Forward Today: It’s almost time

Dear friends in Christ,

Lent is almost here. Just two weeks from today, we will begin our Lenten journey.

This will be an unusual Ash Wednesday. Some churches won’t use ashes to mark the beginning of Lent this year, while those who do impose ashes will probably do so differently because of the dangers of disease in our time of pandemic.

Fortunately, our Book of Common Prayer does not require ashes. In fact, “The First Day of Lent” is a valid title for what we usually call “Ash Wednesday” according to our prayer book. The primary focus of getting our Lenten journey started is our awareness of our need to repent. And the whole season flows from that.

We are deprived of our usual Lenten customs this year. But perhaps there is an invitation for us to focus on our need of repentance, of our need to draw closer to Jesus Christ. Maybe we will have a deeper experience of growing into the full stature of Christ as we depart our comfortable, familiar places.

What will your Lenten journey be like? Now is a good time to make sure you and your church are ready for this time of preparation for Easter and embarking on the “spring cleaning of our souls.”

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

P.S. You don’t need to buy things to make your Lenten journey, but resources can be helpful for congregations, small groups, and individuals. Forward Movement has a wide variety of Lenten resources, and today is the last today to order to be sure you’ll get things sent by USPS standard shipping.

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Image: Scott Gunn, flickr


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

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Learn more about Revive for Lent and sign up for a facilitator training session with Dawn Davis

View our interactive Lent catalog | Forward Movement

Forward Today: Staying connected

Dear friends in Christ,

It’s not easy to stay connected in the midst of a pandemic. The need for physical distance means that we can’t spend time with groups, and we can’t do many of the things that we might usually do to stay in touch with friends.

I spend lots of time talking with church leaders about how they are fostering community during this time. Online worship is common, and lots of churches are running classes by video. I myself find it enlivening to teach a weekly Bible study online.

But not everyone has internet access. How are churches staying connected with people who aren’t online? It’s not just an access issue, either. Parents of young children might be so frazzled with keeping their kids’ schoolwork going via zoom, not to mention their own work meetings, that a church meeting online feels like a major burden.

I was impressed when I heard Jason Leo talk about how the church he serves used Forward Day by Day to keep people connected to their faith and to God. You can watch him speak in a brief video. It’s so simple and yet effective.

With Lent coming up, some churches are sending out Lent bags or “Lent in a box” to each home in their church. Leading Ideas offered some excellent ideas for what churches can mail out to keep members connected during Lent, though I don’t love all of their suggestions. Plenty of good advice here though.

We have lots of good Lenten items at Forward Movement. Whether it’s a poster, a devotional book, a children’s book, or a copy of Forward Day by Day, there are lots of tangible ways you can keep your online and offline members connected to God and to their community.

What are you doing to stay connected?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

New release: With Gladness | Forward movement

With Gladness: 5 Weeks of Holy Practices for Disciples | ChurchNext

Learn more about Revive for Lent and sign up for a facilitator training session with Dawn Davis

View our interactive Lent catalog | Forward Movement

Submit a prayer | Christian Prayers from around the World

Forward Today: Pray for our nation

Dear friends in Christ,

I suspect that most Forward Today readers are living in the United States of America. Today is a big day in our national life. If you are living outside the USA, we could still use your prayers.

We normally celebrate the peaceful transfer of power, but this month has been anything but peaceful. Certainly, I hope you will join me in praying for a peaceful inauguration ceremony today, but we have more praying and working to do once the ceremony is over. Some things change with a new president, but most of our national challenges continue.

As Christians, I hope our view is always toward the well-being of all people, especially those at the margins. We can work and pray for righteousness and peace among all people. We can pray and work for a spirit of mercy and truth.

Please join me in praying for the United States government and for all people. This prayer is “For the Nation” and it’s found on page 207 of the Book of Common Prayer.

Lord God Almighty, who hast made all the peoples of the earth for thy glory, to serve thee in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with thy gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

As we move into a new chapter in our national life, I invite you to stay connected with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations for suggestions about engagement with our government. In this time of division, you might also want to check out Make Me an Instrument: A Guide to Civil Discourse, a free course from ChurchNext.

Let us pray for President Trump and President Biden and for all who hold authority. And let us never cease to work and pray for the good and well-being of all people.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Photo: Unsplash


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

New release: With Gladness | Forward movement

With Gladness: 5 Weeks of Holy Practices for Disciples | ChurchNext

Use REVIVELENT discount to purchase Revive and supplemental Lent material for $50 | Revive

View our interactive Lent catalog | Forward Movement

Submit a prayer | Christian Prayers from around the World

Forward Today: Discipleship and citizenship

Dear friends in Christ,

Yesterday, I was invited to join a conversation about discipleship on a regular series called Pew & Beyond. It’s run by Neil Mancor and Lisa Vaughn, friends who work on congregational vitality in the Anglican Church of Canada. We had a good time talking, and there were lively comments from the viewers. If you have an hour to watch Neil, Lisa, and I talk amongst ourselves and interact with viewers, I commend the video to you.

During the conversation, we talked about lots of things, most especially spiritual growth. How do we move from being spiritual couch potatoes to being spiritually healthy? We also talked about a new offering from Forward Movement, Revive for Lent. Check it out if you’re looking for a way to engage spiritual growth using a video-based series this Lent.

Someone asked about the relationship between discipleship and citizenship. Given recent events, in which violence was perpetrated by people claiming to be Christians, I thought it was a timely topic. It wouldn’t be hard to write a book on this topic, but in today’s email, I just want to share a few quick thoughts.

Discipleship is about the journey of individuals in following Jesus, but it can only be done in community. In other words, for a disciple there is always personal accountability and accountability to a wider community. So too it is with citizenship. There is work I must do as a citizen, but I must also attend to the well-being of my community.

It strikes me that this balance of individual and community is something that we often get wrong with disastrous results. In the church, if we fail to teach personal ownership of our spiritual journey, we end up with churches full of people who do not have a prayer life or an immersion in the scriptures. Conversely, if we fail to emphasize community, we end up with a selfish focus on personal spiritual achievement, which is quite the opposite of the sacrificial love that Jesus taught and lived.

So too it is with citizenship. If we fail to emphasize personal accountability, we effectively abrogate our leadership to any number of people who would hijack a nation for their own personal interests. And if we fail to emphasize community, we see a selfish view of citizenship that does not care for those at the margins.

In the coming weeks, I hope we can all reflect on our work as disciples of Jesus and as citizens of whatever nation we inhabit. We have many blessings to enjoy, but we also have much work to do.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

New release: With Gladness | Forward movement

Spiritual Truth in an Age of Fake News | ChurchNext

Use REVIVELENT discount to purchase Revive and supplemental Lent material for $50 | Revive

Looking ahead to Lent? Here are some ideas. | Forward Movement

Submit a prayer | Christian Prayers from around the World

Join us on January 13th, 7pm est for RenewalWorks: Connect, featuring guest presenter: Dr. Lisa Kimball from Virginia Theological Seminary

Forward Today: Proclaim the Gospel of the boundless riches of Christ

Dear friends in Christ,

Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. The familiar story is told in the Gospel of Matthew, a story of Christ’s presence being made known to the whole world. On this feast day, the assigned epistle reading is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.

St. Paul writes about the grace he has been given by God and about the mission he shares with the whole church.

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

On this feast of the Epiphany, we do well to remember not only God’s grace revealed in Jesus Christ, but our mission to proclaim the love, wisdom, mercy, justice, and grace of God to the whole world.

The magi left behind their familiar world because they saw a sign. After a great and dangerous journey, they adored Jesus when they saw him. Are we willing to look for signs and respond to God’s call? Are we ready to adore Jesus Christ when we see him? Are we ready to make God’s grace known to the whole world?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

New release: With Gladness | Forward movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Looking ahead to Lent? Here are some ideas. | Forward Movement

Submit a prayer | Christian Prayers from around the World

Join us on January 13th, 7pm est for RenewalWorks: Connect, featuring guest presenter: Dr. Lisa Kimball from Virginia Theological Seminary

Forward Today: Our hopes and fears are met in Jesus

Dear friends in Christ,

I love several lines in Phillips Brooks’ beloved Christmas carol, “O little town of Bethlehem.” The last phrase in the first verse is especially poignant to me this year, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Our God came to dwell among us, and in so doing, our hopes and fears met their redeemer. Ancient people had hopes and fears, and Jesus knew them. Today, we too have hopes and fears, and Jesus knows us and our hearts.

The year that is past certainly brought out many fears. If you’re like me, you are looking ahead in hope right about now. Of course, it’s never that easy. Hope and fear often come together.

 

At Forward Movement, it’s been a challenging year. We have tried valiantly to offer signs and words of hope. We created new materials to support Christians finding their way at home. We continued to send tens of thousands of copies of Forward Day by Day to people in prison, to nursing homes, to hospitals, and to military bases. We completely shifted how we work so that our ministry could carry on and we could be there when you call or write for help or to place an order.

I haven’t been afraid for Forward Movement’s long-term survival. We will be here for you and the church for decades to come. I’m sure of that. My fears have been simpler: are we really shifting in the best way possible? Are we providing what people need? Can we continue to innovate and create free podcasts and websites during a time of reduced income?

My hopes are much larger than my fears. I hope for a vibrant future for the church, and in some ways this challenging time is pushing all of us in ways we needed to be pushed. I hope the pandemic helps us be more aware of our interconnectedness. I hope when this strange time ends, we live in gratitude for things we might have taken for granted. Of course, I hope suffering is minimal and healing for people and nations comes quickly.

This time of year, you’ll be hearing from a lot of organizations asking for your financial support. At Forward Movement, we always hope you support your local church first and foremost. I also know you might not be in a position to make a financial gift now, and if that’s the case, I’ll ask for your prayers.

If you are able to make a gift to support the ministry of Forward Movement in sharing the love of Jesus Christ who knows all our hopes and fears, I would be most grateful. Your online gift will help us continue to offer what the church needs, even when those needs require us to make something free of charge. Your gift will help us stay strong now, so that we emerge from this pandemic time in good health.

If you have hopes or fears that Forward Movement can address, please let me know. Meanwhile, I wish you every blessing in the year to come.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

The Good Book Club: Epiphany 2021 begins January 1st

Available in print and as an eBook: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Looking ahead to Lent? Here are some ideas. | Forward Movement

Submit a prayer | Christian Prayers from around the World

Forward Today: Christmas can’t be canceled

Dear friends in Christ,

This Christmas will be like no other in recent memory. There will be no packed churches, no Christmas carols belted out with brass and choirs, no acres of poinsettias in the chancel, and not even any large family gatherings.

It would be understandable if we focused on our losses this year. Our losses are considerable, both in the thousands and thousands of people who have died in the pandemic and in the loss of familiar habits and rituals.

For Christians there is always Good News, even amidst our struggles and suffering. We know that evil is defeated on the cross, and we know that death is vanquished in the empty tomb. And then there is Christmas.

Some 2,000 years ago, the world suffered mightily under the yoke of oppressors. God’s people yearned for deliverance, ached for a word of hope. That hope came into the world in Bethlehem, an insignificant town in the middle of nowhere, at least according to the powers-that-be. God’s deliverance was born into our world in a birth that was precisely as beautiful and messy as any other.

Of course, not everything was normal about this birth. Sure, it was a human mother giving birth to a human son. But we know it was Mary the God-bearer bringing Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, into the world.

An angel proclaimed glad tidings. The host of heaven praised God. Shepherds hastened to meet their savior.

Nothing can change that story, for that story has changed the world. We would do well to be like those shepherds. Let us hasten to welcome Jesus into our world and into our very lives. And then let us glorify and praise God, for our world yearns for deliverance and aches in hope.

Perhaps with all the habits and rituals pared away, we can find the heart of the Gospel message of Christmas. God never abandons us and always finds us in our struggles. God-among-us is still very much our savior.

May we all, like Mary, treasure the Good News. And may we, like the shepherds, hasten to meet Jesus and proclaim his love to the world. I wish you a blessed Christmas.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

The Good Book Club: Epiphany 2021 begins January 1st

Available in print and as an eBook: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Looking ahead to Lent? Here are some ideas. | Forward Movement

Forward Today: Oh, it’s time for the O Antiphons

Dear friends in Christ,

One of my favorite liturgical customs comes along every year just before Christmas. In the last days of Advent, there are special prayers to be said during evening prayer starting December 17. They are called the Great O Antiphons, because each of these prayers begins with O. You can find the prayers in the Wikipedia article for the O Antiphons.

You probably know these antiphons without knowing it. The hymn “O come, O come Emmanuel” is a paraphrase of these ancient prayers. If you open The Hymnal 1982 and turn to hymn 56, you’ll see this beloved hymn. At the start of each verse, there’s a date telling you on which day of Advent this verse is appropriately sung.

If you’re like me, this a chaotic time of year. There are tasks to be finished by Christmas, there are tasks to be finished by the end of the calendar year, and there is the overall misery of this lousy year. For all those reasons, I’m especially looking forward to adding a ray of hope and light to my evening prayers over the next few days.

I’ll probably just say the prayers at the end of evening prayer where additional prayers may be added. But it would also be appropriate to sing a verse of “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

Whatever you do, I encourage you to stick with Advent to the end. Our hearts and our lives need the full measure of this season to prepare ourselves to adore God-among-us.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Let us all pray for prudence. Advent blessings to one and all.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Photo: Wikipedia


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Order Now: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Check out our interactive Advent/Christmas Catalog | Forward Movement

Our Ministry in a Global Pandemic

We get a lot of questions about how we’re doing at Forward Movement these days. The short answer is that we’re well. So far, none of us has been ill due to the coronavirus.

Starting in early March, we scattered from our office, and our staff has been working in their homes since then. Working remotely brings challenges because we can’t pop up over a cubicle wall or walk down the hall for a quick answer to a question. Just moving checks and other pieces of paper around can be complicated. And we miss seeing one another in person.

However, this time also brings blessings. We are learning to work in new ways. Some churches have called us to increase their Forward Day by Day orders, telling us that delivering daily devotions to people’s homes is one of the critical ways they are keeping their church together in a time that looks dispersed. Your donations are exceptionally generous, and for that, we are profoundly grateful. We are surrounded by the prayers and love of people worldwide, and we pray for you.

Because most churches are not meeting in person, we’ve seen our revenue decline sharply. Some churches have canceled Forward Day by Day, and without classes and book groups, our book sales are down. To stay financially sound, we were forced to reduce our staff by about 20%. It was tough to say farewell to beloved colleagues.

Despite these challenges, we have worked hard to meet the immediate needs of the pandemic. We launched This is NOT Sunday School to support Christian learning at home. We reduced our ebook prices to make digital resources more accessible and affordable. We’ve created several other free resources to meet the needs of the church. We continue to say yes to free material requests from prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and military bases.

We are optimistic about our future, long term. We have a stable reserve fund, and our board of directors is working hard to ensure we stay focused on what we need to do for our organizational health and the good of the church. We will be here for you during the pandemic and long after it ends.

If you are inclined to pray for our staff and our work, we’d be grateful. If your income is unaffected by the pandemic and you are able, we very much appreciate your donation in support of our ministry. Your support of our ministry means that we can be ready to support you and the whole church.

Your letters, phone calls, and emails mean the world to us. Do let us know if we can help you, or if you have suggestions for our ministry.


This article in an excerpt from Odyssey. Read the full issue of Odyssey here.

Forward Today: Looking toward Christmas

Dear friends in Christ,

I hope you’ll forgive this intrusion into Advent, but we need to talk about Christmas for a minute. It’s coming. Part of our hope-filled Advent is attending to the logistics of Christmas celebration, and we want to be ready to do whatever we can to receive again the gift of God-with-us.

Not long ago, I read a wonderful blog post about Christmas, churches, and the pandemic.

The pandemic makes connecting with new people this Christmas more important than ever. But the pandemic also has given rise to new ways of being and doing church that present new opportunities for reaching people. Christmas 2020 calls us to meet new people in new ways. Don’t miss this moment.

This blog post, “Reaching New People this Christmas is More Important than Ever”, is worth reading carefully. There are some good ideas of how we can reach people with the Good News they need in the midst of a difficult time.

You may be too exhausted to do more than you’re doing now. And if that’s the case, take care of yourself and know that it’s more than enough.

If, however, you can muster the energy, you and your church can offer a tangible manifestation of Christ’s presence in the coming Christmas season. We can’t have our familiar, beloved Christmas services. Family gatherings must be scaled back. But still we can celebrate the Good News and the glory that the angels celebrated when Jesus was born. Christmas 2020 will be unlike any in recent memory, but it will still be Christmas.

I don’t know what your church should do, and I don’t know what you can do. But I do know that all around there are people yearning for a word of hope, mercy, and grace. This is our moment to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Pray for strength and courage to answer the call. Pray for our whole church—weary though we may be—to proclaim glad tidings of God’s great love for us.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Photo: Pixabay


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Order Now: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Check out our interactive Advent/Christmas Catalog | Forward Movement