Category Archives: Forward Today

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?

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: Full of grace and truth

Saint John’s Bible exhibit, St. Mary’s Abbey, Morristown, New Jersey. Photo by Randy Greves (CC BY 2.0)

Dear friends in Christ,

Ready or not, Christmas is almost here! An occupational hazard for those of us who “work” at church— as clergy, altar guild, choir, lectors, staff, whatever — is that we get so busy with the details that we miss the mystery and awe of Christmas. I suppose that same hazard exists for all of us, between gift-giving, meal preparation, decorations, parties, and all the traditions of the season.

Consider this message your invitation to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation of the awe and wonder of Christmas. And then if you can manage that awe again at church in a few days, so much the better!

I encourage you to find a quiet spot. Grab a Bible or a connected device. Read Luke 2:1-20 and John 1:1-14. It might be helpful to read them in a couple of different translations, perhaps a familiar one and a less familiar one. Read them several times.

What is God doing? How is the birth of Jesus like any other, and how is his birth different from all others? What does the way his birth unfolds teach us about God? How might we be inspired to live more faithfully because God loves us so much that he was willing to live as God-with-us, fully enfleshed?

I love Christmas carols and festive traditions. But what gets me every year, if I make time for it, is the fresh realization of God’s great love for us all, both in its simplicity and in its majesty.

Have a joyous AND contemplative Christmas, friends.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Spend the last days of the season with AdventWord

A guide to “good news of great joy” in the Bible: The Path

Explore these gospels with the Bible Challenge series

Pray every day with us: prayer.forwardmovement.org

Forward Today: Advent confessions of a clergy spouse

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ: We’re pleased to welcome Lindsay Barrett-Adler, our Director of Development, as our guest author this week.

Last Sunday, I heard my parish priest (and husband) say the following words to begin A Service of Advent Lessons and Carols: “Beloved in Christ, in this season of Advent, let it be our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the Angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem, to see the Babe lying in a manger.”

I have been preparing many things lately—decorations, presents, school break babysitters, cookie exchanges, and all kinds of Christmas fun for my family. And that’s in addition to my paid ministry here at Forward Movement. Sitting with our two-year-old in the church soft space, I continued to reflect on Paul’s (the husband’s) invitation to prepare my heart and mind for Christmas, now only a few weeks away. Did he just add one more task to my ever-expanding list?

And this can easily become the refrain of my Advent as a clergy spouse. More services, more meetings, more parties, more commitments, and the ever-present pressure to deliver a picture-perfect Christmas morning at the end of it all. If anything, church can sometimes feel like an extra burden at an already frenzied time of the year. I could get so much done in that hour on Sunday morning!

Putting the third dozen batch of cookies into the freezer, I imagine how Martha must have felt when she and Mary welcomed Christ into their home. I have been so busy and so stressed, so worried about all the things on that to-do list. Would Jesus look at my priorities and say I am giving value to the most important things? In the brief time left in Advent, will I choose “the better part,” or will I continue to cling to stress as a status symbol and conversation starter, letting that to-do list monopolize my heart and mind?

I choose to let it be my care and delight to prepare myself for the remainder of Advent and hope you will too. Beloved in Christ, let us go to Bethlehem, letting fall by the wayside those things that distract us from the journey ahead. We each have the opportunity, with each new day, to do as Baruch invites: “Put on the robe of the righteousness from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting.” There are so many ways to prepare in the time left, from taking up a habit of prayer to fasting and spending time with God in scripture. Whatever my new Advent practice ends up being, it will be done not with obligation and guilt, but with care and delight.

Yours faithfully,

Lindsay Barrett-Adler
Director of Development

P.S. We hope you enjoy Forward Today, one of the many free ministries offered by Forward Movement. You can make a special, year-end gift to inspire disciples and empower evangelists by clicking here.


More from our ministry:

Pray on the go with our podcasts or mobile app

Pray with Mary and Martha: Bible Women

Explore our flagship devotional, Forward Day by Day

A visual devotional for the season: AdventWord

Forward Today: Most affecting and majestic manner

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent offers us an invitation to renew our study of scripture and our life of prayer. As an Episcopalian, I naturally think of the Book of Common Prayer in this season of repentance and growth. Given that this is a time of year when I buy Christmas gifts, I find myself wondering who I know who might enjoy the gift of the Book of Common Prayer at Christmas.

In the larger sense, the prayer book is a gift for all of us. The preface to the 1789 edition, which is reprinted in our current 1979 book, ends with this flourish:

And now, this important work being brought to a conclusion, it is hoped the whole [book] will be received and examined by every true member of our Church, and every sincere Christian, with a meek, candid, and charitable frame of mind; without prejudice or prepossessions; seriously considering what Christianity is, and what the truths of the Gospel are; and earnestly beseeching Almighty God to accompany with his blessing every endeavor for promulgating them to mankind in the clearest, plainest, most affecting and majestic manner, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior.

Isn’t that lovely? I’ve always loved the Book of Common Prayer since I first encountered it, but thinking of it as a means of transmitting our faith “in the clearest, plainest, most affecting and majestic manner, for the sake of Jesus Christ” really hits home.

Forward Movement publishes the finest personal edition of the Book of Common Prayer you can buy. The rubrics are, as the name would suggest, printed in red ink. This edition features a leather cover and gilt-edged pages with a ribbon. It’s an ideal size for holding. You’ll love it. And I’m happy to say it’s on sale this week for just $39.95, discounted from the usual retail price of $55.

You might like this lovely book for your own use, or it makes an excellent gift. It has a gift plate inside the front cover. What better Christmas gift than the gift of prayer? If a prayer book isn’t right for your recipient, Forward Movement also publishes Hour by Hour and Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, both also with leather covers and gilt pages.

Of course, you don’t have to buy books to have a rich life of prayer. However you choose to pray in this Advent season, I encourage you to talk to God and to listen for God’s still, small voice in this noisy world.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Pray each day of the season with words of scripture: AdventWord

Explore the spirituality of the Prayer Book: Inwardly Digest

New this year: Calendars for the Twelve Days of Christmas

See more gift items: Devotionals, prayer books and more

Forward Today: The counter-cultural season of Advent

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday the season of Advent begins. Two thousand years ago, John the Baptist was a voice crying in the wilderness to call people to repentance. Today, Advent is a voice crying in the din of our time that salvation comes not from shiny things, but from Love Incarnate. In other words, the subversive call to repentance has not changed much in 20 centuries.

December can seem overwhelming. Custom demands that we spend vast sums on gifts. Invitations to parties and festive gathering might stack up. In church, folks are working hard preparing for Christmas celebrations. One might be left wondering how there will be any time for Advent.

And this is the point. Keeping Advent isn’t easy, and that is exactly why we do well to try to keep this season of preparation and repentance.

I’m not here to yell at you for playing Christmas carols or putting up a few decorations. Avoiding Christmas festivity isn’t the fundamental point of Advent. Though I think waiting to celebrate Christmas until it’s Christmas has virtue, I also think people can do two things at once. We can enjoy some holiday festivity and find ways to keep Advent.

What does this look like? Presumably, your church celebrates the liturgy a bit differently this time of year—Advent music and a different focus. This season might be a good time to curl up with the scriptures. As we’re beginning Year B in the three-year lectionary cycle, you might want to read the Gospel of Mark in its entirety. Maybe you’ll spend a few more moments in prayer each day. An Advent wreath can help to create a prayerful environment at home.

Mostly though, the point of this season is to prepare our hearts to meet Jesus. One day, we will all meet him when he comes in glory to judge the world. Will we, as the Advent preface suggests, be ready “without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing”?

What parts of your life need to change? What practices in your life do you want to increase or decrease? Who can you invite to know the Good News of Jesus Christ, who offers redemption to all? These are the matters for us to focus on this Advent season, and I hope you’ll find practices that aid in your reflection and repentance.

A blessed Advent to you.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. Forward Movement offers a new seasonal devotional book with practices and reflections for Advent and Christmastide. You can get the book in paper or as an ebook (Amazon Kindle or Apple Books).


More from our ministry:

Explore Mark’s Gospel in Year B: A Journey with Mark Bible Challenge

Get ready for the 12 Days of Christmas: Christmas Calendar

Practical ways to follow Jesus: The Way of Love Practical Guide

Give the gift of prayer with a gift subscription to Forward Day by Day

Forward Today: A right, and a good and joyful thing

Photo by Dawn McDonald on Unsplash

Dear friends in Christ,

The usual messages we hear in our culture go something like this: “Be afraid! You don’t have enough! You need more things to be happy!” Given the din of these messages of consumerism, it’s practically a miracle that even the commerce machine pauses for a day, and we still set aside time for Thanksgiving.

No pun intended, but I am so deeply grateful for this holiday of giving thanks.

At most celebrations of Holy Eucharist, the celebrant says, “It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” In the spirit of keeping the main thing the main thing, I hope you’ll find your way to a church. The best way we can give thanks to God for all the blessings of this life is to gather with other Christians and express our adoration and gratitude.

We offer our thanks and praise, and God reminds us of his grace and mercy as we receive the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. It’s simple and beautiful, almost discordant in this age of shiny things and the endless drumbeat of shopping. (I have nothing against shopping! It’s just that it’s not the main thing of life!)

When families gather, it’s customary to express gratitude. I hope you’ll do this, whatever the size of your family. If you aren’t able to gather with others, perhaps you’ll write a note or an email to someone else expressing gratitude for God’s blessings. It’s good for our souls to say thank you to God and our neighbors.

Imagine if we could fulfill the vision of the lovely line from our liturgy, “always and everywhere” giving thanks. In that sense, Thanksgiving Day is a foretaste of the feast of gratitude to come.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn's signature

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

Weave prayer and thanksgiving through your day: Hour by Hour

Give the gift of common prayer: BCP Gift Edition

Help us share what we have been given: Become a donor today

Forward Today: Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest

Dear friends in Christ,
Each year, I look forward to the Sunday nearest November 16. This Sunday we pray one of my very favorite collects:
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.
Thomas Cranmer originally wrote this one for Advent, but I like its new placement in our liturgical year. I am grateful for this annual reminder of the purpose of scripture. We love the scriptures not just for the texts themselves but for the hope to which they point: everlasting life given to us in Jesus.
Forward Movement’s RenewalWorks data tells us that not very many Episcopalians read the Bible regularly. I’m not here to shame anyone or make you feel guilty! One of the core messages of the Gospel is that it’s never too late. So why not make time in your life for regular reading of scripture?
If you’re not sure where to start, there are chapters about the Bible and how to read it in two books I co-authored with the Rev’d Melody Shobe, Faithful Questions and Walk in Love. Or you can ask your priest or a wise spiritual friend for guidance. If you want a suggestion of what to read when you pick up a Bible to read on your own for the first time, I suggest reading the psalms or maybe one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).
At Forward Movement, we offer several tools to help you read the Bible regularly.
  • You can use any of our Bible Challenge books for companion reflections as you read some part of the Bible.
  • Bible Women offers every word spoken by women in the Bible along with the back stories.
  • This January, you can join the Good Book Club (for free!) to read Genesis with folks from around the world.
  • Forward Day by Day offers a reflection on the assigned readings of the Episcopal Church each day.
The Bible is perhaps the most important and most misunderstood book. But the good news is that you can read the Bible for yourself and discover its wonders and the hope to which it points.
Happy reading!
Yours faithfully,
Scott Gunn's signature
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Last chance: Get your copy of Preparing the Way before Advent begins!

Find practical tips for following Jesus: The Way of Love

Discover scripture in the Book of Common Prayer: Inwardly Digest

Get ready for the Good Book Club: A Journey through Genesis