Tag Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Taking an Advent journey

Dear friends in Christ,

We’re now a few days into Advent. I always look forward to this season, and this year is no exception. Our world seems ever more chaotic, divided, and violent. There’s danger that the cacophony drowns out the voices of peace and hope that I long to hear. In this way, perhaps this Advent isn’t so different from the time some 2,000 years ago when the world longed for a savior.

Advent is surely a time to prepare for our annual celebration of Christ’s birth. But it is also a time to express our yearning for Christ’s return in glory, a time when justice and mercy will be made manifest throughout the world.

To observe Advent is countercultural, to say the least. The stores cry out, “Buy things!” The news cries out, “Be afraid!” Everyone cries out, it seems. But Advent invites us to be quiet, to pray, to dwell in hope as we seek the peace that passes all understanding.

Advent has started, but it’s not too late to find your way in the season. So if you don’t have an Advent discipline or plan, do not despair. You might simply spend a few moments in quiet each day. Perhaps you’ll light some candles at home when it’s meal time, and pray for the light of Christ to come among us. You might take advantage of Advent programs at church. Or perhaps this is a good time to check out our podcasts of morning prayer (Apple or Spotify) or Forward Day by Day (listen here).

But you don’t need to do anything complicated. It is enough in this season to turn toward Jesus–to repent. A few moments of quiet or prayer is all we need. God’s grace can work in our hearts if we but open ourselves to God’s abiding presence. The Triune God stands ready to renew our hearts, to renew the whole creation.

How will you move through Advent?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

Photo: Flickr: grassrootsgroundswell


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Forward Today: Let us all give thanks

Dear friends in Christ,

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day for our readers in the USA. The days around this annual feast of giving thanks have almost become a season of gratitude. For that I am, of course, grateful.

I love the appointed prayer for this feast day:

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I hope you will take some time, whatever your Thanksgiving Day customs, to give thanks to Almighty God for all the blessings of this life. Of course, there is no shortage of challenges, and needs, and problems in our world. But we also have much for which to be grateful. May our gratitude spill over into action as we share what we have and work for justice so that those who are in need know abundance, too.

Today, as I sit in my office at Forward Movement, I am grateful for God’s call to serve in this ministry. I am grateful to work with passionate and gifted colleagues to create resources to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. I am grateful for the prayers and support of so many people to make possible all that we do.

Almost every day, we receive letters of thanksgiving from those who are in prison, thanking us for the provision of free books and copies of Forward Day by Day. It’s all made possible by generous donors. If you are grateful for Forward Movement and our work, I hope you will offer prayers of thanks. And I hope you might consider a financial gift so that we can continue to share hope and grace with a world in need. You can mail us a check or make an online gift any time.

Let us all give thanks, and let us act on our awareness of God’s blessings. For what are you grateful? How can you share the blessings God has given you with others?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Gifts of God for the People of God

Worship can be a powerful way to encounter the living God. Our stories intersect with God’s story as the gifts of God are celebrated and shared by the people of God. Episcopal priest Furman L. Buchanan explores and reflects on each element of Holy Eucharist, the service most often held on Sunday mornings. Moving from the first spoken word of the service—blessed—to the last phrase—Thanks be to God—Buchanan explains the theological and scriptural elements of the service, helping newcomers and longtime members alike gain a deeper understanding of this gift of God.

Buchanan also shares his own stories, connecting pivotal life experiences with the words and actions of Holy Eucharist. Thoughtful questions at the end of each chapter invite readers to reflect on their own stories and how they connect with God’s story of love and life.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Gladness and singleness of heart

Dear friends in Christ,

Yesterday, I brought my dog to work. This is not unusual. George the Dog comes to work with me two or three times a week. He is our unofficial mascot, and folks inevitably brighten when a relentlessly cheerful yellow lab comes around the office.

We were having a staff lunch, so I took George home at lunchtime. We didn’t need to worry about a begging dog at the table! Anyway, on the way to our apartment, we stopped by the urban dog park. When I let George off his leash, he immediately found a tennis ball. It made his day, if not his week. His interest was consumed for about three minutes until he began to consume the ball. That’s how it goes when he gets a tennis ball.

I was thinking about how George the Dog is totally focused on what’s in front of him. Of course, he’s a dog not a person (though if he could talk, I think he’d want to make the case for personhood). He just 100% enjoyed that ball with his whole being. Nothing else mattered.

When I find something I love—a warm waffle, an album I haven’t heard, a great book—I sometimes come short of full enjoyment. “It would be better if only ____.” Or “After I finish this, I’m going to need to ____.”

One of our postcommunion prayers reads: “Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen.” I wonder what my life would be like if I managed to have a bit more gladness and singleness of heart?

Our culture doesn’t encourage this. We’re meant to be thinking about the next thing. We’re trained for inherent dissatisfaction. We’re programmed to try several things at once. But what if, in the name of Jesus, we tried to be more glad and more focused on what is before us?

Whether it’s prayer, a conversation, meals, corporate worship, reading, or playing with a tennis ball, what if we could say of ourselves that we were filled with gladness and singleness of heart? What if we followed Jesus with this same reckless abandon and pure joy?

Jesus is my savior and lord. And George the Dog can be my mentor for gladness and singleness of heart. Are you glad? Are you focused on what is before you? What could help you follow Jesus with joy and reckless abandon?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

P.S. If you want to keep up with George T. Dog’s adventures, you can follow him on Twitter @georgetdog.

Forward Today: Good Book Club is coming!

Dear friends in Christ,

The last couple of years, we have had tremendous success offering the Good Book Club to the Episcopal Church. For those of you who haven’t tried it yet, the Good Book Club invites the whole church to read a book of the Bible together. In 2018, we read Luke and then Acts during Lent and Easter. In 2019, we read Romans during the Epiphany season.

Starting January 6, 2020, Forward Movement and many other organizations are inviting you to read the Gospel of John during the Epiphany season, ending the day before Lent starts. If you’ve never read a book of the Bible straight through, you’ll love doing this on your own and with others far and near.
Many organizations, including The Episcopal Church, Episcopal Relief & Development, Episcopal Church Foundation, Missional Voices, Forma, Grow Christians, and Episcopal Migration Ministries (among others!) are offering free resources for individual or group study. You’ll find podcasts, lesson plans, blogs, graphics, and more. It’s all on the Good Book Club website. Be sure to check out the Club Bíblico Facebook page to stay up to date on Spanish offerings.

You can certainly read John on your own. I hope you’ll think about inviting your whole congregation to join in. You can meet on Sundays to talk about the readings. You can read together and comment on the parish Facebook page. You can keep a local blog. There are as many ways to take part in the Good Book Club as there are people.

The reason to do this is simple: reading scripture changes us. When we step back and see the big picture—reading a whole book—we see God’s love for us a bit differently than we might if our usual encounter is tiny snippets of scripture when we come to church. Reading the whole Bible changed my life, and it started for me one book at a time. I think it might change you, too.

Have you read the Gospel of John? Are you planning on reading it this January?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 


Today’s Flash Sale: Dog in a Manger

With laugh-out-loud humor anchored by spiritual truths, author Tim Schenck helps us maintain our spiritual sanity through the often-frenetic chaos of Advent and Christmas. Illustrated by popular cartoonist Jay Sidebotham, Dog in the Manger also explores the major characters of the season in new ways, including John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph and of course, Jesus. Thoughtful questions following each section make Dog in the Manger ideal for personal or group use.

Regular: $10
Today: $7.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Making disciples in your congregation

Dear friends in Christ,

Lately, it seems that all I do is talk about discipleship. This is a good thing. Jesus himself said that making disciples was the main job for his followers. Just this week, I wrote a blog post called “What is a disciple, and why does it matter?” If you want to read about discipleship, have a look over there.

At Forward Movement, we have research data from RenewalWorks that tells us that congregations which prioritize disciple-making are healthier and they’re more likely to be growing. Lots of others have studied this question, too. We have to move our churches, ensuring that we’re not running museums of the status quo or preservation societies. Sure, we can and should guard our traditions and our faith. But we also have to be ready to change. After all, the Gospel itself is all about transformation.

Rooted in Jesus - January 21-24, 2019 in AtlantaIf you’re not sure how to be a disciple—or if you’re not sure how to get your church to move in this direction—I have some good news. Forward Movement is offering a Discipleship Intensive two-day event this January. It’s a pre-conference gathering before the Rooted in Jesus conference in Atlanta. Our pre-conference is January 21-22, and the Rooted in Jesus conference is January 22-24. It promises to be a major conference, and the speaker line-up is exciting.

I hope to see you there. You can register online, and the early bird discount ends tomorrow, October 31.

If you can’t make it to the conference, there are plenty of ways to become a more committed disciple of Jesus Christ and to lead your congregation in this direction. This is our work at Forward Movement, and we’ll keep sharing stories and resources. Above all, we’ll keep sharing the Good News of God in Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Meet the Saints

Meet the Saints: Family Storybook is part of the Living Discipleships series of offerings, an all-ages curriculum to encourage each of us to follow Jesus more fully in the company of fellow disciples. Using this printed, full-color version of the Meet the Saints: Family Storybook families can together unveil how Christ’s light has shone brightly in the lives of men and women through centuries. Join a journey with the saints and your family, learning more about the monks, missionaries, prophets, doctors, evangelists, and more who have led us on our way.

The Meet the Saints: Family Storybook provides twenty-four stories of saints for families to read together, colorful child-friendly illustrations, thoughtful questions for family conversations, prayers to pray together, and coloring pages for children to enjoy.

Meet the Saints pairs well with other Celebrating the Saints curriculum, and can be used as a standalone study, or in conjunction with the other Living Discipleship series of offerings including Practicing our Faith and Exploring the Bible.

Regular: $12
Today: $9

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Being church in your community, social media style

Dear friends in Christ,

If you’ve been around young children much lately, you know about the “Baby Shark” global phenomenon, the song that has almost four billion views on YouTube. Charming circumstances led to “Baby Shark” becoming an unofficial anthem for the Washington Nationals baseball team and their postseason adventure.

Well, the Washington National Cathedral saw an opportunity. Or two or three. First, they outfitted some of their statues and grotesques in the home team colors. Then they released a now-viral video of the cathedral organists having a grand time with the massive national cathedral pipe organ and “Baby Shark.” People in DC are getting a fun reminder of the cathedral’s presence, and the sensation is spreading around the world.

Now, playing a popular song on a church organ is NOT evangelism. Sharing the Good News of what God has done in Jesus Christ is evangelism. But making connections with secular, popular culture can pave the way to evangelism. We can show that we take Jesus Christ very seriously, but we don’t need to take ourselves too seriously.

What I love about the Washington National Cathedral’s work here is that it doesn’t cheapen the core mission or value of the cathedral, but rather adds a bit of fun in ways that might attract interest from folks who otherwise wouldn’t pay much attention to church. And that’s worth something.

I know from eleven years of involvement with Lent Madness that humor can draw people into the church. Plenty of people have told Lent Madness creator Fr. Tim Schenck or me that they hadn’t really practiced a Lenten devotion until the whacky race for the Golden Halo drew them in. I wonder if people will Google the cathedral or even show up for services because of a bit of Washington Nationals fun?

We should never replace the proclamation of the Good News with a few laughs. But we in the church can show our fun side, perhaps helping people see that we Christians are fundamentally joyful people rather than the dour some people might believe. Has your church found fun ways to engage your community? Have you laughed at yourself lately?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo by the Washington National Cathedral


Today’s Flash Sale: Social Justice Bible Challenge

The Social Justice Bible ChallengeFeaturing forty days of reflections by spiritual leaders and writers from around the world, The Social Justice Bible Challenge is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with scripture and an exploration of the Word of God. Disciples wishing to spend more time engaging the Bible on topics from poverty, hunger, displacement, and the care of widows and orphans will have their cups filled over and over again by the words of Scripture and meditations from people across the Church who engage with these realities each and every day.

Bridging the gap between knowing the Bible and living it, The Social Justice Bible Challenge is for those seeking to deeply engaged in scripture, and connect their compassion to God’s Word.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Discipleship is the thing

Dear friends in Christ,

This is the time of year when I do a fair amount of traveling around the church. Sometimes the travel is exhausting, but the reward is a wonderful view of the life, health, and challenges of our beloved church.

A few days ago, I attended a conference for clergy from all over North America. While it wasn’t quite the official conference theme, I noticed a distinct pattern. Nearly everyone is interested in discipleship. Church leaders at all levels are looking for ways to equip followers of Jesus in their journey.

I find it very encouraging that there are no gimmicks here. Discipleship is about, among other things, studying God’s word in the Bible, cultivating a habit of daily prayer, serving those in need, attending worship regularly, and sharing the Good News of God in Jesus Christ. These practices don’t require a big budget line or a fancy program. They just require commitment and focus.

Congregations where discipleship becomes the top priority are thriving. It’s true for small and large churches, in rural and urban areas, both high church and low church. It’s not surprising that when we do the thing that Jesus commanded us to do in Matthew 28, we thrive. Our primary task is to make disciples. And we have the Holy Spirit as our guide and companion.

Forward Movement’s purpose—from 1935 to the present—has been to make disciples. We offer plenty of resources, many of which are free of charge, to support you and your congregation in this work. There are lots of others out there providing resources, too. Ultimately though, we already have what we need: the liturgy of the church, the scriptures, God’s presence among us, and a mission to carry out.

What’s the main thing at your church? Is it discipleship? If not, what’s getting in the way? If we at Forward Movement can help, please do let us know. And pray for the renewal of our church as people discover the joy and the freedom of following Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Bible Women

Bible WomenWomen of the Bible have been trapped in dry and dusty literary caskets for centuries. While a few women, such as Mary, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Mary Magdalene, are familiar, many of the women who speak in the Bible have long been ignored. Yet their words are part of God’s Word, the Bible, for a reason. Through these women, God spoke, intervened, changed, illustrated, and proclaimed the story of redemption.

In this groundbreaking book named best Bible study of 2015 by Illumination Book Awards, Episcopal priest Lindsay Hardin Freeman identifies every woman who speaks in the Bible, providing their words, context, and historical background. We learn which women speak the most (hint: it’s not Mary!) and which books of the Bible have the fewest words from women.

We hear the only conversation in the Bible between a mother and daughter (and it’s not pretty), the words of a woman who eats her own child, and the triumphant exclamation of a woman telling the world about the risen Christ.

Questions at the end of each chapter encourage individual or small-group reflection about what we might learn from each of these women and how God is speaking through them to us.

Step into God’s sacred circle of mothers, grandmothers, warriors, prophets, prostitutes, and murderers. You won’t come out the same.

Regular: $22
Today: $16.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: It takes a village to praise the Lord!

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming weekend, I’m heading over to Washington National Cathedral for their annual National Acolyte Festival. No, I’m not planning to vest and try out my torch-bearing skills. Those days are mostly past for me.

I’m looking forward to what promises to be a glorious celebration of Holy Eucharist in the cathedral, but I’m also looking forward to connecting with lots of people after the service. Forward Movement will be there, along with other exhibitors, to tell acolytes and others what we’re doing to support discipleship and evangelism.

Being an acolyte was very important in my own spiritual journey. Learning not only how to handle various objects for worship, but why we use them was formative. Lining up in the procession before mass, one sees how many people it takes to conduct services. And that doesn’t include the altar guild, the ushers, the lectors, the sexton, the organist, admin staff, and all the others!

It takes a village, it seems, to praise the Lord in our Sunday worship.

Each person has their own part to play, whether we work in the office, sit in the chancel, or occupy a pew. It’s glorious. When we offer our best, we glorify God. It feels great to do that, too.

If you’re in Washington this Saturday, stop by and say hello. If not, thank an acolyte or a choir member or a lector or an altar guild member or someone else who works so that we can offer our very best in worship.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

P.S. Last week, we published a new book, Sing to the Lord an Old Song. It’s a set of meditations on beloved hymns. Surely singing these venerable hymns is an important part of worship, too.


Today’s Flash Sale: O Wisdom

Songs of thanks and praise, of lament and longing, of restoration and return have been on our lips for millennia. The verses of the ancient hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, explore and celebrate the many names of Jesus. Drawn from the book of Isaiah, the O Antiphons have been sung in churches and monastic communities since at least the eighth century. These beautiful and awe-inspiring phrases present a way for us to sing along with the story of God, to ponder and praise the many names of our Lord.

Through meditations, art, poems, and photos created by people from across the church, this book offers space and time to embrace Jesus’ presence among us now—and await his coming in glory. Enjoy these prayers and praises throughout the seasons of Advent and Christmas. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. Rejoice!

Regular: $7
Today: $5.25

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Christmas in October?!

Dear friends in Christ,

This is about the time of year when I notice people online complaining about Christmas decorations appearing in stores and malls. I have even been known to join in these complaints.

The last few years, I haven’t actually minded. I’ve had a bit of an attitude change, and I want to invite you to reconsider your reaction if you see red when you see the red & green.

As I read in someone’s post several years ago, “It isn’t the job of commerce to keep the feasts. That’s what church is for.” In other words, we shouldn’t expect the mall to put up and take down their Christmas decorations according to the liturgical calendar. We do that in our churches and homes.

If I wanted to take a cynical view, I could get upset that people at the mall are trying to commercialize Jesus’ birth. Outrageous! But is it? Their job is to sell stuff. It’s our choice whether or not we buy. It’s our choice how we practice our Christmas faith. It’s our choice how we teach our children about presents and Christmas.

I try to take a more generous view now, though I confess I’m not always successful. Seeing Christmas decorations—even completely secular ones—in public offers us an occasion to talk about Jesus. “Jesus is the reason for the season” is a cliché, but it’s not wrong.

You won’t find a Christmas tree at our house until Christmas—but you will see an “Advent shrub” for most of December. You won’t find me playing Christmas music in the car before Christmastide. But when I’m out and around, I’m glad to hum along and enjoy some holiday festivity. Maybe I’ll even try to find a way to have a conversation or two about why we celebrate Christmas. And if we can manage that, isn’t it a blessing?

I’m not wishing people a merry Christmas yet, but I’m trying not to be the Grinch. How about you?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image by Scott Gunn


Today’s Flash Sale: I Witness

I WitnesMany of us have heard the story of Jesus’ birth, but have we lived inside it? Episcopal priest Kate Moorehead invites us to enter the story of salvation with our hearts and minds wide open, experiencing the miracle of Jesus through the eyes of witnesses: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and others. And Moorehead encourages us to bear witness ourselves—both then and now—to the marvel and majesty of a babe born in a manger, of Christ our King. These daily devotionals offer a companion through the seasons of Advent and Christmas and urge us to keep reading, keep listening, keep learning. The story of Christ’s birth can be both familiar and new in each re-telling. Come and see.

Regular: $7
Today: $5.25

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: A ministry of discipleship

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve repeated a million times, “Forward Movement is not a publishing company. We are a discipleship company.” Sure, we publish and sell books, but our mission is to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. Sales is one way we fund our mission, and publishing is one part of our mission.

We publish lots of books on topics of discipleship and evangelism. But we also offer digital resources and courses. We work, often with others, on conferences, such as Rooted in Jesus. I hope our offerings are helpful to you and your church. Do not hesitate to contact us and let us know!

Much of what we do is offered free of charge. Sometimes we subsidize the cost of resources to keep them affordable. Every year we donate more than 100,000 pieces of literature to people who are incarcerated, to people in the military, and to those who are hospitalized. Sales certainly help us, but it’s not the only way to fund our ministry.

I’d like to invite you to support the ministry of Forward Movement in two specific ways. First, if you are buying books, please consider buying them directly from us or from your local independent bookstore. Lots of Episcopal congregations and dioceses have bookstores, and your purchase there supports them and us. If you buy from us directly, that also supports our ministry. If the best thing for you is to purchase from some of the major online websites, we certainly want you to do that. But know that we see less money from those sales, which means less funding for our ministry.

Second, if you would like to see a vibrant Forward Movement continue to work in inspiring disciples and empowering evangelists in the Episcopal Church and beyond, please consider a generous gift. We have a balanced budget, but with more support, we could offer more resources. We’d love to do that.

It is a great joy to proclaim the Good News of God in Jesus Christ in our work at Forward Movement. I’m grateful for all the support you’ve already given, and I thank you in advance for all you and your church can do to help us reach more people.

Blessings to you all.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: For the Beauty of the Earth

For the Beauty of the EarthGod saw every living thing that was made, and indeed, it was very good. -Genesis 1:31

Dance along with the wind of God, be bathed in the primal waters, and look with awe and wonder on the myriad creatures God has made. Spend a day, a week, a month, or the whole year basking in the wonder of both fruit and flower, night and day, and everything thing that creeps upon the good earth. You are part and parcel of the very good creation God has made.

Join watercolor artist Kathrin Burleson and diverse voices from across The Episcopal Church in exploring the wonders of Creation and the beauty of the Creator. Burleson’s Creation-inspired watercolors offer inspiring visualizations that enhance the book’s 365 daily meditations, written by authors across the church and across the country.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time