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Forward Movement books win top honors in Christian book awards

Four books recently released by Forward Movement have been recognized as among the best Christian books by the 2023 Illumination Book Awards.

The Creation Care Bible Challenge, the ninth book of the best-selling Bible Challenge series created and edited by Marek Zabriskie, has been awarded the 2023 gold medal for Bible Study.

 Three silver medal awards were bestowed upon other Forward Movement titles: Mark Bozzuti-Jones’ Face to the Rising Sun: Reflections on Spirituals and Justice in the Devotional category; Miguel Escobar’s The Unjust Steward: Wealth, Poverty, and the Church Today for Theology; and Seek and You Will Find: Discovering a Practice of Prayer, by Rhonda Mawhood Lee, in the Spirituality category.

“We are excited to see these wonderful books receive recognition from the Illumination Awards,” said Richelle Thompson, managing editor of Forward Movement. “Each offers an invitation to deepen our relationship with Christ, ourselves, and each other. We’re proud to work with inspiring writers and contributors to bring these dynamic and engaging resources to life and help disciples on their journey.”

To celebrate these achievements, Forward Movement is offering an extra discount on each of these titles at forwardmovement.org, now through February 28, 2023.

To order these books or other resources, visit forwardmovement.org or call 1.800.543.1813. Our titles are available as eBooks on Kindle and Apple Books.


Q&A: Rhonda Mawhood Lee, author of Seek and You Will Find

Rhonda Mawhood Lee among the flowers in her back garden.How do we pray? Prayer is an essential part of the Christian life, but it often remains stubbornly mysterious. Rhonda Mawhood Lee, an Episcopal priest, writer, and spiritual director, walks us through the “how” of prayer and many diverse practices of prayer in her new book, Seek and You Will Find. Learn more about Lee and her book in this author Q&A.

How did the idea for this book develop?
A few years ago, I attended a meeting between members of the Society of Scholar Priests and Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement. The facilitator asked Scott what kinds of books he’d like to see members of the SSP write, and one of Scott’s suggestions was a book about how to pray. That resonated with me, because so many Christians have told me they don’t know how to pray, and don’t have anyone to teach them. I love to teach, and I have devoted a lot of time to learning to pray, so I thought I might write such a book. And after a while, I did.

What is your hope for this book?
I hope, first, that it gives the people who read it a sense of God’s great love for them and desire to keep company with them. And then, second, I hope it helps readers see that there are many faithful ways to pray, and maybe feel inspired to try a few. Finally, I hope that by leading people to prayer, the book helps to spread God’s loving, resurrecting power further into the world.

Which of the prayer practices in this book was easiest or most familiar? What about a practice that was particularly difficult or new to you?
Well, I’ve just about given up on ever doing yoga. I mean, I might, one day, but I’m not counting on it. It just doesn’t draw me.

On the whole, though, I appreciate and use a variety of different practices. The Daily Office, contemplative prayer, Ignatian contemplation, the Jesus Prayer, the rosary (more recently), doodling, walking prayers, lectio divina…I do them all at different times, and I’m glad they’re all available to me.

What surprised you the most while writing this book?
The fact that I managed to write it at all, in the midst of the Covid pandemic. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to focus, given everything that was going on in the world, and the heightened level of anxiety that was present in just about every human interaction. But writing the book ended up being something of an oasis. Thanks be to God.

Cocoa Cinnamon CafeWhere do you typically write?
I often write at my favorite coffee shop, Cocoa Cinnamon in Durham, North Carolina. I’m lucky to have space at home to write, both inside and outside on our back porch (which makes a cameo in the book as a place I like to pray). But I can write just about anywhere, including airplanes, public transportation, and public libraries.

What is your favorite prayer?
The psalms. That may not be a fair answer, since there are 150 of them and you asked for a favorite, but the psalms are the prayers I have returned to over and over, in sorrow, in contrition, in joy, and in questioning and seeking. They are my true friends and teachers, and they connect me to spiritual ancestors and to Jewish and Christian siblings today. And to Jesus, who prayed them too.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I am praying for you. Truly. In intercession and with thanksgiving.

Seek and You Will Find is available on the Forward Movement website. Read a sample or order your copy today.

Q&A with Author & Bishop Edward S. Little

In his new book, The Heart of a Leader, Bishop Edward S. Little moves through 2 Timothy, drawing on the lessons and teachings of Paul as a guide for mentoring and encouraging others to a life deeply committed to Christ. Learn more about Bishop Little and our newest resource in this Q&A with the author.

Could you introduce yourself to readers?
I’m a native New Yorker, born in Manhattan and raised in New York City and in the Connecticut suburbs. After graduating from the University of Southern California with a degree in history, I attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and was ordained deacon and priest in 1971. Following two brief curacies, I served as rector of St. Joseph’s, Buena Park, California, and All Saints, Bakersfield, California. Then came the surprise of my life: in 1999 I was elected Bishop of Northern Indiana and became a Hoosier! From 2000-16, it was my privilege to oversee that wonderful diocese. Writing has always been an important part of my ministry. I’ve written two other books (Ears to Hear: Recognizing and Responding to God’s Call and Joy in Disguise: Meeting Jesus in the Dark Times) and articles for The Living Church and Christianity Today. I married my wife, Sylvia, in 1968; we have two children and two grandchildren. To my sorrow, Sylvia died in 2020. In retirement, I live in the South Bend area, assisting in a local parish and, on occasion, continuing my ministry of scribbling.

What was the most enjoyable part of writing The Heart of a Leader?
The book emerged out of a retreat for clergy that I offered in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. As I searched for a topic, I was drawn to St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy. In the timeline of Paul’s life, this was his final letter, and he is reminding his understudy, Timothy, to be faithful to Paul’s teaching and example. Put briefly, Second Timothy is advice from a mentor to his apprentice. The more I pondered the letter, the more excited I became. It’s a training manual, a book of encouragement, and an outline of how a leader guides the church. Over the years, I offered the retreat in several other dioceses (including my own), and used some of the material in work with lay leaders. Eventually I decided to turn all of this material into a book. Writing The Heart of a Leader gave me the opportunity to ponder my own leadership and to think about the mentors who had shaped my life and my ministry. That, perhaps, was the greatest joy. It’s my “thank-you letter” to the people who helped me to become the Christian and the leader that I am.

What was the most difficult part?
I faced two major challenges. First, as I “translated” the retreat notes into text, I had to change the emphasis from clergy leadership to the leadership of both lay and ordained Christians. The retreat, of course, had been given in the setting of communities of clergy; and so the examples and the focus of much of the material was on the unique leadership responsibilities of the ordained. The book, on the other hand, looks at a wide range leadership, and seeks to encourage all Christians. At times I struggled to adapt the material and find more broad-based illustrations; but ultimately it all came together. The second challenge was personal. My first two books were written on sabbatical, produced over a couple months of intense work. The Heart of a Leader, on the other hand, was written after my retirement. My wife was in the final years of her illness, and the main focus of my life was rightly on caring for her. That meant that the writing was done in short bursts, often separated by days or weeks or, in one instance, months. When the first draft was complete, the writing seemed choppy, and the paragraphs didn’t hang together as well as I wanted. Happily, the Rev. Nancy Hopkins-Green, the editor whom Forward Movement assigned to work with me, helped me to smooth out the text and make it a better-flowing book.

What would you do if you felt stuck while researching or working on this book?
Typically, I produce somewhere between 750 and 1,000 words in a writing session. As I wrote The Heart of a Leader, the words often flowed easily, and I moved almost effortlessly from paragraph to paragraph. Occasionally, however, everything slowed down. Sometimes the issue was content. What was I actually trying to convey? At other times, I simply couldn’t produce text—interior or exterior distraction seemed to gum up my brain and the keyboard of my laptop. When that happened, I generally gave myself permission to stop, set aside the work, and begin afresh the next time. On the whole, that approach worked.

Where do you typically write?
I have never been able to write at home. Speaking of distractions! Sitting in my own study, surrounded by beloved books, with a television in the next room and chores always pressing in, I find that my mind gets drawn away from the task at hand. About two-thirds of The Heart of a Leader was written in the reading room of the Theodore M. Hesburgh Library on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. (One of the blessings of living in the South Bend area is the university and its resources.) The reading room is decked out with large desks (all with power plugs for laptops) and comfortable chairs. One wall is an enormous picture window that brightens the space and gives it a cheerful atmosphere. The room is usually filled with students, but the room’s culture demands absolute silence. The only sound is the clicking of laptop keys. The other setting for my writing was a small office at St. Paul’s, Mishawaka, Indiana, where I assist. St. Paul’s kindly provides me with a workspace on the second floor of its parish building. The room is outfitted with a desk and a comfortable chair—and nothing else. I’ve intentionally left the bookshelves bare. No distractions!

What is your ultimate goal for this book?
I mentioned earlier that Second Timothy is a training manual—and, specifically, a training manual for leaders. Many decades ago I read a commentary on Second Timothy by Anglican writer and priest John Stott entitled Guard the Gospel, and ever since I’ve returned again and again to this New Testament document for guidance. And so it was natural, when Bishop Sean Rowe of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania invited me to offer a retreat for his clergy, that I gravitated to Second Timothy. My goal in writing the book is to encourage leaders; to allow this letter to provide a set of priorities and principles that will help us to lead more faithfully and effectively. Because Second Timothy is a personal letter from a mentor to his protégé, the theme of mentorship weaves its way throughout The Heart of a Leader. Our mentors have formed us, challenged us, and reminded us of our calling. We in turn are called to pass on those lessons to the next generation of leaders.

What is your favorite prayer?
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. —The Book of Common Prayer, p. 832

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
It was an enormous privilege to write The Heart of a Leader. I had the opportunity to sit at the feet of St. Paul as he wrote his final advice to his protégé. In so doing, the Apostle spoke to me and, once again, became my mentor, model, and encourager. I pray that everyone who reads my book will be equally encouraged and equally challenged.

Order The Heart of the Leader today!

Q&A: Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

The Most Rev. Dr. Thabo Makgoba is the Anglican Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. He became Archbishop of Cape Town in 2007, the youngest person ever to be elected to this position. His book, Faith & Courage: Praying with Mandela, recounts his ministry of prayer and presence in the final years of Mandela’s life. We are grateful to be able to ask him more about his life and ministry.

1. What is your hope for this book?
My hope is that it will encourage others to write about their stories of faith and be courageous in articulating them. There are many milestones that people pass in their lives and one of my milestones as a Christian was being fortunate enough to be asked to minister to Nelson Mandela in his “quietening” years. His was a story of faith and courage which transformed me, so my hope for others is that readers will learn about the spiritual side of Nelson Mandela and be transformed by his story.

2. What is your favorite memory with Nelson Mandela?
My favourite memory was visiting him when his health was beginning to fail, and because he had woken up late we were sharing breakfast with him. Looking at the number of people waiting to see him, I asked, “Tata (Father), don’t you get tired having to see so many people?” He was visibly upset, and rebuked me, “How can people tire you? People don’t tire me – people energize me.”

3. What is your favorite prayer?
My first visit to him [Nelson Mandela] was going to be on St. Barnabas Day, so we looked ahead of time at the lessons for the day. Looking back, the end of the prayer still moves me profoundly:

And we ask that now, in the quietening years
He may find around him those who may be as Barnabas to him,
Warm friends to delight his heart, and cheer his days,
And, dear Father God, we pray that you will hold him close
In your ever-loving, ever-lasting arms,
Today, tomorrow, and always.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We had the sense that he was beginning to slip away, so we wanted words that as we prayed would remind him that he had entered his last days. The prayer reminds me of my own mortality and I hope that when those days come for me I will have people with whom I can pray and who will offer prayers of encouragement.

4. Is there a moment you would describe as the most profound in your life? Could you share that moment?
It was the time, which I write about in the book, when I was walking to school during unrest in Alexandra township in Johannesburg. White army conscripts in a Casspir, an armoured vehicle, all carrying guns, saw me and began to chase me. As I looked back at the Casspir coming for me I thought they can’t really be wanting to run me over, but on the other hand there were stories of people being run over, so I ran into the yard of a local mechanic and hid under one of the cars he was repairing. The mechanic confronted them and they went away.

The incident said a lot about the courage of the mechanic, an unarmed black man standing up alone to a vehicle full of armed soldiers. But it also said something about those conscripts, forced to serve in the army whether they wanted to or not – they could have ignored the mechanic and killed or maimed me with little fear of the consequences. So that was an important moment of grace in my life, a lesson that even in the midst of difficulties people who have the power to harm you can choose not to.

5. How does faith fuel your work?
Stories like this, and stories in the Bible where you see God prevailing in situations of darkness and anxiety, remind us that our God is in charge of our destiny, holding us in the palm of his hands. When as Archbishop I have to deal with past ills of the Church and administer disciplinary canons, when I have to deal with difficult politicians and business people, my faith reminds me that it is not about me – it’s all about God, a God who calls you and me and who empowers us to do God’s work. These stories speak not of a faith that says all manner of things shall be well, but of a faith that calls me to get my hands dirty and deal with the everyday messiness of people’s lives, of our environment, our neighbours’ lives.

6. What do you think the most important thing about forgiveness is?
Forgiveness heals you. Reflecting on those young white conscripts who had my life in their hands – some of whom had killed youngsters of my age, on the power they were given and on the system that produced them, for me to pray over that experience, to forgive them and to move on, has made me feel whole. Forgiveness takes away the sense of wanting to know why they took it upon themselves to chase me and frighten me; it takes away the pain.

But it also gives you the confidence to confront that which creates an unforgiving situation and points to what might turn it around. Each time I go back to my ancestral home in South Africa – Makgoba’s Kloof – I can’t escape the fact that settlers and missionaries took our land and rewrote our history for us, creating prosperity for themselves and impoverishing our community.

Reconciliation and forgiveness have to be ongoing, and my task is to say forgiveness is possible, not by forgetting the past but by helping people to find ways of making amends. Desmond Tutu tells the story of how, if I have stolen your bicycle, then seek your forgiveness, I can’t keep your bicycle and continue to ride it. To enable forgiveness to happen and enable people to move on, there has to be restitution.

7. What else would you like those reading to know?
The book is not only about South Africa. Particularly the last chapter looks at how we have become entrenched in our little corners in the Anglican Communion and forget about the biblical mandate to forgive, the biblical mandate to reconcile. So the book gives us a glimpse into the hope and the grace that is in store for us as Anglicans, as Christians, as people of God, when we work at forgiveness and reconciliation.

Q&A with Author Furman Buchanan

In his new book, Gifts of God for the People of God, Episcopal priest and author Furman L. Buchanan uses stories and reflections to explore each element of Holy Eucharist. Accessible to both newcomers and longtime members wishing to gain a deeper understanding of this gift of God.

How did the idea for the book Gifts of God for the People of God develop?
The idea for Gifts of God for the People of God came when I recognized similarly bewildered expressions on the faces of visitors to my congregation that I had when first entering the Episcopal Church years ago. For people unfamiliar with liturgical worship, it can be a confusing experience.

I began writing this book to lead newcomers to liturgical worship step-by-step through the whole service—from the opening sentences to the final dismissal. Yet, in the course of writing it, I recognized an opportunity to use a narrative approach which would make this book just as meaningful for “cradle Episcopalians.”

Using personal as well as biblical stories helps readers relate more personally to the words and actions of the Holy Eucharist. The title sums up the central idea of the book—that the gifts of God are for the people of God to open up, treasure, and share with others.

Gifts of God bookWhat was your favorite part of writing this book?
My favorite part of writing Gifts of God for the People of God was the opportunity to be still and remember some very tender (and also funny) stories from all stages of my life, and then find ways to relate those stories to the words and actions of the Holy Eucharist.

I enjoy making narrative connections that are not always obvious at first. Part of the power of story—from Jesus’ parables to our present day stories—is bringing together ideas in ways that are meaningful and memorable.

What was the most challenging part?
The most challenging part of writing Gifts of God for the People of God was the patience and perseverance it required. I am a writer who is most lucid in the morning hours. However, as the rector of a growing congregation, most of my morning hours are devoted to other important and urgent work. As a result, this book became a labor of love that spanned years, not weeks or months.

What would you do if you felt stuck?
When I felt stuck I would call upon my dear friend who is a Presbyterian pastor and a published author.  We would meet for coffee to discuss my latest challenge.  He was the kind of person every writer needs—a confessor who is tough enough to push us when we get stuck and yet gentle and encouraging enough to fan the flame inside of us that wants to share a meaningful story with the world.

How do you see this book being utilized?
Recognizing how difficult it is to find time to sit and read, I decided to compose short and accessible chapters—portion sizes that are easily digestible for a bedside table-type book. In fact, I believe this book will be most profitable for readers who are willing take it slow and savor the gifts of God they have experienced in their own lives.

Each chapter concludes with two simple invitations: “Reflecting on our story with God” and then “Celebrating our story with God.” The first invitation includes two or three questions to ponder, and the second invitation includes two or three suggested practices a reader might engage as a way of celebrating the gifts and call of God in their life.

By organizing this book with reflection questions and activities, I believe we also have designed a resource that lends itself to being used in small groups and classes. There is an easy-to-follow, 6-week outline on the Forward Movement web site to show potential facilitators a way to organize conversation about Gifts of God for the People of God.

Laptop on deskWhere did you do most of your writing?
Ten years ago, a gifted artist and woodworker in my former congregation invited me to apprentice with him in designing and creating a prayer desk from solid cherry. Sensing I was nearing the end of my first call, he wanted me to have a gifted place to pray and write at my next congregation.

This small, shaker-style desk does not have a single piece of metallic hardware. The construction is elegantly simple. The desk fits perfectly beneath my bedroom window, and it turns out to be the only place I seem able to write a sermon or a book.

Tortoise What would you do or where would you go for inspiration?
One of the passions my wife and I share is travel. We particularly like to research and visit places that require a little more persistence and creativity to navigate. We typically stay in small guest houses and eat at local restaurants where we can attempt to know the local population a little better.

Near the end of my writing Gifts of God for the People of God, we visited two of the Galapagos Islands off the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. This was a particularly inspirational journey as we discovered a miraculous abundance and diversity of topography, as well as bird, reptile, mammal, and marine life.

One afternoon we visited a small farm in the central highlands of Santa Cruz that is also home to enormous tortoises. Here is a picture of us next to the symbol of my slow and steady writing life!

What else would you like readers to know?
I suppose the most important thing I want readers to know is that the biblical story of life with God is continually unfolding around us and within us. We don’t have to literally have our narrative added to the original collection of Holy Scripture in order for it to be authentic and meaningful.

Your story with God is every bit as precious as the stories of those who lived with God when the biblical narrative was being written. So, please value your stories and share them with others.

Newcomers to my congregation receive a welcome letter in which I describe our congregation as a place where we celebrate the gifts of God in worship, discover the gifts of God in learning, and share the gifts of God in service.

For me, this sums up the comprehensive experience of a faithful life—celebrating, discovering, and sharing the Gifts of God for the People of God!

Gifts of God for the People of God is available here.

Q&A: Acts to Action Editors

Acts to ActionSusan Brown Snook and Adam Trambley are the editors of Acts to Action, a Forward Movement publication focusing on Acts Chapter 8 and evangelism in a changing world. Susan serves as canon to the ordinary for church growth and development in the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma and Adam is the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sharon, Pennsylvania. Contributors include Joseph Alsay, Carrie Boren Headington, Frank Logue, Brendan O’Sullivan-Hale, Steve Pankey, and Holli Powell, and is framed by reflections from church leaders Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows and Gay Clark Jennings.

How did the idea for this book develop?
Susan: Adam and I, and a number of the authors in the book, have been inspired by the 8th chapter of Acts for quite a while. In fact, we are leaders in a group called the Acts 8 Movement, which is dedicated to mission, prayer, and evangelism in the Episcopal Church. We want to help our church proclaim the gospel in creative, courageous, innovative ways to people who have never heard it in any effective way. As we considered ways to help the church think through innovative ways of proclaiming the gospel in a time when many people have no connection to church or Christian faith at all, we realized that Acts Chapter 8 had some compelling things to say about church mission. The four stories contained within this chapter show the apostles struggling with many of the same issues our church struggles with today. So we gathered a group of people to help us explore those issues for the twenty-first century.

How do you see the book being used?
Adam: Acts to Action is designed to be read both by individuals and by groups, including church leadership groups. Each chapter has two sets of questions. The first are for reflection and discussion, and the second are for action. The action steps are small, concrete ways that implement the Scriptural insights. My hope is that people will read each chapter, spend some time reflecting on it by themselves or in a group, and then take the action steps. These steps can help people and churches live into Acts 8-style evangelism that should bear good fruit.

What is your hope for this book?
Susan: We hope that vestries, small groups, and individual Christians across the church read the book, discuss the discussion questions, and find inspiration for their own ministries. So many churches are working to discover how God is calling them to change, grow, and reach new people in a new era. We hope this book provides ideas and insights that spark new approaches to Christ’s mission in the church.

What inspires you most about Acts Chapter 8?
Adam: The most inspiring piece of Acts Chapter 8 is the assurance that God is bringing new life out of even the most difficult situations. Even if everything seems like an unmitigated disaster to me, I can be assured that God is weaving everything together in amazing ways. God’s imagination is far beyond my own…who knows what beauty God is unfolding?

Susan: Christians in Acts Chapter 8 find themselves in a world where everything has changed and they need to find new ways of practicing their faith – and they go out into the world and proclaim the good news of Jesus. We believe that the Episcopal Church is in a similar situation….For churches to proclaim the gospel in today’s world, we need to find active ways of proclaiming the gospel, going out into our communities and our world and talking to people about Jesus, rather than waiting for the people to come to us. We used Acts 8 as our inspiration in this book, because it leads to many insights about church mission in a time when the church needs to change the way it approaches its mission.

Do you have any stories that you feel deeply embody Acts Chapter 8?
Adam: My current congregation is having an important Acts 8 Moment right now. Over the past year, we have lost about a third of our choir due to graduations, deaths, and job relocations. Instead of limiting ourselves to pleas for more singers in the parish newsletter, we really thought about how we could use this need for more choir voices as an opportunity to reach people beyond our walls. After a number of discussions with people in the community, we are piloting a musical scholars program this year. We have nine high school students who will be receiving scholarships to attend choir rehearsals, sing in worship, and participate in an hour of Christian education and formation each week tailored to their needs. Some of the applications we received have talked about a long-standing desire to be part of a church. Our hope is that their scholarships will allow these young people to break down the barriers to attendance and deepen their life of faith.

Susan: In my diocesan position, I have been working with a vestry of a small Episcopal church in a midsize town to put some of these principles into action. They went out into their community and interviewed a number of the community leaders about the issues facing the town and how their church could help. One leader was the manager of a Boys and Girls Club across the street from the church. The manager suggested that the church could play a role in helping the children develop faith and character. The church is now taking 25-30 children one afternoon a week for a couple of hours, giving them snacks, mentoring, tutoring, fun, and a time of learning about the Bible.

Q&A: Mary Parmer, Director of Invite Welcome Connect

Invite Welcome ConnectMary Parmer serves as director of Invite Welcome Connect, a transformational ministry housed at the Beecken Center in the School of Theology, University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Mary is the past director of the Gathering of Leaders, a national leadership gathering of young Episcopal clergy.

How did the concept of Invite Welcome Connect form and develop?
The concept for the ministry of Invite Welcome Connect was born out of my 10 year experience as director of evangelism and adult ministry at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beaumont, Texas, and then was further developed through the Newcomer Ministry Project of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. Invite Welcome Connect is a ministry based on scripture, theology, and experience.

What is your favorite story that has come out of Invite Welcome Connect?
So many amazing stories have come out of Invite Welcome Connect—it would be impossible to say which is my favorite! Invite Welcome Connect has changed my heart, and It was a game-changing moment for our congregation as the fire of the gospel caught us and changed our lives forever. One woman shared that she might never have left the church 30 years ago, had she only heard the message of Invite Welcome Connect. I am humbled and blessed by all these stories—and all the ones yet to be told.

How do you see the book being used?
I pray the book will be used first as a tool for encouragement, giving people hope as they read of the transformation of individual lives and congregations of those who have implemented Invite Welcome Connect. The book includes a Getting Started Guide for those interested in implementing the ministry, and it could also serve as a check-in for those who are currently implementing the ministry.

What is your ultimate goal for this program and book?
My ultimate goal is that the ministry of Invite Welcome Connect will change the narrative of the Episcopal Church to move from maintenance to mission. For our congregations to thrive, spiritually and numerically, we need to equip and empower individuals and congregations to cultivate intentional practices of evangelism, hospitality, and connectedness rooted in the gospel imperative to Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced on this journey?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced on this journey is intensely personal; balancing my personal and working lives, essentially holding down two jobs as Gathering of Leaders director and creating/nurturing the ministry of Invite Welcome Connect.

What’s your favorite prayer?
Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And Wisdom to know the difference.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers and participants?
Although earlier I named my ultimate goal for the ministry and book, another more personal goal is that individuals who read the book will have the courage to discern the gifts God has placed within them, tapping into the imaginative creative mind God gives them, and then saying Yes to God’s call in their lives.

Q & A: Claude Payne, author of Reclaiming Christianity

Reclaiming Christianity Claude E. Payne served as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and as rector of one of the largest Episcopal churches in the country. Reclaiming Christianity builds upon his vision for for the church to be mission-minded–to look outward to serve and share rather than focus inward. He is co-author of the best-selling book, Reclaiming the Great Commission.

How did the idea for Reclaiming Christianity develop?
Christianity has been in decline for half a century. My book exposes its root causes as inadequate understanding of how faith is transmitted and secondly, how internal conflict over theology and explosive issues has pitted the faithful against each other, undermining Christian integrity and degrading mission. The idea for the book stems from finding ways to turn decline into huge opportunity.

What is your hope for this book?
My hope is that churches and Christians will reclaim an evangelical vision of equipping seekers spiritually for a life-long pilgrimage in faith that leads into eternity, and that this spiritual nurture will inspire them to reach outward to bring health to the degrading aspects of life. An expansion of this vision includes a way of biblical interpretation based on love that will enable Christians who bitterly oppose each other to live into a kind of holy mutual respect. The highest vision is that it will contribute to the development of a better world.

What was your favorite part of writing this book?
Examining spirituality and how it is nurtured. Christianity is caught and then explained on the basis of inherited tradition. The growth of those who claim to be spiritual but not religious documents the reality of spiritual hunger in society and how Christians of strong faith don’t fully comprehend how to transmit that faith to others, including their own children. Christians possess spiritual treasure, deposited in their souls, that continues to grow throughout life. Modern society, including the church, privatizes this strong faith, suppressing its power because it isn’t shared. Identifying this treasure of the soul and fortifying it through sharing it at the congregational level in Christian Formation has been an especially joyful endeavor for me.

What would you do if you felt stuck?
Wait, pray, and continue to wrestle. Essentially I wait upon the Lord.

What is your favorite prayer? 
The Prayer Book prayer used for Fridays: Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and of peace. 

My guess is that this won’t be the favorite of many. I cherish it because it tells me growth and fulfillment come through my struggles, especially those upon which I rely on divine help. It is the way of Jesus and the way of life.

Where did you do most of your writing?
At my desk at home. I am “retired,” actually a misnomer, for clergy vows are for life.

Where did you draw your inspiration from?
Christ, and through a whole host of others throughout life. My wife is foremost among these. Then I have been inspired through personal participation among clergy groups in the United States and Canada, and in congregational Christian formation, about how effectively the models described in my book have worked. I have witnessed the joy it brings.

What else would you like readers to know?
My book is offered in love, especially as it challenges ways to look at authority and current practice. I want the book to be a useful tool that stimulates, inspires, and challenges others to live into a fuller and more fruitful Christian life.

Q & A: Authors of Faith with a Twist, Amy Nobles Dolan and Hillary D. Raining

Inside the book Faith with a TwistAmy Nobles Dolan and Hillary D. Raining share a mutual passion for yoga and for faith, which brought them together to write Faith with a Twist.  Amy is the owner and head teacher of Yoga with Spirit, an ashtanga-based yoga studio in Wane, Pennsylvania. She is also a yoga writer who publishes a weekly blog and has helped edit a yoga anatomy book. She is married to her college sweetheart, Jim, and has three young children, JB, Katie, and Sally. Hillary is the rector of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. She also teaches yoga and plays piano, classical violin, and Celtic fiddle. She is author of Joy in Confession, published by Forward Movement. She is married to Ken and they have a daughter, Delia.

When and how did you begin practicing yoga?
Hillary: I truly started practicing yoga in earnest in 2010 when I won 5 free yoga classes at Leigh Valley Yoga studio in Bethlehem, PA. To be honest, I had always thought of yoga as too “easy” to count as exercise, but was proven wrong when I left feeling totally exhausted after my first class! I was hooked by the way my mind was calmed by the vigorous and meditative practice and found my prayers were deeper at the end of just one session!

How has yoga influenced your life?
Yoga pose, AmyAmy: Yoga began as a hobby. An hour of “me time” in a life consumed by taking care of children, husband, pets, and home. Within months, dear friends were commenting that I seemed different – happier, contented, less stressed and anxious, mellower. It was profound validation for me to know that the differences I was feeling in myself were actually noticeable to the people in my life!

I believe that yoga has made me a better mother, a better spouse, a better friend, daughter, and sister. I guess you could say I think yoga has helped me become more like the person God created me to be and that I yearn to be.

After practicing yoga for three years, I enrolled in teacher training and have been teaching ever since (about 15 years). I opened a studio called Yoga With Spirit and am blessed to share this practice with dozens of students each week. So yoga has completely changed my life in that it is now my work as well as my passion.

How have you seen yoga transform someone else’s life?
Amy: As a full time yoga teacher I see this practice transform people’s lives all the time. It is amazing!

I’ve watched students heal from awful injuries, surgeries, and illnesses. I’ve watched students practice as a part of their recovery from debilitating depression and anxiety. I’ve watched students enter into and exit from relationships as a result of the self-study yoga asks of us. I’ve watched students shoot for the moon – and succeed in getting the promotion they wanted or to start a new career or to just find peace in their crazy, daily lives.

One of my students who dove deep into the practice totally revamped her life. She started small by cleaning out extra “stuff” at home. She started to pay attention to her daydreams which all involved living near the beach in southern California. Over the course of the two years that we worked together, she put in place and executed her plan to sell most of what she owned, move out west and start a simpler, new life. She has never been happier!

How did the idea for this book develop? 
Yoga Pose, HillaryHillary: This book developed from a combination of ideas centered around Amy’s amazing teacher training program. As a student of Amy’s I was encouraged to put together a project that would help take the yogic principles that we were learning off the mat and into the real world. So, I decided to create a Lenten meditation series around yoga’s “ethical code” of the yamas and niyamas. Meanwhile, Amy, who is not only an accomplished teacher but also a gifted and prolific spiritual writer, had developed a manual for those who were looking to delve deeper into their practice. We knew we wanted to work on a project together born out of our friendship and mutual faith and love of yoga. Thus, we blended the two projects and Faith with a Twist was born!

What was your favorite part of writing this book? 
Hillary: I would say working with Amy on a project we were both passionate about was a blast! It’s rare when you get to work on something you care about with a person you have such fun with.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?
Hillary: As a person who has dyslexia, the writing process itself is always the hardest part. That is why I am always so grateful for good editors!

What else would you like readers know?
Faith with a TwistAmy: Hillary and I have worked very hard to convey how yoga and faith support one another. Rather than trying to blend the two traditions, which always dilutes both of them, we have tried to honor both the ancient spiritual practice of yoga and the Christian faith we share. We have not tried to make yoga “Christian” in our book. I, for one, do not believe there is such a thing as Christian yoga or Jewish yoga or Buddhist yoga. I believe yoga is a spiritual tool that supports and enhances any faith. In our book we have tried, instead, to show how yoga’s spiritual practices have supported and enhanced the contemplative prayer practices that draw us closer to God in our daily lives. And that is precisely what the founding teacher of Ashtanga yoga (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) taught was the highest purpose of the practice…to focus on God.


Q&A with Lindsay Hardin Freeman, author of The Spy on Jacob’s Ladder

Lindsay and her dogLindsay Hardin Freeman has been a priest for over thirty years and is currently the interim rector at St. Nicholas Church in Richfield, Minnesota. She is the author of eight books, including The Spy on Noah’s Ark, The Spy at Jacob’s Ladder, and Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. Her most recent publication with Forward Movement, The Spy at Jacob’s Ladder, is a collection of your favorite Bible stories, told from a unique perspective. She worked on this book with talented illustrator Paul Shaffer, who has recently departed, may his soul rest in peace.

When did you begin writing?
I began writing as a teenager, when my 8th and 9th grade English teacher required us to write 75 words a day, then 150 words. Middle school is such a horrible time for most kids, and it certainly was for me. I poured out my heart on paper.

The fact that someone read what I had to say made all the difference. And you know what? You could say that about readers who read what I write today. The fact that someone is listening and willing to explore what I’ve written makes all the difference.

The Spy on Jacob's Ladder coverWhat was your favorite part of writing this book?
When I’m deeply into a writing project and making progress, that makes me happy. I think that writing is a calling from God and I’m happiest when I’m getting words on paper that others will read, that will make a difference, that will help keep the faith alive for future generations. I’m also a parish priest, and it’s hard to be faithful to the writing life while teaching, preaching, and being a pastor because it all requires significant emotional labor…. so what makes me happy is to be making progress.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
The most difficult part is what it always is—finishing the book! It’s easy to start a book, but hard to take it all the way through to the end. To diligently go from start to finish, to take apart stories, if needed, with a buzzsaw until  you get them right—it’s a labor of love. I’m fortunate in that I’m married to a writer and fellow priest, Len Freeman, who knows his Bible well and always has new ideas…and seems never to tire of reading what I write and helping the stories to be even better.

Where do you typically write?
Lindsay Writing My goal is to get up early and write for an hour early in the morning, usually curled up in a living room chair after I’ve fed the dog. If I have that discipline down, characters and ideas are freed to run around in my head most of the day. Sometimes I’ll only get a half dozen paragraphs done in that early morning hour, but progress is always better if I’m on track. The funny thing that I find about writing is that it’s physically exhausting. I’m always tired when I set down my laptop, but that’s also usually a sign that I’ve accomplished something.

Where did you go for inspiration?
I wrote the first volume of The Spy series in Hawaii, while serving St. Jude’s Church on the Big Island. Now if I need inspiration, I go to northern Minnesota along Lake Superior.

What would you do if you felt stuck while writing?
If I get stuck on a sentence—which happens often—I get up and walk around. I put the laundry in, get the mail, pet the dog, admire my garden…but I come back and sit down and keep writing. It looks like I’m not doing anything as I wander around the house or go out in the yard, but I’m thinking, musing, creating.

What’s your favorite book?
The Bible is right up there on the top of my list, and that’s a good thing, because I spend so much time with it. In terms of children’s books, I’ve always loved The Princess and the Goblin, written by George MacDonald, of whom CS Lewis said, “He baptized my imagination.” The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder are a favorite series, as are the Uncle Wiggly books, written from about 1912 – 1927 by Howard Garis.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
It means a great deal to me when people say they’ve loved a book I’ve written, or when they share a story that the book has inspired. I will never take a reader for granted, and am honored to be a part of their reading life.