering excellent worship online. Either place allows you to watch the liturgy and join in by looking at the service leaflets they provide.

This might be the year for us all to really dive into the scriptures. You can get the lessons for Maundy ThursdayGood Friday, and Easter Eve online. Spend some time reading and meditating on the lessons, especially the gospel readings. With everything else pared away, we can really savor God’s word—and the most amazing story ever told.

If you cannot receive Holy Communion, perhaps these prayers of spiritual communion from St. Augustine’s Prayer Book will help. Or you might find an image of Jesus Christ and pray a Eucharistic devotion called the Holy Hour.

Whatever you do this week, know that you are not alone. You are a member of the church, and you are in the body of Christ, joined with Christians dispersed around the world. You are never separated from God’s love.

It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Ryk Neethling, Flickr

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Introducing Matthew
With Vicki Garvey

For six weeks this Easter, meet with other students from around the world for a free, live, online class on the Gospel of Matthew with Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

In this class, Vicki will teach us about the author, origin, setting, and message of the Gospel of Matthew. Classes will meet live on Thursday nights via zoom from April 23-May 28, 2020, and they will last an hour.

This class is ideal for people participating in the Good Book Club 2020, and for anyone interested in learning more about the Gospel of Matthew.


Tune in!

Hear today’s Forward Day by Day reflection or find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast. Be sure to tune in to the newly available Evening at Prayer podcast.

Find a special episode of the Forward Day by Day podcast that was released April 4th, where some of our favorite authors discuss Mary Magdalene and the angels at the tomb!

Available anywhere you listen to podcasts!


New Release: The Heart of a Leader

In The Heart of a Leader, Bishop Edward S. Little moves through 2 Timothy, drawing on the lessons and teachings of Paul as a guide for mentoring and encouraging others to a life deeply committed to Christ. While we live in a radically different culture than Timothy and Paul, we struggle today with some of the same hard spiritual questions. We puzzle our way through intractable conflict. We face a world that is sometimes indifferent to the gospel and other times, outright hostile to it. Like Timothy and Paul, we wonder: What is essential to our Christian faith?

Paul’s second letter to Timothy can instruct us as surely as it taught its early readers. We are all Timothy. We stand in need of mentoring. We are all Paul, with apprentices in our care.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the printing of this title has been delayed until late summer. Pre-order your print copy today, but also know that we’ve made the e-book version available early. You can find it on Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and at the iTunes store.


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It is incredible and moving to witness the interactions of our online Forward Day by Day community. Each day, members of this vibrant and active community come together to reflect on the day’s meditation and pray for each other. And although most have never met in real life, they know each other by name and pray, grieve, and celebrate together. Join the conversation at prayer.forwardmovement.org and on our Facebook page. —Alyssa Finke, Marketing Coordinator at Forward Movement.


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“I am posting this in honor of Marshall Williams, a true FDBD saint who was referred to as the “Moses” of the online FDBD community. It’s very fitting that Marshall was able to soldier on in his fight against cancer to make it to one more Veteran’s Day. Marshall’s Dad was one of the “Greatest Generation,” men and women who sacrificed much for a noble cause. Marshall himself lived every day of his life dedicated to others. He is an inspiration to us all. We need more leaders like Marshall: leaders who listen, empathize, encourage, uplift. Peace be with you, Marshall.”


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