Category Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Good News from our land?

Dear friends in Christ,

Last week, I wrote about using money for good. This week I want to say a few words about land.

In the last few days, I ran across an article from The New Yorker, “How a Young Activist Is Helping Pope Francis Battle Climate Change.” I was intrigued for a couple of reasons.

First, I was inspired to learn that one person could single-handedly get the bureaucratic and massive Roman Catholic to change. It’s a good reminder for anyone who ever wonders if one person can make a difference. If she could budge the Roman Catholic church, then it helps me believe one person could budge the Episcopal Church where we need a push to go in new directions.

Second, this article got me thinking about how the Episcopal Church understands and uses all the land and buildings we own. Think about all the churches, rectories, conference centers camps, diocesan offices, church-wide headquarters, seminaries, and more.

Do we understand that all “our” land is a gift from God? How often do we use our land for the good of the world and to the glory of God? Or do we fearfully see land merely as an asset to be protected only for the immediate use of our congregations, dioceses, and organizations?

What if we asked how our land could help combat climate change? Think of wind farms, solar panels, or ecologically informed landscaping. What if we asked how our land might help our communities? Think of community gardens, space for groups to meet, or opportunities to offer restful hospitality and refreshment.

Plainsong Farm vegetables

I’m late to the party. The Rev. Nurya Love Parish and Plainsong Farm have been raising these issues for some time now. If you don’t know about it, check out this innovative ministry that grows good for those in need, teaches about our stewardship of God’s creation, advocates for better land use, and offers young people a residency and transformational experience.

The Episcopal Church’s evangelism office promotes Good News Gardens as a way of growing food for the good of the world. There are other examples.

How is your church or diocese using land? Are there opportunities to share what you have with a world in need? Are there ways you could help combat climate change? Are there ways you could show forth the Good News of God in Jesus Christ by how you inhabit this beautiful world?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


More from our ministry:

From Grow Christians: Notes from an Altar Guild Intern

Spend the program year with Forward Movement: Learn more!

Order Advent devotionals early for group study: Promise & Praise: Advent Word Reflections

Forward Today: Investing our money for the good of the world

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve long been intrigued by ethical ways to use money for the good of the world. Of course, one choice is to make donations to organizations who seek the improvement of the common good.

There are also ways to make money while also using our money for good. For example, ethical investing puts money in companies with ethically sound practices to support those who are doing good in the world. There are funds which make micro-loans to people in developing countries to help them start enterprises that can be sustainable and support their economic improvement; one can invest in these funds and sometimes get a modest return on the investment. We can buy bonds that underwrite green energy projects, and these bonds may generate income like any other bonds.

I’ve been thinking about churches and their wealth recently. Should our goal be to seek the highest possible return? Or should we temper financial gains with moral and ethical interests. Can we do both?

At Forward Movement, we reinvested our modest investment fund a couple of years ago. Before we had a typical balanced portfolio with policies that were primarily oriented around financial return. After considering several options, we put our entire fund in a balanced ESG (environmental, social and governance investing) portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other instruments. This means we hope to do good with our money. By the way, since we made the switch, our financial performance has exceeded our previous benchmarks. (So it doesn’t always have to cost something to do good, though it often will.)

I’m not here to give financial advice. Talk to someone who does finance for a living to get financial advice!

But I am here to raise questions. Can we, as a church, change the world with our wealth? Can we encourage our members to pool their money to change the world?

Imagine if the church offered alternatives to predatory payday lending programs. Imagine if the church created investment funds to support the launch of small businesses by racial minorities and other groups who may not find financial support in our current systems. Imagine if we bought bonds to support transformational infrastructure, sustainable resource development, and green energy. There are many ways we could use our money to change the world.

Any time we want to change the world, we can start in our own hearts. At our house, we began with our retirement investments. We’re nearly done switching all of our money to ethical or socially conscious investing. We give money to the church of course, but also to other organizations doing good.

Are you using your money to change the world for the better? How is your church doing?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


 

More from our ministry:

Online Course: What Every Vestry Member Needs to Know about Money with The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

Book ideas for churches and small groups: Learn more!

A book of pray and practice: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book

Forward Today: A year with Forward Movement

Dear friends in Christ,

This time of year is about the season when congregations normally kick off their program year. New courses and ministries launch. Often, Sunday schools fill up. The pace of summer gives way to a busier time of the autumn.

Of course, this time is anything but normal. The pandemic has forced us all to look at all sorts of practices, and I suspect that in many congregations, everything is up for grabs.

Even though there may be no “normal” my sense is that many congregations are starting some kind of program year, even if it’s quite a bit different from usual. Maybe there are online book groups or Bible Studies. Christian formation for children might look different. The number of offerings might be smaller (or larger) than what is typical.

A collection of Forward Movement books

What is your church doing? There’s no right or wrong answer. Our task in the church is to make disciples, and there are as many ways to do that as there are Christians.

We at Forward Movement are working to support you and your church in this unusual time. We have books and courses suitable for in-person or online study. We offer resources for new members and long-time Episcopalians alike.

At a time when many leaders are struggling to figure out what to do this year, we wanted to make it just a bit easier. So we’ve put together some ideas for living through the whole program year. Please have a look at our website for resources for the fall, for Advent, for Christmas and Epiphany, for Lent, for Easter, and even for next summer.

As always, please contact the friendly folks here at Forward Movement if you have questions or you’re not sure what’s right for your church. We can respond to emails (orders@forwardmovement.org) or phone calls (800-543-1813).

We want to help you make disciples, whatever that looks like in your life and in your church.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Online Course: Surviving Moral Injury with David Peters

Listen to our Morning Prayer podcast: A Morning at the Office

Reading suggestion: Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices

 

Forward Today: You CAN make a difference

Dear friends in Christ,

As I mentioned last week, there’s been a lot of heartbreaking news lately. Images and stories out of Haiti and Afghanistan are challenging. The pandemic continues its deadly spread. How can we respond?

I’ve heard people say, “There’s nothing I can do.” Perhaps it’s true that no one of us can single-handedly solve any of these global problems. But it’s just not true that there’s nothing to do. As I said last week, prayer is always a good act. For those of us who are Episcopalians, there are other concrete steps we and our churches can take.

If, like me, you would like to see a serious commitment to welcome Afghan refugees in the US and other nations, you can take action. For people living in the US, the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations has a simple way to help you contact your Senators and Representatives. Just fill out a brief form to advocate for action to welcome more refugees.

While you’re on that page, notice the link at the bottom if you’d like to make a financial contribution to Episcopal Migration Ministries to support their work in settling refugees. You and your congregation can also indicate your interest in volunteering to help settle refugees. It’s rewarding work, and I hope you will consider doing this Gospel work.

Earthquake damage in Haiti

The people of Haiti have suffered more than most of us can comprehend. It’s been one disaster after another for more than a century. In response to the recent earthquake, you can donate to Episcopal Relief & Development’s relief work there. As you may know, the Diocese of Haiti is part of the Episcopal Church, so Episcopal Relief & Development has a good network through which to do its work.

If you are concerned about the continued spread of COVID, there are several steps you can take. Episcopal Relief & Development has a COVID relief fund that will be especially important for developing nations where a lack a resources may make vaccine campaigns challenging. The Office of Government Relations has a vaccine toolkit to support your work in encouraging vaccination among those who are hesitant. If you have influence over policy, you can create incentives or requirements for the vaccine in your organization, whether church or secular.

Don’t accept “there’s nothing I can do” as reality. There’s work for you. And there’s work for your church. Jesus commands us to love our neighbors, and our neighbors around the world need our love.

And let us never cease to pray.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Online Course: Civil Conversations in Uncivil Times with Ray Suarez

From Grow Christians, our family blog: A Summer Morning, Broken Glass and the Bus Stop

Reading suggestion: Book ideas for churches and small groups!

Forward Today: What to do when there’s too much

Dear friends in Christ,

I can’t remember a week with more distressing news stories. The situation in Afghanistan is a nightmare, after decades of nightmares. The people of Haiti, who have already suffered beyond belief, are dealing with another earthquake. The global pandemic shows no signs of letting up, and here in the US we see hospitals overflowing. Fires and severe weather patterns continue to grow worse as climate change accelerates. Add to that the ongoing news of violence, oppression, and scandal, and it’s too much to bear.

What are we Christians to do in the face of impossible problems and insurmountable suffering?

I believe our response begins in prayer. And we should not just start there. Praying without ceasing is never the wrong thing to do. Prayer on its own can change things, and prayer can certainly shape our own hearts. Prayer is action, but it’s not the only kind of action.

As the old saying goes, if you feed someone, you’re not changing world hunger, but you are changing one person’s hunger. That’s simplistic, and there are all kinds of problems with this approach. It’s also not wrong.

So one person can change the world, one life at a time starting with our own. There are lots of small ways we can respond to the suffering in the world beyond our prayers (and I hope we always pray!). We can contact politicians to seek policy changes. We can donate money to reputable non-profit organizations who are working in the places about which we’re concerned. We can look at our own behavior and encourage behavior changes in our friends and colleagues. We can be bearers of grace and mercy in a world that often lacks both.

Whenever I’m not sure where to begin, I pray. Lately, I’ve found the Great Litany to be just the thing. I also like to talk with wise friends who are also seeking to offer a compassionate response to what we see in the news.

The worst thing we can do is to accept evil, suffering, and sin as inevitable. We must make no peace with oppression, violence, degradation, or suffering of any kind. After all, we follow a Savior who defeated the forces of might and evil in his day by his death and resurrection on the third day. God’s love is always stronger than the evil of this world.

Will you join me in prayer? And then let us offer grace and mercy in this world.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Online Course: Civil Conversations in Uncivil Times with Ray Suarez

From Grow Christians, our family blog: Little by Little

Reading suggestion: The Path: A Journey Through the Bible

 

Forward Today: Learning in community

Dear friends in Christ,

From my conversations lately with leaders across the church, I’ve heard lots of people talking about resuming programming this fall in way that we haven’t gathered since early spring 2020. Of course, I’m also hearing all the news about COVID cases worsening. It’s hard to know how to plan or what to do!

If your church is able to do it, I hope you’ll offer whatever you can this fall. People need connection now more than ever. After a rough couple of years, going deeper into our beliefs and practices might be just what we all need.

Of course, we’ve learned that we can gather online. We don’t have to get in our cars and drive to church to have a class together. We can also do hybrids, where some folks are gathered at church and others are gathered online. Either way, the point is that we’re gathered.

We in the church need each other. I can watch a video or read a book or study the Bible on my own, but I am immeasurably enriched when I do those same things with fellow disciples in the church.

There are lots of resources out there. The Episcopal Church offers courses, including Sacred Ground, which invites conversations on race & faith. Religious publishers, including our friends at Church Publishing, have lots of terrific books for study.

We at Forward Movement have lots of books and other materials to support learning in community. ChurchNext offers quite a few courses for groups. Revive is a video-based discipleship program geared especially at church lay leaders. Living Discipleship offers free courses for adults (and all ages) on saints, scripture, and practicing our faith.

If you’re looking for books for your book group, check out this list of Forward Movement books. We offer bulk prices for nearly all of our books, making it more affordable for you to buy ten or more copies. Our bulk prices are better than the price you’ll pay from major online bookstores.

Whatever you use, I hope you and your church will find ways to gather to grow in faith and practice.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

New online course from ChurchNext: How Pets Connect Us with God, with Emily Mellott

From Grow Christians, our family blog: Blessing of the Backpacks Tags and Resources

Reading suggestion: The Path: A Journey Through the Bible

Forward Today: A detour on the journey

Dear friends in Christ,

Last week in Forward Today, I wrote about the opportunity we have as a church through this time of disruption to refocus our mission on making disciples.

Even a week ago, I thought we were mostly headed out of our pandemic crisis, but increasing case numbers – coupled with continued low vaccination numbers – suggest that the pandemic may be approaching another peak, unless our public health response and vaccination rates change.

There are plenty of places on the internet who offer commentary on the pandemic, so I won’t say more. But I do want to say a few things about what it means for disciple-making within the church.

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with lay leaders and clergy in the church. Several patterns emerge consistently.

Parents of school-age children are exhausted. Many adults are stepping away from ministries or volunteering in the church. Attendance numbers for in-person services have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, even in places where case numbers have been quite low.

I suppose it’s obvious to say, but we need to give up on the idea of returning to a pre-pandemic church. As I suggested last week, I’m quite sure we shouldn’t want to go back. We have the opportunity to chart a new, more vibrant future for the church.

Detour sign

So what do we do about exhausted and more distant leaders? Certainly I hope we begin with empathy, prayer, and compassionate care.

If you are an exhausted person who can’t muster the energy to be part of your church in the way you were two years ago, it’s OK. Rest. Even Jesus needed time for refreshment and prayer, so take the time you need. The church depends on Christ alone; the church will carry on as you rest.

If you are a church leader, the same advice about rest applies to you, too! But also, there’s a gift in all this. If people won’t sign up to continue some ministry or other, maybe that’s the sign it’s time to let that ministry go. If Sunday School doesn’t look like it did in 2018, that’s OK. Maybe it’s time to think about a new way to engage people of all ages in Christian learning and formation. And it doesn’t have to be figured out this month!

I guess what I’m saying is that if your church and your church’s people aren’t “back to normal” that’s perfectly fine. Rest. Be well. Re-examine. Realize that the start of the program year in September isn’t a hard deadline for anything. In God’s time, the church will do what it needs to do.

I really believe that. Our task is to cooperate with the Spirit’s guiding, but also we are human. We won’t always get it right, and we need times of rest. All of the chaos of our church is a detour on our journey of following Jesus, but we can still continue on the way.

If Forward Movement can support you, let us know. We offer lots of resources, and I hope you know that we are praying for the church and the world every day. We’re grateful for your prayers, too.

Blessings, friends.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

New online course from ChurchNext: Walking the Labyrinth, with Mel Soriano

From Grow Christians, our family blog: Sealed with the Holy Spirit

Reading suggestion: The Path: A Journey Through the Bible

Forward Today: It’s all about disciples

Dear friends in Christ,

Last Sunday marked my ten-year anniversary serving at Forward Movement. What a wonderful adventure it’s been! I’ve visited many dioceses and congregations, and it has been rewarding to get to know the whole church through my ministry.

Last year, I offered my reflections on nine years of ministry, including some ways I think our church needs to change. This year, I want to highlight just one theme. Discipleship.

When I started at Forward Movement in 2011, I used to get pushback for raising the topic of discipleship. “It’s not our word,” people would say. Fortunately, I can say that now discipleship is our word. Our church has realized the value of naming and practices those disciplines that help us to grow into the full stature of Jesus Christ.

Forward Movement logo with tagline: "Inspire Disciples. Empower Evangelists."

I’d like to think Forward Movement has been a leader in the conversation. We have promised daily prayer and scripture engagement vigorously these last ten years, though that was really a continuation of our mission since 1935. The fruit of this work is evident.

More people are aware of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ in their lives. More people can make connections between their own life story and the story of God’s saving purposes revealed in scripture. More people have a deeper relationship with God through the nourishing habit of daily prayer.

It’s all about discipleship.

This is literally the thing Jesus told us to do. You can look it up in Matthew 28.

Over the last year, the church has been greatly disrupted. I know this has been a burden on church leaders and members alike. But this time also offers us the opportunity to reexamine our mission and ministry in the church.

Are we effective at making disciples? Do we need to add new ministries? Do we need to let some things go? Do we need to reinvent the way we do things? Do we need to focus more on discipleship and less on maintenance?

I don’t have the answers for you or your community. Every place will be different. But I can confidently say that the work Jesus has given us in every town, village, and rural area is to make disciples.

Forward Movement will be here with you, ready to offer encouragement and resources to support your ministry.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


More from our ministry:

New online course from ChurchNext: Walking the Labyrinth, with Mel Soriano

A New Chapter at RenewalWorks

Reading suggestion: The Path: A Journey Through the Bible

Forward Today: Learning from a suitcase

Dear friends in Christ,

A few days ago, I got home from a wonderful vacation in Iceland. It’s an extraordinarily beautiful country, and I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

When we got home, I looked around the house and wondered about all our stuff. We have so much! Shelves full of stuff. Closets full of stuff. Stuff everywhere! But for two weeks, I was perfectly happy living out of a carry-on suitcase.

So what’s the point of all that stuff, if I don’t need it to live happily? Paring down to a suitcase is surely extreme, but it did make me think.

And then, two Sundays ago, we heard the Gospel account of Jesus sending his followers out to do mission work carrying only a staff, with instructions not to take bread, money, a bag, or an extra tunic. Again and again, Jesus warns about the perils of material goods.

It’s not that material goods are evil. Indeed, God made the world from nothing. Matter is good. But our stuff can get in the way. We can end up possessed by our stuff rather than possessing our stuff.

When I grew up in Iowa, summer was the traditional time to have what we called garage sales (or yard sales, or tag sales, or rummage sales!). At our house, we’re talking about downsizing a little. Living out of a suitcase inspired us to think about what’s important and what’s not important.

What about you? Does your stuff help you love God and love your neighbors? Or does it get in the way?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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More from our ministry:

New from our Grow Christians blog  |  Ten Thoughts for Younger Me

Forward Today: Praying on the go and at home

Dear friends in Christ,

Daily prayer is an essential habit for every Christian. There are lots of ways to pray. We Anglican Christians are blessed with a rich tradition of daily prayer, and our prayer books offer several rich patterns of prayer.

Of course, for folks getting started, I often suggest simply saying grace at mealtime. Or maybe talking to God in your own words first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening. We can approach God with our hopes, our sorrows, our regrets, and our praise.

Forward Movement has offered a website and an app to support daily prayer for several years. I’m very excited to share news about both our app and our website.

We asked Greg Johnston, creator of the venite.app prayer tool, to help us reimagine our daily prayer app. It has all the things thousands of people have come to love about our Day by Day app for iPhone and Android. It offers today’s meditation from Forward Day by Day; morning prayer, noonday prayer, evening prayer, and compline; the quick daily devotions from the prayer book; the day’s scripture lessons; and a set of selected prayers from the Book of Common Prayer and other places.

We’ve added a few new options, and you’ll notice the look and feel is streamlined and improved. Best of all, our app is now free. We do offer you an opportunity to make a donation to support Forward Movement’s ministry, but we wanted to make daily prayer and meditation accessible to everyone.

We’re relaunching our prayer website too. It will now mirror the content and function of our app. This means you’ll get a similar experience, whether you’re using a phone, a tablet, or a desktop computer. We’ve pared away some things to make the site and the app cleaner and easier to use.

Of course, I expect we’ve missed a few bugs and made some changes folks won’t like. If you find something that seems to need attention, please let us know. There’s a “report an issue” feature right inside the app, and you can always email us at tech@forwardmovement.org.

I hope our app or website are helpful in your daily life of prayer. Please tell your neighbors and friends about these free tools to support prayer.

If you are grateful for Forward Movement’s work of providing free apps, websites, classes, and other resources to nurture daily discipleship, we’re always grateful for your support. We are able to carry out our ministry only by God’s grace, with your support of prayer and donations.

Blessings to you.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 


More from our ministry:

New FREE daily email: Spanish edition of Forward Day by Day
Click here to subscribe to the daily Adelante Día a Día email
Reading Suggestion
New from Grow Christians