Tag Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Why did you doubt?

Dear friends in Christ,

It’s funny what sticks in our memory and what doesn’t. As a preacher, I sometimes wonder what anyone will remember an hour after I finish the sermon. For my part, there are a few sermons I remember years later (and some I forget seconds later). Today I’m thinking of one sermon that’s stuck with me. I heard it as a child in elementary school.

The preacher was speaking about the Gospel passage we hear this Sunday—Peter walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). The relevant part is brief:

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

In the sermon I remember, the preacher assumed Jesus was angry or disappointed. And the preacher said Peter blew it by not trusting Jesus and keeping faith.

That stuck with me, and, for a while, I agreed with that reading. Now I think it is 180 degrees wrong.

Have you ever walked on water? I haven’t! I cannot imagine having the faith that would make this possible! The point is not that Peter failed to keep walking on the water, but rather that Peter managed even a few steps. What is the relationship between Peter and Jesus in this moment? We often don’t have emotional adjectives in the Bible, so we have to be careful what we project onto the speakers.

It seems to me that Jesus was offering compassion. After all, he reached out his hand for Peter. His question may have been asked in pity or in sorrow or in wonder.

Reading the passage as I suggest, it teaches us that we should not beat ourselves up when we fail to keep faith. Rather, we should rejoice for those faithful moments in our lives. And we should know that our Lord Jesus reaches out to catch us when we fail. Jesus offered grace to Peter again and again. Of all the people Jesus could have chosen to lead the church, he chose impetuous Peter, though Peter was often loudly and completely wrong.

Jesus chooses us, too. When we lose our faith, we need only to cry out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” And Jesus will catch us.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Image: Lorenzo Veneziano, Public domain


A Covid-19 Spiritual Survival Kit

Isolated, anxious, and unsure of what will happen next, our response to the virus has already taken months, and we don’t know when it will end. What can we do to take care of ourselves and others during this difficult time? How can we rely on God to help us survive—spiritually, physically, and emotionally—and to do God’s work in the world? In this course, four instructors offer suggestions to help us manage this period of anxiety and social isolation. This course is being offered for free.


Tune in!

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

 


In case you missed it…

Share it Forward Packs are now available! | Forward Movement

The Stone Will Be Rolled Away | Grow Christians

All Loving God, It is Night | Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices

Check out our new digital catalog | Forward Movement


Forward Today: Cleanse and defend your church

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday’s collect seems particularly appropriate for this moment in our common life.

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

In this time of pandemic, when we worry about our health, surely we want to pray that our churches might continue in safety. And praying that our church might be cleansed is especially fitting when disinfectants are selling like never before.

But of course, the collect isn’t really about the church in a time of pandemic.

Those of us who live in the United States are blessed to dwell in a land where we Christians are not persecuted for our religion. While some nations may need to pray for the church to be defended from persecution and other terrors, the threats to the church are different here. Our chief danger is complacency. We might enjoy the comforts of life and the privileges of the church so much that we fail to be convicted and transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Another collect asks God to help us make no peace with oppression. Our church must be cleansed from its timidity in the face of injustice, from its enjoyment of wealth and privilege, and from its failure to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ.

The church has truly known the goodness of the Lord, but it is also true that we have sometimes fallen short of our high calling. Let us treasure all that is good, while praying for defense from all that draws us away from Jesus. Let us seek an awareness of God’s continual mercy in our church and in our lives.

While our churches are fully or partially dispersed, I hope we will take the time to pray and to take stock of how well we have allowed Almighty God to govern our church with goodness. This uprooted time prevents us from our business as usual and invites reflection and redirection. How can we grow as disciples during this pandemic? How can we meet the increasing needs of our world, caused by disease and economic crisis?

So, yes, by all means, pray that the church be cleansed and defended from a deadly virus. And beyond that, let us all pray fervently that our church is cleansed and defended from all that holds us back from our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ, living transformed lives to change the world by God’s grace.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Image: Larry Lamb, Flickr


A Covid-19 Spiritual Survival Kit

Isolated, anxious, and unsure of what will happen next, our response to the virus has already taken months, and we don’t know when it will end. What can we do to take care of ourselves and others during this difficult time? How can we rely on God to help us survive—spiritually, physically, and emotionally—and to do God’s work in the world? In this course, four instructors offer suggestions to help us manage this period of anxiety and social isolation. This course is being offered for free.


Tune in!

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

 


In case you missed it…

Share it Forward Packs are now available! | Forward Movement

Masks as a Sign of Love | Grow Christians

Whatever you do now will prepare you for what you can do in the future
Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices

Check out our new digital catalog | Forward Movement

Forward Today: Let the whole world see

Dear friends in Christ,

In the last few days, I celebrated my ninth anniversary of serving at Forward Movement. These occasions are natural times to reflect on time that has passed. I’m proud of what Forward Movement has done, and I’m grateful for all the leaders who served before me to lay a solid foundation. Everything we do though is only possible because of the remarkable staff. I am profoundly grateful for gifted and passionate colleagues in ministry.

Lately I’ve been thinking about our beloved Episcopal Church. In the last nine years, I’ve spent much of my time travelling across the church visiting congregations, dioceses, and various gatherings. I thought on this occasion I might share some thoughts based on what I’ve seen and heard.

  • There are thriving, growing congregations of all kinds. Rural and urban, liberal and conservative, large and small. Those congregations have in common effective leadership and a congregation-wide deep commitment to following Jesus. It’s not complicated to grow a church. It takes intention and focus.
  • The overall statistical trends of slow, steady decline are true. As a friend of mine says, “the church isn’t dying; we’re killing it.” In almost every case I’ve seen, congregations that aren’t numerically growing are beset by either conflict or complacency (or both). Complacency is deadly, and it is antithetical to the Gospel. We too easily take for granted our churches and even our faith.
  • We need a new slogan. “The Episcopal Church welcomes you” sets up a dynamic of a club to which new members of many kinds will be admitted, rather than a mission-focused, outward-facing movement in which we seek to make disciples of all nations. It isn’t enough to be nice to people who show up in our churches. We need to get out there and invite people to know the transforming grace of Jesus Christ. We need an active, urgent slogan—because we need urgently to be active in the world.
  • Related to the previous point. We’re also not very welcoming in terms of race and class. The Episcopal Church skews wealthier than the broader population. And we are, especially in the United States, markedly less diverse than the racial demographics of our society. We have some soul-searching to do and plenty of repenting to do.
  • We need to equip people to practice their faith at home—prayer, study, service, and evangelism.
  • We need to study what’s working and what’s not and be brutally honest with ourselves. Nothing should be unexamined, other than the unchangeable core of our faith. How do we teach stewardship? How do we reach new people? How do we govern and organize ourselves? How do we do our work both within congregations and in the wider church?
  • We must develop a deeper curiosity about the people who come to our churches and the people who don’t. This is a necessary step in evangelism.
  • Our world needs us to step up our game. People are crying out, seeking a word of hope and grace. People are looking for meaning and purpose. People need to meet our loving redeemer, Jesus Christ.

 

Almost every day, I pray for our church. I invite you to join me.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Image: Scott Gunn


Building Racial Justice

This series was made in partnership with Trinity Institute in 2016 based on their 2016 conference, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. Courses are built on lectures by some of our leading teachers on the subject of race in America.

  • Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry
  • Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas
  • Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter
  • Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
  • Reparations and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey

 

This series is for those looking to deepen their understanding and conversations on racial injustice.


Tune in!

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

 


In case you missed it…

Seeing Ourselves in Picture Books | Grow Christians 

A Letter to My Predominantly White Congregation | Earth & Altar

Next Forward Day by Day issue begins in August…order your subscription!

Implement Revive Online | Revive

Forward Today: Fierce and all-consuming love

Dear friends in Christ,

As I’ve been watching the news like many of you, I have been trying to puzzle out meaning and direction. What does all this mean? Where are we headed?

Of course, I don’t know. But I’ve been reflecting on how the global pandemic and the calls to end white supremacy are exposing some long-standing, deep problems in our society, if not in human nature itself.

As a Christian, I uphold the view that we are all sinners whose freedom from sin comes only by the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. Left to our own devices, we will nearly always be selfish. God’s grace working in us can, however, lead us to live a transformed life. One of the signs of a life transformed by Jesus Christ is that a disciple is less selfish.

Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13). Did you catch that? We are meant to love one another selflessly and sacrificially, because that’s how Jesus loved us. Lest we miss it, Jesus tells us that love might demand our very life for the good of others. Jesus calls us to the complete opposite of selfishness.

It seems to me that America has been overtaken by a cult of selfishness. This is not partisan, though I have my own thoughts about particular ways this plays out. Suffice it to say, our culture does not encourage sacrificial love. We are encouraged to wall ourselves off from others in imagined safety. We are encouraged to accumulate vast amounts of resources, leaving others to fend for themselves. We are encouraged to demand our own rights rather than looking first for the welfare of all, especially the least, the last, and the lost.

We Christians must reject selfishness. We know that our life of obedience to God’s commands must be rooted in loving God and loving our neighbors.

So, then, what are we to make of the increasing fractures in our society?

Quite simply, the answer is love. Not sentimental, sweet love, but love that is fierce and all-consuming. This love will demand that we get involved. This love will not permit us to turn away from the needs of others as if there were such a thing as “someone else’s problem.” Christian love means action, most certainly including fervent prayer. Christian love means getting right into the thick of it, wherever the need is great.

My hope for this time is that, somehow, the pain and division we are seeing laid bare will call us as a society to do better, to be better. My hope is that the church will be jarred from its complacent reliance on the privilege of Christendom to renounce the evils of empire. I hope the church will regain its courage to speak in the public square with a voice of justice, righteousness, mercy, and grace.

Where do we begin? Study the scriptures. Pray. Spend time (perhaps online!) with your church. Pray some more. Let God direct you. I am praying that God will show me how to use my own gifts for the good of the world to the glory of God through the love of Jesus and by the power of the Spirit.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Image: Pixabay


Building Racial Justice

This series was made in partnership with Trinity Institute in 2016 based on their 2016 conference, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. Courses are built on lectures by some of our leading teachers on the subject of race in America.

  • Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry
  • Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas
  • Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter
  • Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
  • Reparations and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey

 

This series is for those looking to deepen their understanding and conversations on racial injustice.


Tune in!

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

 


In case you missed it…

A season of loss | Grow Christians

Justice as the work of the Church | Earth & Altar

Next Forward Day by Day issue begins in August…order your subscription!

Implement Revive Online | Revive

Forward Today: Their delight is in the law of the Lord

Dear friends in Christ,

This morning, I gave thanks that this is the first day of a new month. I didn’t used to pay much attention to the changeover from one month to the next, but that changed a few years ago.

Almost every morning, I pray morning prayer. Several years ago, I started using the 30 day psalter. This is a plan to read all the psalms over the course of a month. You can see it spelled out in your Book of Common Prayer if you turn to page 585. Right there above Psalm 1, it says “First Day: Morning Prayer.” So we read the first five psalms this morning. Then this evening, we’ll read starting at Psalm 6, where it says, “First Day: Evening Prayer.” Tonight’s portion is three psalms. By the end of the month, we’ll have prayed all 150 psalms.

So every month, my morning starts off

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, *
nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
they meditate on his law day and night.

Day in and day out, I am reminded that a life patterned on God’s commandments is how we are meant to live. The psalms are infused with a sense of praise and gratitude for God’s commandments. They are understood not as things which constrict us, but as ways to live the abundant life that God desires for all people.

Sometimes people mistakenly believe that following Jesus means we do not have to follow commandments. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus himself gave commandments, and they are all rooted in the law. His own Great Commandment, to love God and love our neighbors, is of course a quotation of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Jesus gave this Great Commandment as the lens through which to do all that he commanded and all the law that he himself followed.

Perhaps you’ll join me this very day in reading the psalms this month. You can do this with a prayer book, where the whole psalter is found starting at page 585. Or you can find the psalms online. You can also use the Forward Movement prayer website to pray the daily office. If you go to the preferences page, you can switch to the 30 day psalter and say morning and evening prayer. Our app (for Apple or Android) also has a setting to allow you to use the 30 day psalter.

Try it out. I hope you find the same blessing I have enjoyed in delighting in God’s law.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Image: Pixabay


Building Racial Justice

This series was made in partnership with Trinity Institute in 2016 based on their 2016 conference, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. Courses are built on lectures by some of our leading teachers on the subject of race in America.

  • Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry
  • Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas
  • Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter
  • Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
  • Reparations and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey

 

This series is for those looking to deepen their understanding and conversations on racial injustice.


Tune in!

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

 


In case you missed it…

Pre-order | The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus

Blessing for LGBTQIA+, Woes to the Privileged: Pursuing Allyship in the Days of Pride and Beyond | Earth & Altar

Responding to Racist Violence | The Episcopal Church

Implement Revive Online | Revive


Forward Today: In the tender compassion of our God

Dear friends in Christ,

Today the church commemorates the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. We always enjoy a couple of weeks with this singular figure each Advent when the appointed Gospel invites us to remember his work as a prophet. But today we recall his birth.

At John’s birth, his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and proclaimed the words we now sing in the canticle Benedictus Dominus Deus (Canticle 16). Zechariah foretells the important work his son will do, “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, * for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, To give his people knowledge of salvation * by the forgiveness of their sins.”

I wish we remembered this more often. We gain the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of our sins. In other words, we can understand that we need a redeemer when we learn that we can’t fix our broken selves. By God’s gracious gift in Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven, we are made new, and we can be saved. It’s very good news, the Gospel itself.

Knowing that God loves me, a sinner, helps me love other people too. There is always more than enough grace.

The news these days doesn’t seem to have much good news, let alone Gospel. But Zechariah has made another promise: “In the tender compassion of our God * the dawn from on high shall break upon us, To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

God has great compassion for us, meaning that God knows our suffering, our pain, and our deepest needs. And God loves us through all our sins, all our failings, and all our struggles.

If we who follow Jesus want to know the peace that passes all understanding in our own lives, we can find it in Jesus Christ. And if we can find the peace of Christ in our own hearts, we might have the clarity, the grace, the mercy, and the courage to proclaim peace and Good News in this world.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Building Racial Justice

This series was made in partnership with Trinity Institute in 2016 based on their 2016 conference, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. Courses are built on lectures by some of our leading teachers on the subject of race in America.

  • Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry
  • Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas
  • Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter
  • Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
  • Reparations and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey

 

This series is for those looking to deepen their understanding and conversations on racial injustice.


Tune in!

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

 


In case you missed it…

Pre-order | The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus

Responding to Racist Violence | The Episcopal Church

Most Honored Greening Force: Contemplative Ecology and the Living World | Earth & Altar

Implement Revive Online | Revive

Forward Today: Prayer and action

Dear friends in Christ,

To say there’s a lot going on in our world would be an understatement. Between politics, the pandemic, the economy, and protests over racism, it can seem overwhelming.

On Twitter, I asked for suggestions for topics for today’s Forward Today. One person responded, “It seems like calm in a time of chaos might be something readers need now.” Well, yes, I think that’s it. We need to know the peace that passes all understanding, especially in a world that seems unbearably chaotic.

Every now and then, I’ll hear someone say, “Prayer is not enough. We need action.” I reject the dichotomy. Prayer is action. Praying changes my heart, for sure. And I think prayer can change the world.

Sure, we need actions beyond just prayer. In the past, I have joined protests, written letters, made donations, and much more. But it is prayer that sustains me and keeps me focused on God and on God’s kingdom of righteousness and justice. My hope is that, for Christians, our lives are steeped in prayer. Otherwise, we run the risk of setting our minds on earthly things rather than heavenly things.

Yesterday morning, as I said morning prayer, I was struck by the refrain in Psalm 80, “Restore us, O God of hosts; * show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.” We don’t save ourselves by endless striving. God restores us. God has accomplished our salvation in Jesus Christ. Our task is to proclaim God’s love, mercy, righteousness, and justice.

Last Sunday I went to a community-wide service of lament and prayer held in one of our parks. One of the speakers said this: “Our hope comes from the Lord, but we need to be people who bring hope. Christ is not coming out of the sky right now to bring us hope. You have to be the voice of hope. Do not stay silent!”

Let us pray. Let us pray every day. Let us pray every day for the wisdom, courage, and strength to be bearers of Jesus Christ’s hope, mercy, and grace in the world.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Photo: Unsplash


Building Racial Justice

This series was made in partnership with Trinity Institute in 2016 based on their 2016 conference, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. Courses are built on lectures by some of our leading teachers on the subject of race in America.

  • Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry
  • Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas
  • Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter
  • Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
  • Reparations and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey

 

This series is for those looking to deepen their understanding and conversations on racial injustice.


Tune in!

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

 


In case you missed it…

Pre-order | The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus 

From Bishop Jennifer: A Reflection of Personal Experience, Hope and Challenge for the Church on Dismantling White Supremacy and Racism | Diocese of Indianapolis

I’m Still in Lent: On Ash Wednesday and Being Unequivocal | Earth & Altar

Implement Revive Online | Revive


 

Forward Today: Where there is despair, hope

Dear friends in Christ,

My friend Furman Buchanan posted a photo on his Facebook last week, and I’m still thinking about it. You can see the photo: a lovely labyrinth with “hope” written in stones at the center.

I love this, because the labyrinth is, itself, a symbol of pilgrimage, or perhaps a pilgrimage in miniature. We pray and walk along, twisting and turning until we reach the center. Sometimes we find ourselves going back away from the center, even though we know our final destination. We press on.

Life is like that, isn’t it? We pray and we move along. We find ourselves in twists and turns, sometimes moving away from where we want to be. Like the labyrinth, there are no shortcuts.

Hope is one of those words that we toss around a bit too casually sometimes. “I hope there is racial healing” is easy to say. That kind of hope isn’t worth much, frankly. It’s an idle expression that seems to cost nothing and mean little. But if we truly believe that racial healing is possible—that is, if we have hope—we will be empowered to work toward it. The only reason not to work for something is if we believe it will never happen.

Christian hope is fierce. Christian hope is not only for the life to come, but for seeing glimpses of God’s kingdom and God’s radiant glory in this life. We are meant to have hope that the world can be better, filled with God’s love and showing forth God’s kingdom of righteousness, justice, mercy, and grace. When we have that hope, we will want to proclaim God’s kingdom and work for a world with righteousness, justice, mercy, and grace.

Too often, political leaders and media fill us with the cynical idea that there is no hope. They say the world cannot be better. We who follow Jesus should know better. We should know that God’s love is stronger than death, stronger than sin, and stronger than our fears. This is why the church must speak in the public square and shout from the rooftops: there is hope.

Hope is not shallow, cheap, or easy. Having hope does not deny the suffering and adversity of this world. Instead, Christian hope says that suffering, adversity, sin, and death do not have the last word.

I try to remember all this as I watch the news. The pandemic, racism, violence, economic divides, white supremacy, and degradation are all present in this world. They are real, and we must turn against them as we turn away from Satan and toward Jesus. Evil does not have the final say. The final say is our Christian hope, shown in an empty tomb on Easter Day, that God’s love reigns triumphant.

So how do we defeat evil and the forces of wickedness in our time? The first step is hope.

Let us pray.

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. (BCP page 833)

Blessings to you as you press on, moving always toward the hope of Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Photo: Furman Buchanan


Building Racial Justice

This series was made in partnership with Trinity Institute in 2016 based on their 2016 conference, Listen for a Change: Sacred Conversations for Racial Justice. Courses are built on lectures by some of our leading teachers on the subject of race in America.

  • Spirituality and Racial Justice with Michael Curry
  • Whiteness and Racial Justice with Kelly Brown Douglas
  • Theology and Racial Justice with J. Kameron Carter
  • Racism and Racial Justice with Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
  • Reparations and Racial Justice with Jennifer Harvey

 

This series is for those looking to deepen their understanding and conversations on racial injustice.


Tune in!

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

 


In case you missed it…

Pre-order | The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus 

When the Cameras are Gone, We Will Still Be Here | The Episcopal Church

Saint Columba, the Ascetic Life, and Black Lives | Grow Christians

Implement Revive Online | Revive


 

Forward Today: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write this, Cincinnati has been participating in protests the last few days, as people demonstrate following the killing of George Floyd. But the protests go way deeper than that. The United States was founded with the original sin of racism, as slavery was built in to our constitution. All men were created equal, but African-Americans were only three-fifths equal. And I don’t need to recount for you the ways in which white people have profited from the exploitation of black people since then. The median weekly wage for African-Americas was, at last report, about 65% of white people’s wages. That’s just over 3/5, so in some ways, we haven’t made much progress in the original sin of racism. I encourage you to learn more.

What we are seeing in our cities across the country is the expression of accumulated rage, grief, and frustration, not just from George Floyd’s death, but from decades and even centuries of sinful racism. Before anyone objects to rage, I remind you that righteous anger is absolutely a valid and good biblical response to injustice. Read about Moses destroying the tablets and golden calf (Exodus 32:19-20). Read about Jesus cleansing the temple (John 2:13-16). Read the words of the prophets in the Old Testament (for example, Isaiah 58 or Amos 5:21-24). Read the psalms.

I don’t know about other cities, but here in Cincinnati, the protesters’ demands are largely reasonable. Mostly they have to do with police oversight and criminal justice reforms. Substantively responding to these demands would be a better response than riot gear and circling helicopters. In other words, I think we—as a nation, as a church, and as individuals—need to listen to what’s behind the protests. We cannot let our views or our reactions be shaped merely by incendiary news coverage, which is always going to gravitate toward the most violent, most sensational moments.

Earlier this week, I went to one of the protests and marched with people. This particular event was organized by young people, high school and college aged. News coverage of the protest I attended focused on visually captivating scenes: angry gestures, militarized police. But what, in fact, happened was that hundreds or perhaps thousands of young people, most under 30, marched peacefully to demand that their elected officials do a better job. Specifically, of course, they want to end the discrimination and violence directed at black people. I have trouble imagining how anyone calling themselves a Christian could object to most of what really happened or to what was really said.

This is long-term work. Acknowledging the long history of racial discrimination in the nation and in the Episcopal Church, our Presiding Bishop said, “We are not slaves to fate but people of faith. Our long-term commitment to racial justice and reconciliation is embedded in our identity as baptized followers of Jesus….That work of racial reconciliation and justice—what we know as Becoming Beloved Community—is happening across our Episcopal Church.”

If you are, like me, a white person, know that dismantling white supremacy and systemic racism is our work. Our church is now, thankfully, offering many resources to help us all carry out a Christian response to the sins of racism and white supremacy. You might consider ways to get involved with Becoming Beloved Community. Learn more about The Union of Black Episcopalians and follow them on Facebook. If you are scandalized by the “political” nature of this week’s Forward Today, check out the Social Justice Bible Challenge to see that there is nothing partisan or “political” about racial healing; it is part of God’s desire for justice, mercy, love, and grace.

Our Presiding Bishop offers encouragement and hope for the hard work ahead. “Opening and changing hearts does not happen overnight. The Christian race is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Our prayers and our work for justice, healing and truth-telling must be unceasing. Let us recommit ourselves to following in the footsteps of Jesus, the way that leads to healing, justice and love.”

I leave you with a prayer from page 260 of the Book of Common Prayer.

Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Each night, as protests continue, I also pray that protesters and police will be kept safe, and I pray mightily that cries for justice will be heard.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Photo: Unsplash



Racism and Racial Justice 
by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

In this course, activist, author, and Duke University professor Eduardo Bonilla-Silva discusses the continuing plague of racism in this country and how to address it with these four presentations:
  • The New Racism
  • Colorblind Racism
  • Race and Class
  • Action

 

This course is ideal for individuals and congregations looking to deepen their understanding and conversations on racial injustice.


Tune in!

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

 


In case you missed it…

Presiding Bishop Curry calls for justice and love | The Washington Post

We Live Here Now | Earth & Altar

Implement Revive Online | Revive

Downloadable addition to Hour by Hour | Forward Movement


 

Forward Today: Vitality in your church

Dear friends in Christ,

I’ve been thinking about church vitality lately, especially in this time of pandemic. Some churches seem to be getting stronger, while others are struggling mightily. It might seem like we need to reinvent everything about church for this time. But I’m not so sure. Maybe the core principles stay the same, but the way we carry them out changes.

Forward Movement’s RenewalWorks program has done extensive research on spiritual vitality in congregations. There are five best practice principles to increasing spiritual health and vitality in a congregation. Maybe this time of pandemic is an opportunity for each church to ask whether it is doing these things and whether it might be necessary to change how we’re doing them.

  1. Get People Moving. Complacency is a huge challenge in the Episcopal Church. Too many of us do not expect transformation, and we run our churches so as not to rock too many boats. Disturbing complacency and starting each person in a journey of growth is exactly what we need to do.
  2. Embed the Bible in everything. Scripture engagement changes lives. Making sure that every meeting starts with Bible study—and framing all activity at the church through the lens of scripture—will lead people to read and to study the scriptures.
  3. Create Ownership. As one pastor used to say, “I can’t read the Bible for you or say your prayers. You have to do that.” We cannot outsource our discipleship work to someone else. Each one of us needs to take on habits of prayer, study, worship, and service.
  4. Pastor the Community. What does the community outside our church need? This might be a different question than, what do we want to do? Is there a need for tutoring? Shelter? Food? Meeting space? If we can learn to know and to love our neighbors, the world will be transformed one life at a time.
  5. Heart of the Leader. If the person who preaches is faking it, everyone can tell. Lay leaders can work to ensure that their clergy leader is refreshed and renewed. And clergy can make sure that their lay leaders are called to vital work, not carrying the millstone of institutional maintenance.

 

You can learn a lot more about the Best Practice Principles on the RenewalWorks website. How is your church doing? Have you seen success? Do you face challenges?

The reason for us to do this work is not to earn God’s love or our salvation. That has been accomplished on the cross. No, the reason to become effective disciples is so that we might grow into the full stature of Jesus Christ and share his love with a world in need.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Illustration by Jay Sidebotham.



Make Me an Instrument of Peace:
A Guide to Civil Discourse

Make Me an Instrument is a free, 5-week course designed to help us bridge the divides that keep us from moving forward. Taught by a team of experts in civil discourse, this course includes these five classes:

  • Civil Discourse in Context with Ranjit Matthews
  • Tenets for Civil Discourse with Shannon Kelly
  • Values-Based Conversations with Alan Yarborough
  • The Complexities of Policy with Rebecca Linder Blachy
  • Sacred Space for Debate with Marcus Halley

 

Make Me an Instrument is ideal for those who want to take dialogue between polarized people or parties seriously.


Tune in!

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

 


In case you missed it…

Downloadable addition to Hour by Hour | Forward Movement

Giving Away the Church: Reflections on Fresh Ecclesial Expressions | Earth & Altar

Slightly Frantic Liturgy | Grow Christians

Learn more about Revive