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

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

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

Where did the idea for this book come from?

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

What is your hope for this book?

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

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

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

What does evangelism mean to you?

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

Do you have a favorite prayer?

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

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

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

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

Forward Today: A case for love

Dear friends in Christ,

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

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

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

Love changes the world one life at a time.

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

The answer is love.

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

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

Yours faithfully,

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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,

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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,

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Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

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

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

Pray on the go with devotional and Daily Office podcasts

A beautiful, portable way to pray: Hour by Hour

Forward Today: Top posts of 2023

Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Dear friends in Christ,

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

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

Yours faithfully,

Margaret Ellsworth
Marketing Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new devotional and small group study: Will You? A Lenten Study of Baptismal Promises

Book cover of Will You? A Lenten Study of Baptismal PromisesCincinnati, OH – Forward Movement, in collaboration with Episcopal Evangelism Society, invites Episcopalians to reflect on their baptismal promises during Lent through a new small group study and corresponding book, Will You? A Lenten Study of Baptismal Promises.

This five-week Lenten small group study offers daily reflections, examples of evangelism in action, and an invitation to think in new ways about the promises we make to God, each other, and ourselves in baptism.

A free downloadable group leader guide helps facilitators plan and guide six group meetings to discuss the book.

When we are initiated into the church with the water of baptism, we (or our sponsors) answer a series of questions called the Baptismal Covenant. The first three questions echo the words of our creeds, our beliefs about God and the church. The last five questions focus on action. They each begin with the words: “Will You?”

These “Will You” questions articulate how we are to animate our baptism, to follow Christ’s example in our relationships with others, our communities, and the world. These questions move from a “gathering in” to a “sending out”—they are a call to embrace and practice evangelism by proclaiming the Good News of Christ in all we do and say.

The study was written by Amanda Perkins McGriff, who received a 2021 Episcopal Evangelism Society grant to create a curriculum exploring connections between baptism, eucharist, and evangelism.

“This resource will inspire meaningful conversations about evangelism, as it relates to our Baptismal promises, for congregations at any stage of engaging Episcopal evangelism. It was transformative in my own congregation,” said Day Smith Pritchartt, Executive Director of the Episcopal Evangelism Society.

Will You? is available in print from Forward Movement directly, with affordable bulk rates for churches and groups. The print edition is also available through online sellers such as Amazon; please note that when you buy the print version directly from Forward Movement most of your money reaches us and is reinvested in our ministry.

The book is also available as an eBook on Amazon Kindle and Apple Books, and audiobook on Audible and Apple Books.

Order directly from Forward Movement at forwardmovement.org/willyou or by phone at 800-543-1813.



About Forward Movement

Inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists around the globe every day, Forward Movement has been producing excellent, innovative resources to encourage spiritual growth in individuals and congregations for more than eighty years.

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

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