Tag Archives: forward movement

Forward Today: A year with Forward Movement

Dear friends in Christ,

This time of year is about the season when congregations normally kick off their program year. New courses and ministries launch. Often, Sunday schools fill up. The pace of summer gives way to a busier time of the autumn.

Of course, this time is anything but normal. The pandemic has forced us all to look at all sorts of practices, and I suspect that in many congregations, everything is up for grabs.

Even though there may be no “normal” my sense is that many congregations are starting some kind of program year, even if it’s quite a bit different from usual. Maybe there are online book groups or Bible Studies. Christian formation for children might look different. The number of offerings might be smaller (or larger) than what is typical.

A collection of Forward Movement books

What is your church doing? There’s no right or wrong answer. Our task in the church is to make disciples, and there are as many ways to do that as there are Christians.

We at Forward Movement are working to support you and your church in this unusual time. We have books and courses suitable for in-person or online study. We offer resources for new members and long-time Episcopalians alike.

At a time when many leaders are struggling to figure out what to do this year, we wanted to make it just a bit easier. So we’ve put together some ideas for living through the whole program year. Please have a look at our website for resources for the fall, for Advent, for Christmas and Epiphany, for Lent, for Easter, and even for next summer.

As always, please contact the friendly folks here at Forward Movement if you have questions or you’re not sure what’s right for your church. We can respond to emails (orders@forwardmovement.org) or phone calls (800-543-1813).

We want to help you make disciples, whatever that looks like in your life and in your church.

Yours faithfully,



Scott Gunn
Executive Director

More from our ministry:

Online Course: Surviving Moral Injury with David Peters

Listen to our Morning Prayer podcast: A Morning at the Office

Reading suggestion: Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices


Forward Today: It’s all about disciples

Dear friends in Christ,

Last Sunday marked my ten-year anniversary serving at Forward Movement. What a wonderful adventure it’s been! I’ve visited many dioceses and congregations, and it has been rewarding to get to know the whole church through my ministry.

Last year, I offered my reflections on nine years of ministry, including some ways I think our church needs to change. This year, I want to highlight just one theme. Discipleship.

When I started at Forward Movement in 2011, I used to get pushback for raising the topic of discipleship. “It’s not our word,” people would say. Fortunately, I can say that now discipleship is our word. Our church has realized the value of naming and practices those disciplines that help us to grow into the full stature of Jesus Christ.

Forward Movement logo with tagline: "Inspire Disciples. Empower Evangelists."

I’d like to think Forward Movement has been a leader in the conversation. We have promised daily prayer and scripture engagement vigorously these last ten years, though that was really a continuation of our mission since 1935. The fruit of this work is evident.

More people are aware of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ in their lives. More people can make connections between their own life story and the story of God’s saving purposes revealed in scripture. More people have a deeper relationship with God through the nourishing habit of daily prayer.

It’s all about discipleship.

This is literally the thing Jesus told us to do. You can look it up in Matthew 28.

Over the last year, the church has been greatly disrupted. I know this has been a burden on church leaders and members alike. But this time also offers us the opportunity to reexamine our mission and ministry in the church.

Are we effective at making disciples? Do we need to add new ministries? Do we need to let some things go? Do we need to reinvent the way we do things? Do we need to focus more on discipleship and less on maintenance?

I don’t have the answers for you or your community. Every place will be different. But I can confidently say that the work Jesus has given us in every town, village, and rural area is to make disciples.

Forward Movement will be here with you, ready to offer encouragement and resources to support your ministry.


Yours faithfully,




Scott Gunn
Executive Director


More from our ministry:

New online course from ChurchNext: Walking the Labyrinth, with Mel Soriano

A New Chapter at RenewalWorks

Reading suggestion: The Path: A Journey Through the Bible

Forward Movement releases Walk in Love

Forward Movement invites seekers and longtime members alike to explore together the Episcopal Church in its new book, Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices.

Early reviews praise the book for its accessible, wide-ranging, and thought-provoking discussion of the Christian life and the basic beliefs of our faith. The Rev. Adam Trambley, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sharon, Pennsylvania, calls the book “the most comprehensive, and comprehensible, guide to Episcopal faith and practice available.”

Co-authored by the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn and the Rev. Melody Wilson Shobe, Walk in Love offers a guide to understanding how prayer shapes our beliefs and our lives—and how our beliefs lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

The book is accompanied by a free curriculum, Practicing Our Faith. This curriculum can be used for an inquirer’s class, confirmation class, or general adult education. A children’s curriculum is to be published soon.

By summer, Forward Movement will also publish Anden en amor: Creencias y prácticas de la Iglesia Episcopal, a translation of Walk in Love, as well as a Spanish translation of the curriculum. The curricula in English and Spanish were supported by a grant from the Constable Fund of the Episcopal Church. They join two other year-long curricula, Celebrating the Saints and Exploring the Bible.

Shobe says, “It was a joy to write this book, sharing our passion for encouraging rich spiritual practices and deep engagement with prayer book liturgy.” Shobe and Gunn served together as parish priests in Rhode Island. Gunn is now executive director at Forward Movement, while Shobe serves as associate for children and families at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Dallas, Texas.

Walk in Love invites readers on a journey, with The Book of Common Prayer as a map,” says Richelle Thompson, editor for the book and deputy director and managing editor for Forward Movement. “After nearly twenty years as part of the Episcopal Church, I still learned a great deal from this book about how our Episcopal beliefs and practices support one another and lead us down paths of discovery and spiritual growth.”

Walk in Love is available in print from Forward Movement directly, from online sellers such as Amazon, and from local bookstores. The digital e-book is also available on Kindle, Nook and iTunes.

Groundbreaking Research on Episcopal Spiritual Vitality

Episcopalians want to grow spiritually. Research from over 200 congregations and 12,000 Episcopalians conducted by Forward Movement is summarized in a recently published paper rooted in extensive work on spiritual growth and vitality.

The RenewalWorks ministry, which is focused on spiritual vitality and fostering a culture of discipleship, has revealed much about the spiritual life of the Episcopal Church.

“We have learned that there is great spiritual hunger among Episcopalians,” says the Rev. Jay Sidebotham, director of RenewalWorks. “And we are discovering catalysts that can address that hunger. Basic spiritual practices such as daily prayer, scripture study, worship attendance, and serving the poor will lead to transformation.”

The research paper is available for free download at www.renewalworks.org/researchsummary. There is also a graphic with some of the key findings on that download page.

The research summary outlines what we are learning about the spiritual life of the Episcopal Church, including the stages of spiritual growth and practices that lead to transformation.

Among key findings:

  • Exploring Christians include 18% of Episcopalians. This stage includes seekers and new Christians. But in the Episcopal Church, some people who have attended church for decades are also at this stage.
  • Growing Christians is a stage where people have committed to their spiritual growth. 55% of Episcopalians fit in this stage.
  • Deepening Christians are those who articulate a personal relationship with God and whose life bears significant marks of their faith. This is 23% of Episcopalians.
  • Christ-Centered represents just 4% of Episcopalians. For this small group, a personal relationship with God in Christ is the most important relationship in their lives.


“Our research also shows specific catalysts that are likely to move people from one stage to the next,” says the Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement. “So if we want our congregations to be places where spiritual growth is happening, we need to teach and to nurture spiritual practices such as prayer, worship, study, and service.”

The research also shows the importance of the leader’s heart. “The spiritual health of the leader in the congregation is key,” Sidebotham says. “Too often clergy lose touch with their first love, with the reasons that they were drawn to ordained ministry. These challenges can have a negative effect on a church’s vitality.”

The data for the report come from the congregations who have taken part in the RenewalWorks process. This process

  • Invites congregants to take an extensive online survey of their beliefs, attitudes, and practices
  • Leads a team through four workshops to understand the findings and to implement a plan in response
  • Empowers leaders to create a culture of discipleship in their congregations


“What’s brilliant about RenewalWorks is that it is diagnostic, not prescriptive,” Gunn says. “There’s no gimmick here. The process tells leaders where people are, and then lay and clergy leaders can work together to offer opportunities for growth and depth.”

RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement, which is a ministry of the Episcopal Church. Known widely for its flagship devotional, Forward Day by Day, Forward Movement inspires disciples and empowers evangelists through digital resources, websites, printed materials, and conferences. Learn more about RenewalWorks at www.renewalworks.org or Forward Movement at www.forwardmovement.org.

The Good Book Club: Reading God’s Word Together

By Richelle Thompson
Forward Movement Deputy Director and Managing Editor

Reading scripture changes us. Encounters with God and God’s word transform us. Every time. Whether we’re looking for answers or think we’re doing just fine on our own, God’s word still speaks.

This fundamental and profound truth lies at the heart of the Good Book Club, Forward Movement’s invitation to the church to read the Book of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles together throughout the seasons of Lent and Easter. We believe engaging in scripture brings us into deeper relationship with our Savior—and that reading God’s word together will bring us into closer relationship with one another.

Throughout Lent and Easter, Forward Day by Day will move through Luke and Acts instead of our regular practice of following the lectionary. (Don’t worry: We’ll still offer the lectionary readings on our website.) I am honored to be one of the four featured writers during this time period, alongside talented, faithful colleagues, the Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman (March), the Rev. Marcus Halley (April), and Miguel Escobar (May). As always, our Forward Day by Day meditations will be available in Spanish, as a podcast, online, on an app, in Braille, and large print.

In addition, we will offer free downloadable Bible studies for individuals and congregations to explore some of the stories in more depth. We continue the Bible Challenge series with A Journey with Luke and the newly released A Journey through Acts, daily meditations by noted theologians and faith leaders from around the world. With RenewalWorks, we also present a Good Book Club calendar featuring the inspirational and thought-provoking cartoons of the Rev. Jay Sidebotham.

Reading scripture is both deeply personal and an act of community. We invited Episcopal organizations from across the church to partner in the Good Book Club initiative. The response was overwhelming. More than twenty-five organizations stepped up to partner with Forward Movement, committing time and talent to develop resources for the wider church. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a video invitation for all Episcopalians to join the Good Book Club. In my twenty years of local, diocesan, and church-wide work, I have never seen so many organizations come together for common cause. God is doing a new thing indeed.

Episcopal Migration Ministries will offer a special podcast, featuring voices from across the U.S., the church, and the immigrant and refugee community. A blog will accompany the podcast featuring written reflections, art, photography, music, and videos from podcast guests and others. ChurchNext has developed a free, five-course video curriculum for Lent called Luke the Liberator. United Thank Offering (UTO) has prepared a downloadable booklet with meditations on the readings, questions for personal reflection or group discussion, space to keep a gratitude journal, and a story of a ministry supported by UTO. Forma will offer a weekly Faith-at-Home series, featuring reflections and activities for families, and Building Faith will publish a series of articles to help Christian educators and parents read and study Luke and Acts with children and teens. These are just a sampling of the wide variety of resources that offer an opportunity for people to engage wherever they are—geographically, spiritually, emotionally. A full list of the partners is featured below, and links to the resources can be found at www.goodbookclub.org.

In addition to organizations, entire dioceses are onboard, making scripture engagement a priority. So too several congregations have committed to reading and exploring Luke and Acts together. If you’d like for your congregation or organization to be included as a partner or want to know more about how to get involved, send me an email at rthompson@forwardmovement.org.

As we began making plans for this project, we discussed our goals and what success might look like. We have some quantitative and qualitative measures, but we’re also not willing to limit how God might work in and among us. We can only dream and imagine how the Good Book Club might shape and transform us as individuals and as a church. God already knows.

Excerpt from Forward Day by Day, February 2018

Luke 2:10-11. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

You have probably heard these words dozens of times. Perhaps you were a shepherd clad in an ill-fitting sheet or a young Mary holding a burlap-wrapped baby doll. Maybe, propped on elbows on the family room floor, you watched an earnest Linus tell Charlie Brown—and us—what Christmas is all about. Maybe wax burned your fingers as you held a candle at midnight mass, listening to these words said by a priest or sung by a choir.

Luke’s telling of the birth of Christ is the familiar favorite: The emperor sending out a decree; Joseph and Mary setting out for Bethlehem on a donkey; Jesus sleeping (and crying, I suspect) in a manger.

Whether this is your first or fiftieth time hearing this story, may you meet each telling with wonder and awe. The birth of any child is amazing, but the birth of this one is miraculous. Just twenty-one verses change the course of the world. One story in a sea of stories that is the greatest one ever to be told, offering good news of great joy for all people.

MOVING FORWARD: Read the lesson out loud today. Savor the memories this story calls up for you.

Volunteer Opportunity: Share your love for Forward Movement

Forward Movement is seeking volunteers to run exhibit tables at diocesan conventions. Our staff travels as much as possible, but can’t reach every convention that we’d like to. We have packages with 6-7 sample books, copies of our catalog, giveaways items, and a table cover ready to go—the only thing missing, is a dedicated volunteer to run the exhibit table.

Our staff will handle all the logistics, shipping, and convention red-tape, allowing you to show up the morning(s) of your convention, setup the table, and spend the day answering basic questions about Forward Movement and our resources. We’ll provide a cheat-sheet about everything in the box…so don’t worry about being an expert on everything Forward Movement does.

As a thank you, we’re offering a “New Titles Subscription” to volunteers. This subscription means you’ll receive mailings throughout the year with complimentary copies of our latest books, calendars, pamphlets, and booklets.

Interested? Please contact us at volunteer@forwardmovement.org to learn more, and see if your diocesan convention is available for this opportunity.

Forward Today: Glory and majesty

In this week’s edition of our weekly Wednesday newsletter, Scott reflects on this week’s awe-inspiring solar eclipse, and notes: “Perhaps there is a reminder here we all needed.”

And today in our Wednesday sale, take 25% off The Power of Imperfection: How to Have the Courage to Be Yourself.

Dear friends in Christ,


Like many millions of others, I traveled a few hours to see the total solar eclipse on Monday. I dithered for a long time, wondering if the time off and the hassle would be worth it. I sure am glad I went. Wow.
I had seen solar eclipses before, but this was my first time seeing a total eclipse. As many others have reported, the moment of totality was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Nature seemed confused, and people were gobsmacked. Amazing. Life-changing. Awe-inspiring. Wonderful. People used words like these over and over. In the park where I watched the eclipse, applause broke out. Others reported screams, but I mostly heard “wow” and soft, gleeful sounds.


What is going on here? The eclipse had been predicted for years. We were told what to expect. You could see videos of what an eclipse looks like. And, yet, it had a profound effect on us. It was one of those moments when we all realize that we are part of something much larger than ourselves. This universe we live in is pretty stunning. For people of faith, an eclipse is one of those things that reminds us of God’s glory and majesty.
Psalm 8 is on point:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for them?
God’s creation is more beautiful and more vast than we can imagine, and yet God cares for each of us. Perhaps there is a reminder here we all needed.
Have you ever been gobsmacked by nature? What did you allow that to do in your life? What can we apply from our encounters with an eclipse to our encounters with God’s people – equally stunning in their own way?
Yours faithfully, 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director


To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Forward Today: Grant us grace

In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott offers reflection and prayer in wake of hatred and racism in the country.

Today’s Wednesday sale features: Hour by Hour.

Dear friends in Christ,

Like many of you, I was shocked and saddened by images and news coming out of Charlottesville, VA last weekend. The presence of racism in our nation should shock no one, because racism has been the original sin of the United States from its founding. What I found shocking is the boldness with which white nationalists now pursue their racist agenda using Nazi symbols without apology or shame. And, sadly, many of these racists attempt to deploy Christian symbols in their campaign of fear and hatred.

In thinking about writing this week’s message, I was tempted not to write about these events. After all, I wondered, what can one more white person say that hasn’t been said? But then I thought about the cost of remaining silent at a time when some misuse the Christian story and in a time when we Christians sometimes have trouble facing up to our own complicity and troubled history of racism.

So, speaking as the leader of Forward Movement, let me suggest three things that might help us all in our effort to proclaim a Gospel of love in a world that is sometimes dominated by the din of hatred.

  • First, we must remember that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is utterly incompatible with white supremacy and all forms of racism. So redoubling our work of discipleship is itself an inherent rejection of racism. I say this because a life of discipleship means daily prayer, and when we pray, God will guide us away from fear and hatred toward hope and love. A life of scripture study will remind us that God’s will is for all people to thrive and that Jesus Christ stands especially with those at the margins. A life of generous giving will show us that there is always more than enough, and that God’s love can only be magnified, never diminished. A life of evangelism will bless us with joy as we share the liberating news that all people are beloved and that Jesus Christ has offered himself for the salvation of the whole world.
  • Second–here I am speaking to my fellow white people–rather than heaping scorn on others or imagining that this is a problem that afflicts only certain parts of the nation, we do well to look inside our own hearts. As with all sins, facing our shortcomings is never easy. As with all sins, God stands ready to forgive us if we but repent. “What sins of racism demand my repentance?” is the question we white people must relentlessly ask ourselves.
  • Thirdly, we might take a careful and thorough inventory of our churches. Where is racism found in our churches? This is the most pernicious place for racism, because it directly undermines our Gospel witness, and for that reason it is crucial that we do an honest examination. How does the racial composition of my church differ from that of my neighborhood or town? What do the leaders of my church look like? How has my church stood with–or failed to stand with–those who are the victims of racism, hatred, and fear? Has my church benefitted from white supremacy, and, if so, what must we do to repent?


Doing this work is hard, and if it’s easy, we’re not doing it right. The reward though is that we and our world become more Christlike, as all of God’s beloved children may flourish as the people God has created them to be. We can’t do this on our own, but with God all things are possible.


Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Forward Today: Our hope and strength

In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott offers reflection and prayer in these times of worry and fear.

Today’s Wednesday sale features: God’s Grace & Robert’s Rules.

Dear friends in Christ,

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, the news has been frightening recently. World leaders are speaking about nuclear war in a way we haven’t heard for decades. Terrorists have been, well, terrorizing people in many nations. Every day seems to bring about a new outbreak of violence, famine, or disaster. We can remind ourselves that, statistically speaking, most readers of this message will be quite safe, but that may not calm our fears.

Wave crashing on rock

What is a Christian to do? Certainly, we ought to work and pray for justice, freedom, and peace for all people. We Christians are called to serve Jesus Christ in strangers, the sick, prisoners, and all those who are at the margins of our society. I also think we do well to anchor ourselves in prayer, trusting that God will guide our actions and shape the hearts of people everywhere.

I am not suggesting that we should ignore our fears. Far from it. Fear is a natural human response to what threatens us, and it is even essential for our survival. But we are not mere animals, and we must not be governed by our fears along. Particularly for a people who profess faith in a God who said, “Be not afraid” again and again, we must face our fears squarely and then see our fear in perspective.

Today I ran across a lovely prayer in Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book. I commend it to you, and I know that I will be praying this prayer regularly in the hours, days, and weeks to come.

O God, thou art my hope and strength, a very present help in trouble; grant me faith and courage, that I may not fear, though the earth be moved, and the hills carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof rage and swell, and the mountains shake at the tempest of same. O be in the midst of my soul, that I may not be moved, but may be still and know that thou art God. Amen. (Based on Psalm 46 and a prayer attributed to Archbishop William Laud)

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo Credit: Amit Patel

To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

Forward Today: A shift in perspective

In this week’s edition of Forward Today, Scott reflects on the importance of mountains in scripture in preparation for the Feast of the Transfiguration.

Today’s Wednesday sale features The Bible Challenge.

Dear friends in Christ, 

This coming Sunday, we will celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Every now and then, when this feast falls on a Sunday, we set aside our usual Sunday readings to focus on what is, by any reckoning, a wondrous occasion. You probably know the story, which we’ll hear from Luke this year. Jesus takes three of his disciples up a mountain, and there he is transfigured before them. In a stunning moment, Peter, James, and John see Jesus for who he is, the eternal Christ, the fulfillment of the law.

Jesus at Tranfiguration

There are lots of ways to approach this story, but this year I’m struck by how it’s really a story about new perspectives. Jesus doesn’t change. He was the eternal Christ before the Transfiguration. Jesus is the same, but the disciples become different through their experience.

It’s interesting that this takes place on a mountain. Of course, the story echoes the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, which also takes place on a mountain. Perhaps mountains are on my mind because I’ve just come back from Colorado. Last weekend, I preached in Breckenridge, which is up at almost 10,000 feet elevation. It’s beautiful there, and even on the last day of July, snow was visible on the mountain peaks.

The thing about mountains is that they give us a new perspective. You see the world differently as you ascend and look down. The experience of hiking (I’ve never done real climbing) up a mountain itself can change our perspective, because it can be a real accomplishment just to get to the top! So it’s no wonder that scriptures are filled with amazing encounters with God in the mountains.

Here’s the thing: the disciples probably didn’t know they were going to see Jesus change when they started to hike up Mount Tabor. They just went. I wonder if we are ready to answer our Savior’s call? Are we ready to look at our world differently as we meet Jesus in the sacraments? Are we ready to see Christ’s dazzling presence in the most vulnerable people in our society?

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo Credit: Cosmosphilly.com

To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.