Forward Today: The world, or your life?

Photo by Adriel Kloppenburg on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday’s Gospel brings a challenging message from Jesus. Among other things, Jesus says, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?”

Wow. That’s rough. But it makes total sense. If all I worry about is protecting myself, I end up closing myself off from opportunities for God’s grace to work in my life and, through me, in the world. It makes everything about me. But if I can make everything about God’s grace and mercy, I begin to live a life that is steeped in gratitude and overflowing with love.

Jesus says we have to choose whether riches are more important to us than living an abundant, joyful life. If I spend my life chasing earthly things, I will almost certainly miss out an knowing heavenly things. Focusing on stuff leads me to lose my soul for the sake of… not much, really.

But when we make God’s grace and mercy the core of our being, we discover gratitude beyond our imagining. And we cannot help but spill over with mercy and grace for the world around us. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly astounding.

This season of Lent offers us the gift of a time to focus on what’s important. Perhaps we first need a reminder so we notice what’s important! And then we can try to live the life to which Jesus calls us—rooted in gratitude, grace, and mercy.

I hope you’ll join me in asking the big question. What’s most important? Chasing worldly things? Or seeking heavenly things?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Explore this gospel text: A Journey with Mark

Hear from churches focusing on what’s important: Signs of Life

Reset your approach to money and faith: The Unjust Steward

Start your day with scripture and prayer: Forward Day by Day

Forward Today: Lent is about true love

Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

Today’s juxtaposition of Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday offers the perfect occasion for a critical reminder. This season of Lent is all about love. No, it’s not necessarily about romantic love. But this season invites us to return to the Lord—to focus on love of God and love of neighbor.

89 years ago, the very first publication of Forward Movement was a set of Lenten devotions. The founding leaders of Forward Movement saw Lent as a vital time to move forward on our journey as a church and as individuals. A few weeks ago, a friend sent me a transcript of a sermon preached at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine just before Lent in 1935. Bishop William Manning offered what he called “A Charge to the Diocese of New York on the Observance of Lent and the Forward Movement.”

Bishop Manning said, in part:

In the Forward Movement that we now need, and are undertaking, the first step must be a movement back to the use of our Bibles and our Prayer Books. A sincere, intelligent, and believing use of these two books by all of us will bring an awakening of interest, a deepening of conviction, a revival of faith and life which will arouse the whole Church, and at this time in which we are living we need this in every Diocese, in every Parish, and in every Home. Every man and woman who will faithfully read his Bible, and faithfully follow the teachings of his Prayer Book, will come near to Jesus, and this is the soul of our religion as Christians.

I encourage you to read the whole charge for some inspiration and very specific practices to try this Lent as we all repent and return to the Lord. What’s old is new again in our spiritual practices.

If you do not own a Bible you love, buy one to read and study at home. If you do not own a Book of Common Prayer, ask for one at your church or enjoy this lovely gift edition Book of Common Prayer from Forward Movement. If you are on the go, you can pray the Daily Office wherever you are, by reading or by listening to our podcasts, on our prayer website. However you do it, I strongly encourage you to take the good bishop’s advice and use this season to savor the scriptures and the prayer book.

The Bible and the Book of Common Prayer are not in themselves the ends of our spiritual journey, but they are treasures which can help us discover true love: the grace of God, the joy of loving God, and the delight of loving our neighbors. Have a blessed Lent.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. Do you want to pray through Lent with a devotional this year? It’s not too late. Download an ebook of Will You?, our newest Lenten devotional, from Amazon or Apple Books. You can also listen to Will You? as an audiobook from Audible or Apple Books. Our other Lent devotionals are also available as ebooks – browse to see which one speaks to you this season.

More from our ministry:

Laugh and learn about the saints this season: Lent Madness

Start your day with scripture and reflection: Forward Day by Day

Prepare for Easter: Order your Easter calendars today

Forward Today: Giving thanks for the Book of Common Prayer

Dear friends in Christ,

Years ago, when I served as a parish priest, I spoke with quite a few folks who found their way to the Episcopal Church. Our church was growing, and new members came from other church backgrounds and from no church background. I loved listening to what God was doing in their lives.

A common thread in those stories was gratitude for Episcopal liturgy, especially for the prayer book. People said they loved the sense of connection to the church in all times and places, liturgies that were hundreds of years old yet still compelling in today’s world. They spoke highly of the poetic and theologically rich language.

If you’ve read Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices, you’ll know how much I love our liturgy. The Anglican liturgical tradition certainly not the only way to rightly and beautifully worship God! But the prayer book is certainly a treasure to enjoy.

Forward Movement publishes a beautiful edition of the Book of Common Prayer (1979). We want you to have a book that is as beautiful as the liturgy. The edition we publish has a leather cover, gilt-edge pages, and a ribbon. Perhaps most exciting to me personally, the book also offers red rubrics. The word “rubric” literally means red, after all. So the red-letter days are actually red! It looks lovely.

So if you need a prayer book, or if you’re looking for a gift for someone on a spiritual journey, check it out. (There are bulk discounts if you’re buying several at once.)

But that’s not all. Today I also want to share a new PDF of the prayer book. As we prepared this edition, we realized that some of the PDFs floating around have quite a few errors. And they don’t show rubrics in red. As a gift to the church, Forward Movement is glad to share a PDF of the whole prayer book. By canon, the Book of Common Prayer (1979) is not copyrighted, and neither is our PDF. You are welcome to share it or post it on your church website, or whatever you like.

Whatever book or digital resource you use, I commend the richness of the prayer book to you.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. We also offer the complete BCP in Braille.

More from our ministry:

Listen to this year’s Lent devotional on Audible or Apple Books

Explore the spirituality of the BCP: Inwardly Digest

Another beautiful, portable prayer book: Hour by Hour

Pray from the Book of Common Prayer each day:

Forward Today: Savoring Lent

Dear friends in Christ,

It’s hard to believe, but Lent begins two weeks from today. From many conversations over years, I know that some people really look forward to this season and others dread it. A long time ago, I didn’t love the subdued season of Lent, but I grew to love it.

Lent can be a joyful time. Shocking? It shouldn’t be—even the Book of Common Prayer speaks of this season as a time to “prepare with joy for the Paschal feast.” With joy!

How can this be? Lent is a time to turn back toward God’s ways, to repent. Lent is a time to grow closer to Jesus. Lent is a time to live the life that God intends for us. What could be more joyful than that?

In its wisdom, the church suggests several ways to use the season of Lent for our good. We are encouraged to practice fasting and self-denial, to realize that our health and happiness doesn’t come from things, but only from God’s grace and mercy. We are urged to spend time in prayer and in studying the scriptures. We are commended in giving alms.

I encourage you to take advantage of whatever opportunities your local church offers. It is good to spend this time in the company of others. Forward Movement also offers a wide array of resources to support your Lenten journey. We have published Lenten daily devotions. We have a website and an app with resources for daily prayer. We offer a joyful practice in Lent Madness—learning from the saints.

With just two weeks until Lent starts, now is the time to make a plan. How will you savor this season, this time to return to the Lord?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. Your church might want to order copies of our colorable Lent and Easter calendar posters. These engaging posters are fun for all ages—to color in the pictures and to find ways to engage these seasons.

More from our ministry:

Follow along with Lent Madness with this 2024 Bracket Poster

Meet Amanda Perkins McGriff, the author of this year’s Lent devotional

Look ahead to Easter: Easter Triumph, Easter Joy

Savor God’s word with this bite-sized devotional: Forward Day by Day

Forward Today: A new life in Christ

Spinello Aretino, The Conversion of Saint Paul, ca. 1391–92

Dear friends in Christ,

Tomorrow the church celebrates the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle. The story of Paul’s dramatic encounter with Jesus Christ is told in the ninth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. In this moment, Paul had to reckon with his very identity. Instead of persecuting Christians, Paul would become one who built up the church.

Can you imagine how hard that must have been for Paul? The biblical narratives move too quickly to dwell on the details, but we can surmise some more of the story. Think about how humiliating it must have been for Paul to walk into rooms full of Christians, people who must have feared and mistrusted him at first. Consider how his fellow believers had to set aside their skepticism and make room for the possibility that God had worked in Paul’s life to change him completely.

It’s never easy to make big changes. It never has been, and it’s true to this day. Lord knows, I know it’s not easy to make big changes in my own life! But that is exactly what we are called to do.

We have to be ready to set aside the things and ways that are familiar to us. In the Bible, the heavenly messengers never appear and affirm the status quo. Jesus never encounters anyone and urges them to “keep on keepin’ on”. No, divine encounters always seem to lead to changes that would scarcely be possible without God’s intervention.

I pray that I am ready to change. And I pray that you are ready, too. Only God knows what adventures are in store for us, and we will find out only if we are willing to set aside our knowledge in favor of God’s wisdom.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Read through the book of Acts with this 50 Day Bible Challenge

Journey through Lent with this colorable calendar

Track your favorite saints through Lent Madness with the 2024 Bracket Poster

Hear from the author of our new Lent devotional: Will You?

Q&A: Amanda Perkins McGriff, author of Will You?

Amanda Perkins McGriff is an Episcopal priest who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband Wil, their son Darwin, and their retired greyhound, Goose. She currently serves as a chaplain at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and as curate at St. George’s Episcopal Church.

A graduate of Bexley Seabury Seminary in Chicago, she is the recipient of a 2021 Episcopal Evangelism Society grant to create a curriculum exploring connections between baptism, eucharist, and evangelism. This project is available now as Will You? a five-week Lenten study on the Book of Common Prayer’s baptismal promises. Learn more about Amanda and her work in this author Q&A.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

Will You? began as a project  for a Bexley Seabury Seminary class called Reimagining Congregations in Mission. The assignment was to design a five-session formation offering specific to my context that invited participants to think about mission in new ways, and I had the idea to build my curriculum around the five “will you” questions of the Baptismal Covenant. These promises that we agree to, or that are agreed to on our behalf, in our baptisms are supposed to guide our individual and corporate lives. It should not be a surprise that they can guide us into a fresh understanding of evangelism as well. After graduation, I received an Episcopal Evangelism Society grant which allowed me to expand that initial project, through two piloting phases, into Will You? and the accompanying Group Leader Guide.

What is your hope for this book?

My hope is that Will You? will help Episcopalians come together during Lent to engage in lively and fruitful discussion about where our Baptismal Covenant is calling us. I hope that the book leads people to think deeply about the connections between evangelism and these promises we make in our baptisms.

Your book examines the five baptismal promises from the Book of Common Prayer. Which promise resonates the most with you? Are there any of the promises you struggle with?

I struggle with all of the promises, but the promise that I think about the most as I go about my day is to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” I am a hospital chaplain, and my prayer every day is that the love of God will shine through me, that I will see and treat all those I encounter as the beloved children of God that they are. The promise that was the most difficult for me to write about was “proclaiming by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” This is the most obviously evangelistic baptismal promise, and it is also what I am called to do as a priest. But I struggled because there are so many different ways to interpret “proclaiming the Good News.” I wanted to be careful because some of our past interpretations of this mandate have led to some of our worst corporate sins, but I also wanted to invite readers to think boldly and creatively.

What does evangelism mean to you?

I think that the cover art for Will You? is a perfect illustration of my definition of evangelism. I am so grateful to artist Jason Sierra, who created it. He was able to really encapsulate the concept of the book, which is that the “will you” questions of the Baptismal Covenant follow an arc, from a gathering in to a sending out. The art on the cover is inviting readers to go out of their church doors, but it is an invitation issued from inside the church. And that is what I think we miss about evangelism and why it is so helpful to look at it through the lens of the Baptismal Covenant. It is indeed going out of our church doors and participating in God’s healing work in the world, the essence of those last three “will you” questions. But those actions need to be grounded in our beliefs, in prayer and discernment in community, and in self-examination of our past mistakes and repentance of sin. These are the elements that make up the first part of our Baptismal Covenant, and we get into trouble when we leave these important pieces out of our definition of evangelism.

Do you have a favorite prayer?

My favorite prayer from the Book of Common Prayer is Thanksgiving Over the Water. It is part of the service for Holy Baptism and is found on page 306 in the BCP. I love the imagery and the balancing of the phrasing in it. And I love that it conveys our story so succinctly yet so beautifully.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

I first want to highlight that there is a comprehensive free Group Leader Guide available. As someone who has led small groups in the past, it was very important to me to give group leaders the tools they would need to facilitate weekly discussions that follow along with the book and delve deeper into the Baptismal Covenant questions. Find the Group Leader Guide here or on the Will You? page on Forward Movement’s website.

I also want to share my sincere gratitude to all of those who are considering making Will You? part of their Lenten practice, whether individually or in a small group. I am so humbled and honored to be on this journey with you.

Forward Today: A case for love

Dear friends in Christ,

I don’t think I’ve ever used my weekly message to encourage readers to go see a movie, but this is the week! Next Tuesday, January 23, you have the opportunity to see an extraordinary and inspiring film. On this one day only, you can visit local movie theaters to see A Case for Love.

There are a lot of reasons to see this movie. It features many prominent and even famous Episcopalians, such as Michael Curry, Pete Buttigieg, Sam Waterston, Becca Stevens, and Al Roker. But as fun as that is, it’s not the best reason to watch A Case for Love.

In a world that often seems to be dominated by fear, violence, greed, and hate, it might seem that love is a feeble or even inadequate response. Nothing could be further from the truth. This film highlights the stories and perspectives of people who are here to be witnesses of the power of love.

Love changes the world one life at a time.

We Christians ought to know this, but it’s easy to lose the plot. All around us, horrible things are happening. What can we do? What can Jesus do?

The answer is love.

If you are looking for inspiration, see the movie. If you’re looking for hope, see the movie. If you want to be reminded of the thing that matters more than anything else in this earthly life, see the movie.

(If you can’t make it to a theater on Tuesday, or if it’s not playing nearby, I believe the movie will be available on streaming platforms sometime in the future. Stay tuned.)

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. The people behind this movie are Episcopalians from California. This is a great example of living a vocation (filmmaking, in this case) to change the world. We can all do this, whatever our calling.

More from our ministry:

Explore the Way of Love in this Practical Guide

Share God’s love during Lent: Will You? devotional

Watch the first Monday Madness video of this Lent Madness year

Get your Join the Journey calendars before Lent begins

Forward Today: A much-needed season of light

Dear friends in Christ,

I love the liturgical time through which we are now moving. This Epiphany season gives us an opportunity to bask in the glow of Christ’s light and love. For the next few weeks on Sundays, we hear scenes from the Gospels focused on the revelation of Jesus Christ to the world. And, of course, we can give thanks for the bright light of the star that led the magi to worship Jesus.

For a quick summary of what this season is all about, we can read the proper preface for Epiphany, which the Book of Common Prayer suggests as a possibility every Sunday in this season:

Because in the mystery of the Word made flesh, you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge of your glory in the face of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

God has given us, in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the gift of his light and life. And in thanksgiving for that gift, we should share it with the world around us.

Reading the news these days, it would be understandable if we were overcome by the gloom and weight of it all. Sometimes it seems like the world is once again ruled by Herods. This Epiphany season invites us to see that the world is in fact ruled by grace and mercy. And we can be light-bearers in the world, offering deeds and words of hope, grace, and mercy.

So this season, if you need to, just warm your heart by the glow of Jesus Christ’s love. If you glimpse this glory, I invite you to share it with others.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Reflect on how baptism calls us to share the Gospel in our new Lent devotional

Get your copy today: Join the Journey through Lent calendar

Read scripture during Epiphany with the Good Book Club

Begin at the beginning: A Journey through Genesis Bible Challenge

Getting the new year off to a good start

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

Happy New Year! I hope 2024 brings you much joy.

Many people treat the change of calendar as a time to try to begin new habits or end old ones. This is a deeply Christian practice, actually. You see, forming new habits that are good for us is nothing less than a form of repentance—heading in a new direction. Lent is a traditional time for repentance, but so is Advent. And there’s no reason to miss the opportunity given by a new year.

When I listen to people tell me about their changes for the new year, folks are often looking to make changes related to health. They want to eat better, or sleep more, or exercise more regularly. These may be just what we need. But I also hope we will look at habits that help our souls.

The new year is a good time to begin or deepen a practice of daily prayer. Forward Movement offers lots of support for you in daily prayer, and I encourage you to check out our (free!) prayer website.

This is also a good time to renew our engagement with scripture. To that end, Forward Movement offers the Good Book Club, which starts on the feast of the Epiphany this year, January 6. This year, people across the country will read Genesis together. You can join with a group in your local community, or you can take part online with Episcopalians and others from around the world. You can learn more at the Good Book Club website.

There are plenty of other good habits that disciples can work on, too. I encourage you to reflect on how you can use the gift of a new year to grow closer to Jesus.

Don’t worry that it’s January 3. With Jesus Christ, it’s never too late. Every day is a chance to live a new life in Christ Jesus. So, happy new year and happy new life.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Reflect on baptism this Lent with our new devotional: Will You?

Go deeper into a key book of the Bible: A Journey through Genesis

Pray on the go with devotional and Daily Office podcasts

A beautiful, portable way to pray: Hour by Hour

Forward Today: Top posts of 2023

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Dear friends in Christ,

Blessings to you in this Christmas season. We hope you are observing the Twelve Days of Christmas with prayer, holy joy, and much-needed rest! Looking back at the past year at Forward Movement, we have many reasons to rejoice–not least for you, our readers, who have prayed with us and supported our ministry throughout the year.

Here are some of the most-read messages from Forward Today this year. Thank you for sharing these notes of news and inspiration – we look forward to sharing more with you in the coming year.

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Ellsworth
Marketing Coordinator

It’s about the basics: “In both churches [The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada], I have seen a desire to return to the basics.”

Welcoming guests: “If you want to be welcoming for guests, you have to be ready to see your church through their eyes.”

Welcoming guests (continued): “Fall is coming, and so are guests.”

The Gospel isn’t fair: “The Gospel isn’t fair. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.”

The counter-cultural season of Advent: “Keeping Advent isn’t easy, and that is exactly why we do well to try to keep this season of preparation and repentance.”