Forward Today: Presented to God

Dear friends in Christ,

“Presentation of Christ in Temple Icon” by Ted (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Tomorrow the church celebrates the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, observed exactly 40 days after Christmas Day. This commemoration recalls the events recorded in Luke 2:22-40. Jesus’ parents took him to the Temple to present him to God, as the Law required for all firstborn sons.

In the Gospel account of the Presentation, we meet Simeon, a man who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until after he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Simeon was waiting. One day, he was in the Temple when he saw two parents bringing their infant son to be dedicated to the Lord. It might have looked like a perfectly ordinary event, but this time was different. You see, Simeon knew that the child Jesus was his Savior.

At that moment, he praised God with words that we now sing as the Nunc dimittis. In Rite Two language, Simeon’s praises are recorded like this:

“Lord, you now have set your servant free *
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, *
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations, *
and the glory of your people Israel.”

In an instant, Simeon recognizes the fulfillment of God’s word both in the tiny baby and in his meeting of his Lord. Simeon knows that this infant lives for the whole world; he has come to enlighten all nations.

I love this moment, because there is so much to see and to learn. Jesus is for everyone. God’s promises are faithful and true. But I especially give thanks to God that Simeon could recognize amidst the ordinary routine a most extraordinary encounter with Jesus Christ.

I pray that when I meet Jesus, whether in his people or in the sacraments, I will have the grace to praise God for meeting him. We all meet Jesus, whether in this life or the life to come. Let us join Simeon’s song to proclaim Jesus as the light that shines brightly with God’s grace and mercy for all nations.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: Called through grace

“St. Paul on road to Damascus” by Ted (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Dear friends in Christ,

Today the church commemorates the Conversion of St. Paul. The story of St. Paul’s dramatic experience on the road to Damascus is told in Acts 26:9-21. Jesus appeared to St. Paul and challenged him to repent from persecuting followers of Jesus and to embrace the Gospel of Christ’s light.

Imagine what that was like for St. Paul. His entire identity was probably rooted in persecuting others, and he was able to give all that up. Think about what it must have been like when the “new Paul” walked into a room of Christians who would certainly fear him and possibly hate him. And, yet, he loved those early Christians until he earned their trust and was able to be their pastor.

I used to not be a fan of St. Paul. I read some of the letters he wrote, and I didn’t appreciate his perspective. Some of his writings still confound me. But I learned to love St. Paul when I began to see him as an inspired human being, with emphasis on the human part. We’re all messed up, and St. Paul was no different. He’s the first to admit that.

Despite his many flaws, Jesus Christ called him to a new life of grace and mercy. That should be encouraging for all of us.

So today, I invite you not just to remember and give thanks for St. Paul, but even more to give thanks for God’s call to us.

As St. Paul was telling his story in the letter to the Galatians, he wrote this: “when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace…”

That’s just it. St. Paul didn’t do anything to deserve God’s grace or God’s call. Quite the opposite. And you and I have not earned God’s grace, but God showers us with blessings through his love, grace, and mercy.

Let us give thanks for God’s mercy and grace. And let us give thanks for all those moments when people are willing to turn away from evil and toward righteousness. St. Paul is our example here.

Are you ready for God’s call? Will you follow St. Paul’s example and go in a new direction?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Saint Paul as Mentor, Model, and Encourager: The Heart of a Leader

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From Grow Christians: The Larger than Life Ministry of Phillips Brooks

Scott Gunn returns to work

All of us at Forward Movement are thrilled that the Rev. Scott Gunn has returned from medical leave. For the next couple of weeks, he’ll be around our Cincinnati office, and then we expect he’ll return to frequent travel across the church as preacher, speaker, and retreat leader.

As you may recall, the situation was quite serious last July when we shared news that Scott had experienced a medical crisis while on vacation in Singapore. Since then, he’s received excellent medical care, both in Singapore and the USA. More important, he’s living testimony of the power of prayer, and several of his medical providers have described him as a “walking miracle.”

Scott said, “I’m grateful beyond words for God’s grace and mercy, and I’m so glad to be back at Forward Movement full-time to continue the work God has given me to do.”

During Scott’s absence, the Forward Movement staff kept things running smoothly, while the board of directors took on extra work and kept a steady hand on the helm.

The Rev. Kate Wesch, chair of the board, said, “Thank you to everyone who has supported Scott and Forward Movement with your prayers and well wishes during these months. We are overjoyed that Scott is returning and give thanks to God for his recovery.”

Scott’s medical team reports that his prognosis is excellent, and last month, he had successful heart surgery that repaired underlying issues that led to last summer’s crisis. His doctors anticipate that he will not have further cardiac issues.

All of us at Forward Movement are grateful for this good news, and we are also glad to have Scott back.

Forward Today: He’s back!

Dear friends in Christ,

I’m delighted to report that I’m back to work as Forward Movement’s executive director after an extended medical leave. Over the last few months, I’ve been on quite a journey. Let me say a few words about my time away, and then a few words about the future.

As you may have seen, I had some unexpected medical drama last summer while I was on vacation in Singapore. After about six weeks of medical care there, I was finally cleared to return home in early September. Since then, I’ve been focused on getting stronger and healthier.

In the middle of December, I had heart surgery to repair the underlying issues that led to last summer’s issues. I’m pleased to report that the surgery went very well, and it appears that everything is now working as it should.

I’m thrilled to report that my doctors have cleared me to return to work, and as of this week, I’m back at work full-time. I expect that I’ll return to traveling in February, and I am already looking forward to resuming my hobby of ranking airports.

None of this was planned, and it certainly wasn’t fun. Still, there are some positive aspects to the crisis I’ve navigated. For one thing, it has opened me to see God’s presence in my life in new ways.

I’m also profoundly grateful for prayers from strangers and friends all around the world. Your prayers made a difference, and I’m inspired by your generosity.

The Forward Movement staff rose to the occasion and kept things running smoothly in my absence. Our board of directors took on extra work and kept a steady hand on the helm. Forward Movement drew on the experience of Beth Lewis, retired head of 1517 Media, to serve as acting executive director during my medical leave.

While I was in Singapore, my daily prayer life was anchored by our own prayer website. I’d used it before, but it had never been so central in my life. I encourage you to check out this free site if you don’t know of its riches.

Mostly I’m here to say thank you—to God, to my staff colleagues, to our board, to Beth, and to all of you for your prayers.

I’m also here to say that I’m excited about what’s coming down the road for Forward Movement and for me. Soon I will be back on the church conference and speaking circuit, and I hope I’ll have a chance to chat with many of you in person.

Blessings to you.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


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Forward Today: The gifts of praying together

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.


This January marks one year of my most consistent, most life-giving spiritual practices. Every Monday through Saturday in 2022, I’ve started my day by praying Morning Prayer with a group of friends over Zoom.

This is longer than I’ve ever kept up with a consistent habit like this—longer than any workout program, self-improvement life hack, or New Year’s resolution. How did we make it this far?

We didn’t all start out as friends—just folks from various parts of the Internet. Some of us knew each other in person (attending the same parish, or old college classmates.) Others of us were only connected online. What we had in common was our desire to pray.

Over the past year, we have groaned over Job and puzzled over Numbers, and wondered what Jesus was saying to us in the Gospels. We found our favorite canticles and even tried singing them sometimes. We adopted our own cycles of prayer, learning the names of congregations in all 7 dioceses where we had members. And we prayed for each other—for concerns both big and small.

The biggest gift this community has given me is a relief from decision fatigue. I could start my day by hunting down an insightful Bible passage or by extemporizing the perfect prayer. But on the days I wake up tired and uninspired, that extra bit of work is probably going to mean I don’t pray at all. The pattern of prayer we have in the BCP makes it easier to get started. (Even more so if, like our group, you use an app or website that takes the page-flipping out of the equation.)

Praying with a group takes this one step further. I’m not deciding each morning when—or whether—to pray. If I snooze my alarm one more time, I’ll leave the rest of the group hanging. So I show up for them, and they show up for me.

That means showing up in the midst of our daily mess. On any given day, someone is calling in to read their part on the bus to work, or just listening while they get ready for a work meeting. Just last week, I had to hand off the officiant’s part halfway through the Apostles’ Creed to break up an argument between my kids. There’s no pressure to be perfect and reverent—because if we had to be perfect and reverent, we’d never pray together in the first place. Instead we meet each other where we are, and God meets us there too.

We’ve made it this far by making one decision: just show up for prayer each day. It’s a big decision that takes lots of small decisions off our plate. And it has borne fruit for us. As I start my day in prayer, I’m more likely to notice what God is doing throughout the rest of my day. I’m thankful for my friends in helping me show up, and excited to learn what God will show us in the coming year of prayer.

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Ellsworth
Marketing Coordinator


More from our ministry:

Join a community reading through Scripture: The Good Book Club

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From Grow Christians: Changing Diapers, Changing Lives

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Forward Today: The Good Book Club

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 post comes from The Rev. Elizabeth Felicetti, writer of this year’s Good Book Club weekly meditations. Read more to see how The Good Book Club has been important to her ministry, and sign up to read along with us at goodbookclub.org.

The Good Book Club has transformed my ministry at the parish where I serve as rector, St. David’s Episcopal Church, in suburban Richmond, Virginia. As you may know, the Good Book Club invites people to read a short section of the Bible every day for a period of time. Over the years that Forward Movement has hosted the Good Book Club, thousands have read together each of the four gospels, the Book of Acts, Romans, and Exodus. This year, starting with Epiphany, Jan. 6, through Shrove Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Good Book Club will explore Ruth and Esther, two books from the Old Testament that explore the faithfulness and courage of remarkable women.

Although Bible study played a large role in my own discernment to ordination, I had only offered a few short-term evening Bible studies at St. David’s until 2018, when I decided to use the Good Book Club study on Luke as a Lenten program, and then continued on with a small group to continue with Acts during the season of Easter. We had a brief eucharist each Wednesday morning followed by an hour-long study, and we loved that so much that in the fall we started again. Every year, we use whatever the Good Book Club offers and then supplement with other studies the rest of the year.

After last year’s Good Book Club, I reached out to Scott Gunn and Richelle Thompson to ask what the study would be in 2023. When they mentioned Ruth and Esther, I had so many ideas to offer that I asked if they would like me to write some of the materials! I’m still pinching myself that they said yes. This fall, I worked with the Forward Movement team to write the introductions to Ruth 101 and Esther 101 and a free, downloadable six-week study guide (available in English and Spanish). In addition, each week during the Good Book Club, I’ll write a “preview” email, looking ahead to the scripture readings and offering context and questions for reflection. (Sign up for these emails here!) I also encourage you to sign up for the (free!) live ChurchNext class led by Lindsay Hardin Freeman, author of Bible Women. As I write these materials, I was able to draw on my experiences with Ruth and Esther: in seminary, I translated Ruth as part of a small Hebrew reading class back, and I wrote about Esther in my book that comes out in August.

My approach to Bible study is different than it may be for some others. Questions about what we read might mean for our everyday lives today are equally as important to me as ancient context. I find writing a probing question similar to writing a line of poetry. I hope you won’t skip over the questions in the weekly emails or in the six-week study but will linger over them, pondering them yourselves as well as, ideally, exploring them in a community. These are not questions about how well you retained what you read, but how what you read might inform how you are living your life and how you think and reflect about daily issues. That’s my approach to teaching adults: we learn best by discussion and reflection, not regurgitation.

The Good Book Club reminds me of why I felt called to ministry more than twenty years ago. I look forward to the weekly Wednesday eucharist and Bible study each week. Being a rector often means plunging toilets, writing letters of recommendation, and signing things. What a joy to meet with a small group of people to puzzle and pray over the Bible!

I’m thrilled to be studying the Good Book with all of you!

In Christ,

Elizabeth Felicetti

The Rev. Elizabeth Felicetti is the rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in North Chesterfield, Virginia. Her books, Unexpected Abundance and Irreverent Prayers (co-authored with the Rev. Samantha Vincent-Alexander), are forthcoming from Eerdmans.


More from our ministry:

Preorder the expanded second edition of the bestselling Bible Women

Prepare for Lent: Get your Join the Journey calendar today

Follow the story of the Bible with The Path

Support free resources like The Good Book Club: Donate today

Forward Today: Giving from abundance

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 post comes from Lindsay Barrett-Adler, Forward Movement’s Development Associate.


“What are we going to do with hundreds of pairs of flip flops and 50-year-old choir robes?” Just over ten years ago, I worked at a non-profit organization to serve friends experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia. Assuming there had been some bizarre mistake, I called the church contact to learn more about this donation. The volunteer assured me we received the right items. She went on to explain that the uncomfortable choir robes were meant to be sewn into blankets (by… someone) and the flip flops were indeed for our homeless guests. In December. In Philadelphia.

How often do we, as charitable Christians, fall into this trap of giving items we did not really treasure in the first place (think the sad can of lima beans for the food pantry) and then convincing ourselves that “they” (whoever that might be) should be grateful to have received anything in the first place?

A few months ago we received the following request from Kevin, who is incarcerated and asked for our help:

“I became a member of the church in 2009 here in prison, and I have never had a nice Book of Common Prayer. I’m wondering if there is any way your ministry would be willing to help me get the deluxe gift edition of The Book of Common Prayer and Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book. I know those items are expensive, and I wish I had a way to pay for them, but unfortunately, I receive no funds to do so. To receive these two items would be a great blessing and will last for years to come.”– Kevin

The knee-jerk reaction from a nonprofit organization might be to give what is best for the bottom line; be generous, but only in a way that keeps us in the black. They should be thankful for anything. But God says an emphatic “No” to this line of thinking. God delights in humanity and desperately yearns for our flourishing. God does not want any one of us to just get by, to have the bare minimum, to scrimp and scrape. Kevin is a beloved child of God and he will receive a beautiful, new prayer book as he requested—thanks to the generosity of our donors.

This season of giving, I am so thankful that Forward Movement says yes to requests like Kevin’s, offering materials and resources out of the gifts first given us. We hope you will consider joining this ministry of abundance by giving at forwardmovement.org/give. We appreciate your support.

Yours faithfully,

Lindsay Barrett-Adler

Lindsay Barrett-Adler serves as Development Associate at Forward Movement. She is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and Capital University, oddly hopeful Philadelphia sports fan, and mother of three small children.

Forward Today in 2022: Messages of hope

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.

We’re wrapping up the year by featuring our favorite or most popular messages of 2022. Today’s “Top 5” post comes from Margaret Ellsworth, Forward Movement’s Marketing Coordinator.

Dear friends in Christ,

We’ve taken a look at our favorite content of 2022 from Grow Christians and ChurchNext – now it’s time to look at our favorite messages from this very blog. As I read through this year’s posts, I give thanks for the community of Forward Movement’s supporters during this tumultuous year. Thank you to Forward Movement staff and board members who have shared messages of hope and good news on this blog in Scott’s absence. Thank you also to our readers – for reading and sharing these messages, for your support of Forward Movement’s ministry, and for your continued prayers for Scott’s health and healing. It’s a privilege to join you each week, looking for what God is up to in the world.

Here are five of our most-read and most-shared posts from 2022.

Curb appeal – by Scott Gunn
“Church seekers might never find their way into a great church if there isn’t enough curb appeal.”

Of prayer and patience – by Kate Wesch
“If I have learned anything from Scott, it’s that God can do anything, and the power of prayer can indeed be miraculous.”

Putting our faith and trust in God – by Miriam McKenney
“Spending time reading scripture, practicing spiritual practices, and even knowing it’s essential to do those things is due to Scott’s relentless call to all of us to get closer to God.”

Back-to-school habits of prayer – by Margaret Ellsworth
“If you’re hoping to begin or re-commit to a daily spiritual practice this fall, here are a few of my favorite ways to start.”

Holy Cross Day – by Kate Wesch
“May we all glory in this mystery of our redemption, take up our cross—even if it’s wobbly, or listing to one side—and follow Jesus.”

We look forward to sharing even more news and inspiration with you in 2023!

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Ellsworth
Marketing Coordinator

Forward Today in 2022: ChurchNext

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.

We’re wrapping up the year by featuring our favorite or most popular messages of 2022. Today’s “Top 5” post comes from Liz Brignac, ChurchNext Course Designer.

I have learned so much from all of the courses we launched this year, but I think these five are the ones that can make the most difference in the world. If everyone took these five classes and lived according to what they teach, the world would truly change for the better.

Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism with Ivy Forsythe-Brown and Tom Ferguson
This free course might be the course I’m most proud of, not just this year, but in all my years at ChurchNext because of its import and its quality and how many people came together to make it the class it is. Ivy and Tom have so much to teach us about how systemic racism operates and in particular about The Episcopal Church’s history with systemic racism in the U.S. If you aren’t an expert on this issue already, you will come out knowing a lot more than you did going in. You’ll also find clear steps on how to learn more and what to do next. Thanks again to the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Officers’ Advisory Council on Becoming Beloved Community and the Diocese of Michigan for funding this course.

Christians and Climate Change with Bill McKibben
It was a privilege to work on this course with Bill McKibben, one of the first people to bring the severity of the climate change problem to public attention in the 1990s. Bill explains why, among all the issues pushing for our attention today, Christians and citizens most need to pay attention to climate change. We always hear how it can’t wait. Bill explains the urgency. We may feel it’s too big for us. Bill explains clearly and succinctly why we can make a difference and the most useful things we can do. My priorities changed because of Bill’s class, and I highly recommend it.

Gleaning Today: Conserving Food for Hungry People with Michael Binger
I like this course because it teaches about an incredibly practical and efficient way to be useful in any community. Michael Binger shows how, if you want to pack in a lot of value for your time, it’s hard to beat gleaning. Concerned about hungry people? Gleaning feeds them. Concerned about the massive waste inherent in the U.S. food production system? Gleaning conserves food that would otherwise rot. Interested in helping people become healthy as well as in feeding them? Gleaning offers them nutrition, not just calories. Want to build community with others? Spend time in a field picking sweet potatoes with them. This class delivers solid information about an efficient way to do a lot of good in the world.

Grace and Depression with Rob Hirschfeld
It can be hard for people – particularly those in positions of leadership – to be open about experiences with depression. The more often leaders like Episcopal Bishop Rob Hirschfeld speak and write openly about seeking help, the less stigma people with depression face. If we get cancer or break a leg, most of us don’t hesitate to go to the doctor. But if our brain chemistry becomes misaligned, we may resist getting help – in part because the disease itself impairs our judgment, convinces us that seeking help for this problem is a weakness. If everyone who had depression took Rob’s class and heeded his words, more people who need help would seek it.

Introducing Christian Vegetarianism with Steve Kaufman
As a non-vegetarian, I was surprised to find this class applicable to my own experience as well as to those who are inclined toward full vegetarianism. Steve Kaufman does not judge people who eat meat, nor does he suggest pure vegetarianism is the only way to live. Instead, he offers practical reasons why people might try eating less meat – with the possible goal of eventually reducing meat consumption to nothing. Some of his reasons are moral; some biblical; some environmental. All are interesting. Steve’s class encourages an approach to food that vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike will find enlightening.

You can always check out our full library of courses at ChurchNext.tv.

Yours faithfully,

Liz Brignac
ChurchNext Course Designer

Forward Today in 2022: Grow Christians

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.

We’re wrapping up the year by featuring our favorite or most popular messages of 2022. Today’s “Top 5” post comes from Allison Sandlin Liles, editor of Grow Christians.

Grow Christians LogoNearly seven years ago, Nurya Love Parish and Forward Movement launched GrowChristians.org to help Episcopal parents teach children about their faith at home. Those first couple of years, posts nearly exclusively covered the major feast days of our liturgical year and offered creative ways to teach and involve young children in their celebrations. While Grow Christians still highlights Saints and Feast Days, the honest posts about parenting and living a life of faith gained the most traction in 2022. Perhaps a half dozen years spent in the Grow Christians community sufficiently prepared adults to talk with children about Holy Cross Day and the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, and now our readers crave authentic reflections on everyday life.

Here are the top five posts from 2022:

Faithfully and Earnestly Confirmed not to be Confirmed by Melissa Wilcox

“A few people asked me if I was embarrassed as a priest not to have my son confirmed. And, I never felt embarrassed…I know that through baptism God has claimed Elias as his own. He was sealed by the Holy Spirit, one person of the Trinity (his own stumbling block) and marked as Christ’s own forever.”

Envisioning Jesus in Our Own Image by Allison Sandlin Liles

“After my husband and son left, my ten-year-old whispered her question, ‘Mom, I thought Jesus had white skin?’”

Praying Compline with children during this summer of disruption, violence, and injustice by Bonnie Smith Whitehouse

“In a season when I often find myself experiencing more rage and grief than I ever have in my forty-seven years, saying the short liturgy of Compline alongside my family teaches me to keep dreaming of and working for a church that inspires, enlightens, and liberates. Ending the day bathed in candlelight at the table with our children reminds me that Christ’s dream for loving our neighbor and offering liberation lives in me because God’s spirit dwells in me.”

How do you talk to your young children about war? by Lydia Bucklin

“As we got ready for bed that evening, the last thing we talked about were the choices we make. And I repeated to my kids the words my mom and dad (God rest their souls) said to me and my brothers all those years ago. ‘We have choices every day about how we treat people. The language we use. The jokes we laugh at. The way we include or ignore people. The times we choose to stay angry and mad, or the ways we work to forgive and show love.’”

Every Last Thing is a Season by Emily Rutledge

“This Easter I am practicing resurrection. I am practicing hope. I am practicing knowing that no matter how bad it gets there is redemption, even after death. I want my children to practice, too. I want them to know how all the seasons are holy and natural and universal. I want them to know that when their personal Lents arrive, Easter will follow. I want them to sing songs of celebration with their friends when they are surprised by unexpected joy and to look at their lives knowing that everything, every – last – thing, is a season.”

For more thoughtful reflections like these, stop by GrowChristians.org, any time of the year.

Yours faithfully,

Allison Sandlin Liles
Editor, GrowChristians.org