Category Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Inwardly digest the Word of God

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 Richelle Thompson, Forward Movement’s Managing Editor.

Veggie Tales should not be a primary source for biblical knowledge. But as I started preparing for Forward Movement’s upcoming Good Book Club Bible study, I realized that most of what I knew about the book of Esther came from the toddler days of my children, when the cartoon was on incessant repeat.

Through the singsong of animated vegetables, I learned the story of Esther. But I didn’t know it.

The Good Book Club LogoOver the years, I’ve found that each time I encounter with scripture—even the same passages—I discover something new. Certainly, my understanding of Noah’s Ark has changed since my Sunday School, finger-puppet days. Exodus challenges me in new ways as I learn more about racial injustice and examine my heart for its unbidden prejudices. My response to the Gospel of Luke has varied, from when I was pregnant and scared to when my daughter was a young teen, the age of Mary when the angel Gabriel tells her she will bear a child.

The words of scripture don’t change. But I have. Through the various seasons of life, the Word of God speaks to me in different ways. And it’s not just a matter of aging or my own personal experience. The affairs of the world—climate change, political strife, natural disasters—influence how I read and understand scripture.

That’s why reading the Bible can never be a one-and-done thing. Numerous studies show that reading scripture is directly related to our spiritual health and vitality. We know that intellectually, just like we know vegetables (real ones, not animated ones) are better choices than Snickers and ice cream. But it’s all too easy to fall into bad habits or be apathetic to our spiritual health.

On Sunday, one of my favorite prayers from the Book of Common Prayer was the collect—the words at the beginning of the service that call us into worship:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Read. Mark. Learn. Inwardly Digest. What a wonderful process for engaging in scripture! It’s not just a matter or reading or hearing it but about letting scripture nourish our souls and permeate our lives. For me, the most effective way to do this is through a daily guide for reading the Bible — and if possible, to do it in community, in small-group studies or as part of an online program. There are lots of resources out there, but naturally, I’m partial to Forward Movement ones. These include the Bible Challenge series. These books offer 40 or 50 (or even 365) days of daily scripture reading, reflection, and prayer. They’re a great resource for personal and group reflection.

I’m also a fan of the Good Book Club. During the season after Epiphany, Forward Movement invites the church to join in reading through a portion of the Bible—together. Over the years, we’ve moved through the four gospels, Acts, Romans, and Exodus. This year, starting on January 6, we’ll read the books of Ruth and Esther. The Good Book Club offers weekly emails as a companion through the readings, study guides for group discussion, and a live, online ChurchNext class. I might have learned the story of Esther from dancing cucumbers, peas, and leeks, but now it’s time to inwardly digest the Word of God. I can’t wait.

Yours faithfully,

Richelle Thompson
Managing Editor


More from our ministry:

Explore Luke’s Gospel with this reflection from author Miguel Escobar

New from ChurchNext: Introducing the Quaker Tradition

Follow the narrative of the Bible with The Path

Read through biblical canticles in our Advent devotional, Holy Is His Name

Forward Today: The joy and privilege of generous giving

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 Miguel Escobar, author of the book The Unjust Steward and Executive Director of Anglican Studies, Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary.


One of the strongest memories I have from the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic is of the long lines of people waiting for food, as well as the many news stories of pantries and soup kitchens being in short supply of both staples and volunteers. Hunger, already a pervasive problem in New York City, descended upon my city in ways that I never imagined I’d experience in my lifetime.

As I witnessed hunger overtake New York City, I found myself reflecting on the earliest historical reference to Christian communities taking up a collection in response to famine, an event described in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, written around 50 CE. Frequently called “the Jerusalem collection,” it was a collection taken up for famine relief for the Christian community in Jerusalem.

As early as 50 C.E., the energetic Paul was giving pragmatic instructions to the Corinthian community for a collection of monies to be sent to Jerusalem: “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me” (1 Corinthians 16:1-4).

Monies would eventually be taken up in Galatia, Corinth, and Rome and would be physically brought to the Jerusalem assembly. Logistics were arranged (1 Corinthians 16:1-4), accusations of impropriety made, transparency ensured by having multiple people handling the funds (2 Corinthians 12:14-18), and protection against theft/robbery secured as the funds were brought to Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-29).

These practical details are intriguing in that they describe both the antecedents of current relief efforts as well as give a glimpse into the economic network of assemblies that characterized early Christianity. But what’s inspiring—and potentially transformative in our stewardship season today—is the theology behind how Paul discusses this collection.

In 2 Corinthians 8–9, Paul says that the joy and privilege of an assembly’s generous giving is ultimately rooted in God’s grace of becoming poor for our sake. We are to join in this divine journey as well. He states that even after Christ’s resurrection, the need for fair balance between those with great wealth and those in poverty, hunger, and destitution remains. This collection for famine relief is a way of addressing this imbalance.

Indeed, it is from a deeply rooted sense of bondedness and economic fellowship with one another (koinonia) that Christians have the grace and privilege (charis) of sharing our resources as an economic network and community, and our giving should be especially aimed at alleviating the poverty and hunger of the most vulnerable members of the body of Christ. Through our generosity, we join Jesus in becoming poor for the sake of our siblings in Christ who are suffering.

I believe this Jerusalem Collection should inform the way we think about all our collections, including the pledge cards taken up during stewardship season. Will your gift touch the lives of those who are in hunger? Are they reflective of what Paul described as “fair balance” between those who have much and those who have little? Does one’s gift honor an economic fellowship between those assemblies with much and those who are most vulnerable?

These are important questions to ask of the various stewardship campaigns that have taken place across the Church this fall. How might our stewardship campaign reflect this more so?

Yours faithfully,

Miguel Escobar
Author, The Unjust Steward
Executive Director of Anglican Studies, EDS at Union


More from our ministry:

Read more from Miguel Escobar in his book The Unjust Steward

Consider giving as a Vital Sign of Faith in Kate Moorehead Carroll’s new book

Explore scripture as a resource for action: The Social Justice Bible Challenge

Prepare for Advent with our annual calendar and newest book of meditations

Forward Today: Partners in proclaiming the Gospel

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 Beth Lewis, Interim Executive Director of Forward Movement and Executive Director of the Protestant Church-Owned Publishers Association (PCPA).


When St. Paul wrote to the Galatians (3:28) “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” I don’t think he was contemplating people in The Episcopal Church, AME Zion and Southern Baptist Convention working together to proclaim the Gospel and serve God’s people in the world. But I like to think that through his words we are encouraged to do exactly that!

I am privileged to work with the talented staff of Forward Movement as the interim Executive Director while Scott Gunn continues to heal during his medical leave. I’m a member of the ELCA and served as President & CEO for 1517 Media, the ELCA’s ministry of publishing for sixteen years, so we’re already in ecumenical-land!

Like The Episcopal Church, Forward Movement has many ecumenical partnerships. One you might not know about is the organization’s long-time membership in PCPA: Protestant Church-owned Publishers Association. This 71-year-old trade association for denominational publishers is a shining example of collaboration across denominational and theological lines. PCPA’s Heads of Houses (aka CEO’s & Executive Directors) met this past week in Minneapolis. At this meeting we focused on our common ground of praying for one another (especially Scott!), sharing joys and concerns about publishing books, curricula, devotionals and much more during times of turmoil and change. We talked about best practices for supply chain management and organizational culture with a hybrid workforce. It was a rich, mutually supportive gathering.

Forward Movement belongs to PCPA because focusing on best practices in their business helps provide sustainability for their mission to “Inspire disciples. Empower evangelists.” In my brief time as interim Executive Director, I have come to appreciate both the business and the ministry of Forward Movement for both The Episcopal Church and ecumenical partners. I support them with my financial contribution; I hope you will too, whether by purchasing resources for your church, as gifts or for your own faith journey or as a direct contribution to Forward Movement’s ministry.

Yours faithfully,

Beth Lewis
Interim Executive Director, Forward Movement


More from our ministry:

Sign up for AdventWord updates and join this wide-ranging community

Give the gift of Forward Day By Day: Order a gift subscription

Prepare for Advent with our annual calendar and newest book of meditations

Forward Today: The rhythm of prayer book living

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.


There are a LOT of prayer books on my shelf. (Occupational hazards of being a clergy kid, religion grad student, and now staff member at a publishing ministry.) The oldest one is this little Book of Common Prayer, here at the top. It’s worn at the edges, and features some extra decoration from a scribble-happy younger sister. This prayer book has traveled with me for a long time.

I received this BCP in my Easter basket when I was a kid. But after the Easter treats were eaten and the Easter basket was put away, the BCP went up on a shelf, mostly unused. Until I graduated from college and prepared to head out to a new city for a summer internship. When I was packing, I slipped this prayer book into my suitcase almost as an afterthought. Just in case it might come in handy.

It was during that internship, living on my own for the first time, that I really got to know the prayer book. I read through the psalms and the lectionary and realized that if I really stuck to this seven-week cycle I could write these poems on my heart. I prayed Compline in my little room. I stepped into the rhythm of prayer book living, which has sustained me in the years since.

I’ve got a new prayer book on my shelf now—Forward Movement’s new Book of Common Prayer, Gift Edition. This book is designed to be portable, just as my first little BCP was, so it can fit in a backpack or a purse or a suitcase. It’s also designed to be beautiful, because the God we praise in its pages is the maker of beautiful things. Because giving thanks to God, always and everywhere, should be a good and joyful thing.

I recently read through the prayer book on sacraments as part of an inquirer’s class. The folks reading with me, from all ages and stages of life, are all preparing for a sacramental encounter of their own. Some are being received from other traditions, exploring the rich heritage of prayer that characterizes the Episcopal Church. Some are preparing for confirmation, getting ready to claim familiar words and actions as their own. Some are preparing for baptism, or to stand up with children and godchildren to support them in their life in Christ. All of them find their place in the Book of Common Prayer.

I’m saving my newest prayer book for my three-year-old daughter, who will by God’s grace be baptized soon. It’ll stay on her shelf for now—she’s a scribbler too, and a notorious page-ripper to boot. But I’ll fill out the presentation page with her name anyway, and hold it for her until she can open it herself. Whenever and however she takes it up on her own, I hope she knows that this book—and the rhythm of faithful life it represents to me—belongs to her already. I hope and pray that she will carry that joy with her wherever she goes.

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Ellsworth
Marketing Coordinator


More from our ministry:

Dig deeper into sacraments and practices: Walk in Love

Practices to sustain a life of faith: Vital Signs of Faith

Join ChurchNext’s live class with the author of Vital Signs of Faith

Check out the Top 5 Courses for Fall from ChurchNext

Forward Today: Luke the evangelist

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 the Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook, Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego and member of the Forward Movement Board.


“Saint Luke” by James Tissot, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I love the Gospel of Luke, whose feast day is this week. It is full of joy, prayer, and awareness of both the suffering of the world and what Jesus has done to bring healing and restoration. Luke was a physician. He knew a great deal about the human body and about the cures that doctors could bring, and he probably also despaired as he saw people suffering from ailments that doctors could not cure. But then he heard the gospel of Jesus, and realized that Jesus came to heal the world in a new way: body, mind, and spirit.

So Luke became an evangelist. And what an evangelist he was, writing more of the New Testament than anyone else (the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles). Because of Luke, we know stories we read nowhere else, from Christmas to Pentecost. As the only writer who recorded the experiences of the early church after Jesus’ resurrection, Luke tells us how the church understood its mission, as Jesus tells the apostles in Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Sharing the gospel of Christ rarely happens in a smooth, graceful progression. In Acts, the apostles have successes and setbacks. They work wondrous miracles and make rookie mistakes. They struggle over different interpretations of their mission, and they follow the lead of the Spirit in fits and starts. They fail to take literally the mandate from Jesus to go to the ends of the earth, and they stay in Jerusalem where they are comfortable—until they just can’t stay there anymore.

In other words, those early apostles are a lot like us. We too have setbacks, mistakes, struggles, divisions, and failure. Yet the Holy Spirit is with us, prompting us to courageously care for the world around us. Like those early apostles, we have a gospel of healing, wholeness, reconciliation, and restoration to share. Like them, we need the courage the Holy Spirit brings to share that good news. And like them, we know that the good news of Christ can still transform the world.

Yours faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Susan Brown Snook
Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego
Member of the Forward Movement Board


More from our ministry:

Journey with St. Luke through Bible Challenge volumes on Luke and Acts
More from Bishop Snook: Acts to Action
Read the new interview with Miguel Escobar from Duke Divinity’s Faith and Leadership
Join ChurchNext’s live class with the author of Vital Signs of Faith

Forward Today: The Good Shepherd

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 Jamie McMahon, Member of the Forward Movement Board.


For about 15 years now I have participated in the life of an international Anglican religious community called the Oratory of the Good Shepherd. While my day-to-day and week-to-week faith community is my parish of Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, my experience with the Oratory has deepened my spiritual life in numerous ways.

The Oratory is a community of brothers, both lay and ordained, founded in Cambridge, England in 1913, which has provinces in North America, Australia, Southern Africa, and Europe. Although brothers do not generally live in community, they are grouped together into local and regional colleges and meet regularly for prayer and support. They follow a common Rule and discipline for their lives. I am a Companion of the Oratory and follow a modified Rule in my own life based around daily prayer, regular Eucharistic participation in addition to Sundays, a regular examination of conscience and use of the sacrament of reconciliation, participation in an annual retreat or quiet day, and charitable giving.

Earlier this fall, I attended the Oratory’s annual retreat in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Over the course of those days I was able to spend time in silence and prayer with God and with the other brothers and companions.

Our retreat leader provided several short talks to assist in our spiritual work. At one point, he talked about how we don’t always know what God is doing in the corners of our lives, in the bits we cannot see, but that God is always there. In keeping with the theme of the Oratory, we were also reminded that when we recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd in our prayers, we recognize that we have, in fact, never been alone. This voice is not the voice of a stranger and the Good Shepherd has spent time with us even when we haven’t noticed.

Spend some time with John 10:1-18 and think about where the Good Shepherd may have been active in your life, perhaps in some way that you didn’t even pay attention to at the time.

If you are interested in learning more about the Oratory of the Good Shepherd, please have a look at the website oratory1913.com or connect with us at www.facebook.com/OGS1913.

Yours faithfully,

Jamie McMahon
Member of the Forward Movement Board


More from our ministry:

Dive deeper into this Gospel: A Journey with John Bible Challenge

Create your own Rule of Life with Vital Signs of Faith

From Grow Christians: A Flock of Minecraft Sheep

Forward Today: Jesus’ other teaching

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 Canon Clyde Kunz, President of the Standing Committee in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona and Member of the Forward Movement Board.


When asked the question “What is the most important of Jesus’ teachings?” most of us would probably respond:  to love one another.

And we would of course be right.  But we tend to overlook the other lesson He tried to communicate repeatedly:  to give, and to do so generously.

Why do we tend to remember the one but ignore the other?  Probably because we believe it easier to love than to be generous.  But as true disciples of Jesus, we need to understand that generosity actually IS love.

This time of year, we begin to hear messages about Christian stewardship – the giving of our time, talent and treasure.  We unfortunately sometimes hear from stewardship campaign leaders (even from the pulpit!) that the reason for our giving is to balance the church’s budget, or to cover roof or parking lot repairs.  But the reason for Christian stewardship as Jesus taught it has virtually NOTHING to do with covering the church’s expenses!

So what is it about?  In Matthew chapter 6, repeated again in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus teaches “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  And therein lies the key.  The core of the teaching.  Aligning our giving with our hearts.

Which compels me to ask myself:  where is my heart?

The late Rev. Billy Graham used to quote this passage from Matthew, after which he’d say: “Give me five minutes with a person’s checkbook, and I will tell you where their heart is.” And I wonder if someone were to look at my check register (or nowadays my credit card statement) where would they believe my heart to be?  Or more to the point, what might they assume it is that I worship?

Would it be the somewhat exotic vacations I am inclined to take?  The pricey restaurants I frequent more than my expanding waistline can justify?  While there is nothing wrong with enjoying some of the good things life has to offer, I sometimes wonder how those expenditures might compare with my giving to support the work of God’s kingdom. Jesus’ teaching on giving is all about aligning our heart with our generosity.

This time of year, our mailboxes are filled with requests from genuinely worthy causes.  But might we consider prioritizing our support of God’s kingdom when making our charitable contributions this year?  We can do so by pledging generously to our parish’s annual stewardship campaign.  And as true disciples we can also support the Episcopal Church’s Bless Campaign, the work of our seminaries or of organizational ministries like Forward Movement.  All are ways in which we can, as Jesus taught us, align our giving and our heart.

During this year’s season of giving, where is it I want my heart to be?

Yours faithfully,

Canon Clyde Kunz
Board Member, Forward Movement
President of Standing Committee,  Episcopal Diocese of Arizona


More from our ministry:

Support the ministry of Forward Movement: Donate today

Explore Christian stewardship and a holy use of wealth: The Unjust Steward

Giving is a Vital Sign of Faith – learn more in Kate Moorehead Carroll’s book

New ChurchNext course: Sharing God’s Resources Through An Ancient Practice

 

Forward Today: What are you reading?

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, Marketing Coordinator, and staff members from across Forward Movement.


Here at Forward Movement it’s fall book release season, as we welcome three new books to our list: Vital Signs of Faith, The Unjust Steward, and the gift edition of the Book of Common Prayer.

In honor of this new reading season, we asked members of Forward Movement staff to share what they’re reading right now. Some of us are finishing up the last beach reads of summer; others are getting started with fall book clubs or small groups at church.

We’d love to hear from you too – what was your favorite book of summer? What books are you excited to read for the fall? Share with us on Facebook and Twitter!


I recently finished The Unjust Steward by Miguel Escobar. As a person of faith and fundraiser, I appreciated Miguel’s thoughtful reflections on how the Church has, and could, think about the sharing of resources. Highly recommend for all churches kicking off your fall giving seasons!
~ Lindsay Barrett-Adler, Development Associate

I’m reading Do I Stay Christian?: A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned by Brian McLaren. This book is a masterpiece, facing in a profound way the roots of the dark side of the Church and how those roots have caused harm. At the same time, McLaren leads the reader on a deep journey of making their own decisions about why one might really want to continue to follow Jesus, even in the Church.
~ Carrie Graves, ChurchNext Course Design and Administration

I’m rereading Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. This new expanded second edition comes out in February, and I’m so excited. I learn something new about these women (any myself!) every time I open the book. I’m grateful for their faithful witness and powerful words.
~ Richelle Thompson, Managing Editor

I’m currently reading Barabbas by Par Lagerkvist, who won the 1951 Nobel Prize for Literature. I had never heard of the author or the book until my neighbor found it in a garage. This book tells the story of the man who was freed instead of Jesus. Although he tries, he cannot understand Jesus or his followers, as he has no reference in his life for “love one another”. I am about halfway through the book and it is a quick read.
~ Peggy Sanchez, Customer Service Specialist

I just started reading The God Design: Secrets of the Mind, Body and Soul by Kelly-Marie Kerr. This book will reveal the marvelous design of the human body “made in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:27).
~ Tania Z. Jones, Executive Assistant/Human Resources Specialist

I’m just starting Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs and Practices. This is my first time reading this Forward Movement classic, in a small group from my church as we prepare to baptize new members including my daughter. Excited to brush up on some basics and to talk about what it means to be Episcopalian with my small group.
~ Margaret Ellsworth, Marketing Coordinator

Don’t forget to share your current reads with us on Facebook and Twitter!


More from our ministry:

New from ChurchNext: Build a Farm-Faith Partnership

Get ready to read through Advent with our new devotional: Holy Is His Name

Miguel Escobar discusses his book on Zoom, 10/3 at 5pm ET. Register here

Forward Today: Feast of St. Matthew

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 Julie Thomas, Treasurer of the Forward Movement Board.

Today is the Feast of St. Matthew, a tax collector and unlikely follower of Jesus. In honor of this saint, we asked Julie: How have you heard good news from someone—or shared good news with someone—in an unexpected moment? This is her story.


In 1993, I was an experienced federal prosecutor charged with investigating organized crime in Florida. As part of my duties, I was assigned to meet, debrief, and if possible, prepare two young Colombian sex workers to testify as cooperating witnesses in a drug trafficking trial.

When I met the two women, they were hardened and seemed unwilling to tell me anything. Over several months, I noticed their attitudes changing as they gradually opened up to me about their children and how they supported them through sex work and later smuggling if they were pregnant, all at the direction of the drug cartels. They were hesitant to testify and afraid their children in Colombia would be harmed.

One day, their attitude changed and their fears disappeared. They arrived at their debriefing in almost an ecstatic state of joy. They told me they had accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, and they knew if they stayed true to their faith and told the truth at the trial all would be well.

I am ashamed to admit that I thought this sudden conversion was a convenient ruse to gain favorable treatment. After all, I had witnessed far too many jail house conversions for just such a purpose. I said as much to them and they just smiled, saying they understood my doubts. After all, they had also believed that Jesus would never love sinners like them.

The months passed and the women continued to provide information. During trial, an FBI agent showed me the Spanish-language Bibles the women kept with them in jail. Inside, I saw that prisoners and prison guards had signed the Bibles asking for and offering prayers and thanking the women for helping them believe that Jesus would forgive their sins.

The truth could no longer be denied. I was the Pharisee questioning who was “worthy” of God’s love while those young women simply answered his call. They spoke of his love even when I wouldn’t listen. They reminded me of his words, “For I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners.”


More from our ministry:

Pray the Daily Office in English and Spanish on our website and app

Read our newest release, on wealth and poverty: The Unjust Steward

Help us send prayer books to people in prison: Donate today

Forward Today: Holy Cross Day

Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him. (from the Collect for Holy Cross Day)

On a recent Sunday, one of our youngest parishioners met me in the hallway and eagerly announced, “It’s my birthday!” We quickly established that he was turning five that day and in his mind that meant he was ready to be an acolyte. At our small New England parish, it is all hands-on deck to create this incredible thing we call liturgy, a.k.a. the work of the people.

Janiel eagerly vested in the smallest cassock and surplice I have ever seen and joined the big kids to serve as an acolyte. That morning, and every Sunday since, I have followed Janiel into the church as he boldly carries a cross more than twice his size in his procession.

As this small child carries the cross, he leads us into worship and then back out into the world. I watch as he calmly carries this giant cross, listing to one side, nearly bonking the choir member in the head in front of him, and always with a huge smile on his face.

Over the years, the cross has meant different things to me. Lately, it has been simple. The cross weaves together what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, the redemption Jesus brings, and most especially the love that cross represents. The five-year-old crucifer who wobbles down the aisle with a giant smile on his face, does so because church is all about Jesus and he knows it. He tells me so.

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.

In faith and peace,

Kate Wesch
Chair of the Board of Forward Movement
Rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, Connecticut


An Update Regarding Scott Gunn

Thank you all for your prayers and concerns regarding The Rev. Scott Gunn over these past weeks. As you might recall from our last update, Scott has been healing and recovering in Singapore following a major medical incident in late July. Scott is still expected to make a full and complete recovery and is doing quite well.

We are pleased to share with you that things are going very well and Scott, along with his spouse, The Rev. Sherilyn Pearce, were able to travel home to Ohio recently where Scott will continue his recovery process. We ask that you continue to hold them in prayer, but refrain from calling, texting, or emailing so that they may devote their energy entirely to Scott’s health.


More from our ministry:

From ChurchNext: Making Sense of the Cross

From the Grow Christians archive: Celebrating Holy Cross Day with Little Ones

Explore your own path of faith and discipleship: Vital Signs of Faith