Tag Archives: scott gunn

Forward Today: Pour your grace into our hearts

Dear friends in Christ,

Today the church celebrates the feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We recall Gabriel’s announcement and Mary’s acceptance, that God-among-us would be born to dwell with us. As I looked at the Gospel lesson to prepare writing this email, I had a bit of a jarring disconnect. “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth…” I’m so used to hearing those words in happy time, at Christmastide or just before.

Hearing joyous words at this moment seemed incongruous, almost inappropriate. And then I realized my foolishness. 2,000 years ago, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, and she courageously accepted the news, the world was not a piece of cake. Mary’s life was about to be upended. Her travail far exceeds my feeble struggles in every way.

This is precisely the shock and the scandal of the Incarnation. Into our fallen, sometimes awful, world, God comes among us. The word incarnation means something like enfleshment. God Almighty, who created the heavens and earth and who can do all things, willingly came to live among us, accepting the limitations of our frail flesh. Our God is not remote and uncaring. Our Creator loves us so much that God is willing to live in solidarity among us.

This present time in which many of us are living in enforced separation might seem to prevent connection and intimacy. In some ways, that is true. But it is also true that we are never distant from God. And thanks to telephones, computers, and other devices, we can stay connected to other people across great distance. So we have one another, and we always have God.

Are you lonely? Reach out to another person. Cast your cares on God in prayer. Know that your pain is real, and it is shared by God. And other people will share it with you too.

Do you know someone who might be yearning for connection? Reach out to them. Send an email. Make a call. Invite them into prayer. You might like to start by praying the collect appointed for today:

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I can’t imagine Mary woke up that morning 2,000 years ago with any inkling of what was in store for her. In an astounding act of courage, she accepted her vocation with grace and dignity.

None of us could have imagined the challenges today will bring. I hope we can allow God’s grace to pour into our hearts, and through us, into the world.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Wikipedia


Prayer & Worship in Our Homes

ChurchNext, a ministry of Forward Movement has release a set of free courses, Prayer & Worship in Our Homes, which includes the following classes.

  • Everyday Spiritual Practices with Keith Anderson
  • How to Pray with Christopher Martin
  • Praying with Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck
  • How to Pray Online with Karekin Yarian
  • Praying the Anglican Rosary with Suzanne Edwards-Acton

 


Tune in!

Hear today’s Forward Day by Day reflection or find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast. Available anywhere you listen to podcasts!


Inspirational Reading of the Week

 


Forward Today: Wearied by changes and chances?

Dear friends in Christ,

It seems that each new day brings unsettling news. Around the world, life is changing more rapidly than we can imagine as we face threats posed by the new coronavirus. I don’t know about you, but for the last week or so, each day seems like it passes quickly while yesterday seems like an eternity ago. It’s hard to keep up—practically, emotionally, and spiritually.

My friends who are parents of young children are frazzled at the idea of an indefinite time of home schooling. Friends who have health challenges are understandably worried about the spread of COVID-19. Many of us are trying to sort out what it might mean to be stuck at home and wondering if we’ll have enough to get by. As I talk with church leaders across the country, they are trying to figure out what church looks like at a time when we cannot safely gather.

For what it’s worth, my advice for everyone is this: be gentle with yourself.

We need to pace ourselves, because this crisis is probably going to be with us for several months, in one form or another. We don’t have to do everything today. We don’t have to pretend we have any idea what tomorrow will bring. We don’t have to act as if we’re not exhausted from yesterday. We don’t have to know all the answers. We don’t have to get it right.

It’s OK to ask for help: help from our family, friends, neighbors, and most especially from God. Social distancing does not prevent us from talking with one another. Staying at home does not preclude friendships, even if it means we need to be on the phone or talking via video on our computers.

Try to rest, if you can. It’s going to be a long haul. If you know someone else who is struggling and you have the capacity, offer to help. Pray for others. Perhaps you can offer a word of reassurance and encouragement.

We’re all doing our best. And our best isn’t perfect. Forgive yourself when you get it wrong, and forgive others too.

As we persevere through this challenging time together, I encourage you to say this prayer before you sleep each night. It’s just what I need to pray, and you might find it helpful, too.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, page 133)

Blessings, friends.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Image: Pixabay


Free Online Classes
Brought to you by ChurchNext

“ChurchNext, a ministry of Forward Movement, has released a set of free courses, Prayer and Worship in Our Homes” said the Rev. Chris Yaw, director of ChurchNext. “These courses will equip people for prayer and worship even if they cannot gather with others in person in their churches.”

Prayer and Worship in Our Homes includes five classes:

  • Everyday Spiritual Practices with Keith Anderson
  • How to Pray with Christopher Martin
  • Praying with Saints with Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck
  • How to Pray Online with Karekin Yarian
  • Praying the Anglican Rosary with Suzanne Edwards-Acton

 

In addition to this new offering, there are two other courses currently available free of charge through ChurchNext.tv.

Forward Today: Praying together

Dear friends in Christ,

Our world seems to get more chaotic by the day. The news has been full of developments concerning the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). What are we to do as people of faith?

Of course, we can take care of ourselves and our communities following the guidance of medical professionals and government leaders. That goes without saying. But beyond that, we can pray. We can pray for wisdom, knowledge, strength, courage, and comfort. We can pray for ourselves, the sick, medical providers, government leaders, and others. We can pray.

Some churches are now under orders to avoid in-person gatherings of any kind. It is possible the ban on public gatherings will widen. Even if we cannot gather with our church community, we can pray with our church. We can pray together online. We can pray at the same time. We can pray knowing that somewhere in the world, others are saying the same prayers we are. We can pray knowing that we are always joined in prayer with the company of heaven. When we pray, we are never alone.

Forward Movement has several free resources to help you pray. You might like to pray the daily office—morning prayer, noonday prayer,  evening prayer, or compline—which you can find on our Daily Prayer website. All you need to do is visit the site, and your computer or phone will serve up the correct prayers and readings for your time of day. If you’re in a hurry, you can try the daily devotions for individuals and families, which only take a few seconds to pray. They’re online also.

Of course, you can also find these prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. Morning Prayer starts at page 37, and the daily devotions for individuals and families begin at page 136.

Perhaps you’d like to listen to the prayers. We offer a daily podcast of morning prayer—A Morning at the Office, which you can find on your favorite podcast platforms. You can also just point your browser to the podcast’s page and listen from there.

By the way, Forward Day by Day is also available as a podcast, and we post the reflection every day on our website.

We hope these free resources will be helpful in this difficult time and always. For now, I invite you to join me in prayer.

O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Image: Pixabay


This Week’s 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
This Week: $11.25

*Discount is valid until Sunday at 11:59 p.m. EST

Forward Today: It’s never too late

Dear friends in Christ,

Lent started a week ago. Maybe you didn’t have time to plan a Lenten discipline. Maybe you tried one and it’s just not working. Maybe you’re too busy to even think about Lent.

I have good news. It’s never too late.

In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, Jesus tells a story about how laborers who worked all day, who were hired later, and even those hired at the eleventh hour are rewarded with a full day’s wages. This is a parable rich with meaning.

It’s never too late.

There is more than enough of God’s grace. Even those who show up at the last minute are welcomed. By the way, it isn’t fair, because grace isn’t fair. In God’s economy, there is always enough. Those who show up first get their reward. Those who show up at the last minute get their reward.

It’s never too late.

There’s still a lot of Lent left. This very day, perhaps you’ll think about how to use the gift this season offers us. Lent is nothing more or nothing less than an invitation to repent, to turn back toward Jesus and away from all that distracts us.

I don’t know what you need. Maybe it’s a bit of prayer. Maybe it’s a bit of rest. Perhaps you need to make amends with someone from whom you are estranged. Perhaps you need to deny yourself some pleasure that keeps you from being directed toward Jesus. Whatever it is, there’s no time like the present.

It’s never too late.

God never gives up on us. You don’t need to “do” Lent in order to get on God’s good side. But savoring this season might be just the thing to help us remember the boundless gift of God’s grace.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Image: Pixabay


This Week’s Sale: Learning from London

As most mainline Christian denominations struggle with declining numbers, the Church of England in the Diocese of London is bucking the trend. In one of the most diverse, multi-faith, urban, and pluralistic cities in the world, London churches are growing and thriving against the odds, proclaiming the gospel afresh, and meeting the needs of their communities in creative, innovative, and life-changing ways. Based on more than six years of study, Jason A. Fout offers lessons from London, a road map to growth and revitalization for American churches-big and small, historic and newly started, evangelical and Anglo-Catholic. This remarkable guide offers practical tools as well as insight and inspiration for all who care about the future of the church.

“Crucial reading for everyone committed to evangelism and church growth.” -Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church

Regular: $18
This Week: $13.50

*Discount is valid until Sunday at 11:59 p.m. EST

Forward Today: Finding grace in ashes

Dear friends in Christ,

Today is Ash Wednesday, one of the most solemn days of the church year. For it is on this day that we confess all the ways we have failed God and one another, and we promise to do better. On this day, we also remember that God’s desire is to save us. The ash cross that we receive on this day is a sign of all that.

Several years ago, I was in the main public square of Cincinnati imposing ashes. Now I know not everyone loves “Ashes to Go”, and I have complicated thoughts about it myself. But I want to share one story.

A man walked up, seeing us standing there in vestments. We had a signboard that said something like, “Get your ashes today—It’s Ash Wednesday.” This man said, “I always wondered what this is about.” I explained that the ashes are a reminder that we’re going to die, but they are also a reminder that life is a gift. We should use this short, precious life well. The cross reminds us to turn back to God, to follow Jesus.

He said, “That sounds like exactly what I need.” He closed his eyes and looked completely at peace as I imposed the ashes, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” He walked away, in silence. I don’t know what this meant to him, or why it was just what he needed.

I do know this: I need this reminder today, and maybe you do, too. Our prayer is that of the church, “Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life.”

Ashes are signs of our mortality, but they are also signs of grace. Our world needs more signs of grace.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Pixabay


Today’s Flash Sale: Walk in Love

Take a journey through The Book of Common Prayer, the Christian life, and basic beliefs of our faith, guided by two Episcopal priests—Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe. Walk through the liturgical year, the sacraments of the church, habits of daily prayer, and the teachings of Anglican Christianity. See how our prayer shapes our belief and our lives and how our beliefs lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Regular: $22
Today: $16.50

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

Forward Today: Healing in a time of division

Dear friends in Christ,

Last Sunday, our Gospel reading reminded us that we are judged not only for our actions, but also for what’s in our hearts. It’s not enough to get through the week without killing someone (though we surely must avoid murder!). If we are filled with anger, we are liable to judgement (Mt 5:21-22).

If you spend much time watching cable news or surveying social media, it’s pretty clear there’s a lot of anger in our society. In some ways, it’s understandable. We are more aware of divisions than we might have been a few years ago. And some divisions are widening. It’s easy to blame others, to become angry in our grief, or to resent it when people point out the ways we might benefit from our own position. There are lots of reasons to be angry.

What are we to do? Separating ourselves from those who are different will neither keep us safe nor will it lead to reconciliation. If we’re going to reconcile, we’ll need to sort out how to be in relationship. To that end, Forward Movement has just released, in partnership with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations and the Faith Formation department, an online ChurchNext course called “Make Me an Instrument of Peace: A Guide to Civil Discourse”. It’s a free, five-part course covering civil discourse in context, tenets for civil discourse, values-based conversations, the complexities of policy, and sacred space for debate. The course is available for individuals or groups.

I hope you’ll check it out. We also offer the free resource No Longer Strangers: Exploring Immigration Issues.

Now, I should note that the Bible makes it pretty clear that there is a place for righteous anger. Sometimes when people call for “civility” it is a way to keep the marginalized at the margins. Righteous anger speaks the truth in love, and it comes from a place of concern for others. When I speak of keeping our hearts free of anger, we’re talking about the anger that wells up in us and prevents us from loving God and loving our neighbors.

As Lent approaches, I encourage us all to look in our own hearts. Are we leaving room for adoration of God, or are we filled with anger? Are we ready to practice reconciliation? Are we ready to speak the truth in love as we love our neighbors?

Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, give us peace in our time.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: The Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations


Today’s Flash Sale: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book

Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book is a book of prayer and practice–with disciplines, habits, and patterns for building a Christian spiritual life. It will help you to develop strong habits of prayer, to prepare for and participate in public liturgy thoughtfully, and to nurture a mind and soul ready to work and give and pray for the spread of the kingdom. Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book features “Holy Habits of Prayer,” devotions to accompany Holy Eucharist, Stations of the Cross, and Stations of the Resurrection, and a wide range of litanies, collects, and prayers for all occasions. The newly revised edition includes the treasured liturgies and prayers of the original while offering some important updates in language and content. Revised and edited by well-regarded scholars David Cobb and Derek Olsen, the Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book is a wonderful gift as well as a handsome addition to your own prayer book collection. Comes leather-bound (black) with two ribbons in a gift box.

Regular: $28
Today: $21

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

Forward Today: Choose life

Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday, one of our readings comes from Deuteronomy. Moses is speaking to God’s people, telling them they have two choices. They can choose to follow God’s commandments, then they will know life and prosperity. Or they can choose to turn away from God, in which case they will know death and adversity.

My experience is that we tend not to like to think about following God’s commandments this way. We don’t much like to think about consequences for turning away, or blessings for turning to God. Now, I’m certainly not suggesting anything remotely like the so-called prosperity gospel peddled by hucksters posing as TV preachers. I do think that the abundant life that Jesus promises—full of an awareness of all that God has done and will do for us—waits for us, if we but repent and turn toward God.

Moses urges the people to “Choose life!” I’ve no doubt that if he miraculously appeared among us today, he’d say the same thing to us.

Our world seems more and more chaotic. Busyness overwhelms us. The news attempts to terrify us. Violence and degradation proliferate. What are we to do?

I think if we turn our hearts and our lives toward God, patterning our lives according to God’s commandments and purposes for us, we will see some changes in our lives. Some of those tasks that seemed urgent will recede in importance. We will remember that fear has no grip on us. Perhaps we will be emboldened by the Gospel to resist degradation and to seek peace. The world might seem more beautiful and less chaotic.

In other words, we might find that we have chosen life.

We know that these decisions are not one-time affairs. Every day we have multiple opportunities to choose life…or not.

Have you chosen life? What is that like? Have you turned away from God? What was that like? What might help you choose life, today and always?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: Unsplash


Today’s Flash Sale: The Path

The PathWalk in the footsteps of faithful men and women who have done their best to follow God’s call. The Path is the story of the Bible, excerpted from the New Revised Standard Version so that it is clear and easy to read. Follow the path of God’s love all the way from the beginning to the end, from Adam’s creation to John’s revelation.

With informative trail signs to help you see how each piece of the narrative fits together, The Path is an experience unlike any other: an amazing 360-degree overview of the vast, sweeping story of God’s extraordinary love for ordinary people. Join us on this epic adventure, a journey through the Bible to grow closer to God.

Regular: $22
Today: $16.50

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

Forward Today: Getting ready for the gift of Lent

Dear friends in Christ,

The season of Lent begins just three weeks from today. I don’t know about you, but it’s early February and I’m already exhausted from 2020. Lent can’t come soon enough. I can’t wait to answer the invitation of this season to repent and return to the Lord, to focus on what matters.

Lent isn’t about making ourselves better. It is about remembering God’s love for us. In fact, Lent is a good time to remind ourselves of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, who offers salvation for us, despite the fact that we’re all pretty messed up. So this season isn’t about self-improvement so much as remembering the gift of God’s grace.

I’m planning to spend some time over the next few weeks to ponder how I might use this Lenten season. What habits do I want to cultivate? What habits do I want to shed? What am I called to embrace? What am I called to reject?

The good news is that Lent isn’t something to add to your to-do list. In fact, Lent might be inviting you to take some things off your to-do list. You don’t have to spend any money or sign up for any programs to make good use of Lent. But you might find yourself looking for books or resources to help you along the way. Your church or your priest or a wise spiritual friend can help you think and pray about how to use Lent.

Of course, we at Forward Movement have lots of resources. This year’s new Lenten devotional is a set of daily meditations by Frank and Victoria Logue. You can buy A Spring in the Desert as a paper book or an ebook. If you want something a bit more fun for your church and your family, a set of 25 Join the Journey colorable Lenten calendars is just a few dollars. And we have lots of other Lenten resources on our website. So do other publishers.

But however you approach Lent, I hope you’ll see this season as a gift. Each year, the church offers us this precious time to return to Jesus Christ, to focus on what matters. How will you accept this gift?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Image: By Rev. Neil Willard, Palmer Memorial Church, Houston, TX via Wikimedia


Today’s Flash Sale: Lent is Not Rocket Science

The season of Lent prompts us to ask questions, big and small, about the nature of our being and about our role in the world. In these daily Lenten reflections, astronomer, physicist, and Episcopal Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely explores the intersection of faith and science, creation and the cosmos.

Regular: $5
Today: $3.75

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

Forward Today: Finding grace on a sidewalk

Dear friends in Christ,

A couple of days ago, I happened to glance down while I was walking my dog. There, on the sidewalk, was a message of grace. “I forgive you.”

I don’t know who wrote this or why. Was someone hoping another person would see the message? Was it a written declaration by someone hoping that their intentions to forgive another would be more real if only the words were written out? Was it intended for a passer-by like me? Whatever the reason or the circumstance, there’s something tender about this declaration.

Forgiveness is at the heart of the Gospel. God forgives us our many sins, and we are meant to pass on that forgiveness to those around us. “Forgive our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” It’s about mercy and grace, something that’s in short supply in this world of ours. Scorekeeping and gotchas are the currency of our age, so to forgive another is a subversive act.

Forgiving does not make the call for justice vanish. And of course, forgiving is not forgetting. Those tender words of forgiveness on a sidewalk do not imply that something has been forgotten, but rather that it has been forgiven. If someone hurts me, the sting of whatever has been done may not vanish quickly and it may never heal completely. But I have a choice of whether or not to hang on to my anger. Forgiveness is a gift to another, but it also frees us. Being merciful is itself an act of grace that makes real God’s gracious love in and for us. We humans are made to be generous, and when we live that way, we see glimpses of God’s gracious love for us and for all people.

I’m so glad someone wrote those three words on a sidewalk. I’m glad for their sake that one person has forgiven another. And I’m glad for my sake that I was given a small opportunity to contemplate the wonder of God’s great mercy and love for me and my call to be merciful and gracious to others.

I know I have some work to do in my heart. Sometimes forgiving is much easier said than done. Who do you need to forgive?

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Dust Bunnies in the Basket

Episcopal priest Tim Schenck offers good humor and spiritual direction for the journey through Lent and Easter. With keen observations and a clever wit, Schenck connects the mundane with the divine, from dust bunnies and egg hunts to foot washing and the Easter Vigil. Illustrated by popular cartoonist Jay Sidebotham, Dust Bunnies in the Basket challenges us to go deeper this Lent, to “kick up some dust every now and then, to roll up our sleeves and get involved with the world and the people around us.” This book is ideal for personal reflection or seasonal study groups and includes thoughtful questions at the end of each section.

Regular: $10
Today: $7.50

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

Forward Today: Are we becoming a courageous church?

Dear friends in Christ,

I’m writing this week’s Forward Today from Atlanta, where I’ve come to the Rooted in Jesus conference. Our friends at ECF have organized a massive conference, with nearly 1,500 attendees. Even more impressive than the size is the way organizations have worked together to build a conference that is, well, rooted in Jesus Christ and in our lives as his disciples.

Forward Movement is hosting a pre-conference Discipleship Intensive. I’ve really enjoyed the conversations among participants about how we can be more effective in making disciples. Not surprisingly, it has a lot to do with leaders modeling lives transformed with discipleship. Disciples making disciples.

If you are in Atlanta, please stop by the Forward Movement table in the exhibit area. Several of us are here for the conference, and we’d love to meet you. If you’re not in Atlanta, you can follow the conference hashtag (#rooted2020) on social media. I’m sure there will be lots of coverage in church media, as well as blogs and posts about what’s happening here.

Beyond this conference, I’m excited about what’s happening in our church. In many places, people are choosing to leave the comfort and safety of Christendom with its model of parishes as preservation societies for the adventure of living the Gospel. To be disciples is to live in a way that chooses transformation, that embarks on journeys, that embraces change, and that takes risks.

What might our church be like if we could be more courageous – more willing to be adventurous? Imagine a courageous church. A church like that would be worth joining, worthy of sacrifice and devotion. A church like that will inevitably grow. A church like that will burst with love and witness. A church like that will be living only for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s be that church.

Yours faithfully,

 

 

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Vestry Resource Guide & Guía de recursos

Whether you’re a new vestry member or a seasoned veteran, the newly revised (2015) Vestry Resource Guide is essential reading. With a deliberate focus on the importance of lay and clergy leadership teams, you’ll find comprehensive information and advice about the ministry of the vestry, leading faith communities, stewardship, and navigating clergy transitions.

 

Esta guía, en versión revisada, es una lectura esencial para toda persona que participa en una junta parroquial. La guía pone énfasis en la importancia de que la junta parroquial y el rector o rectora trabajen en equipo. Incluye información completa y consejos sobre el ministerio de la junta parroquial, cómo dirigir feligresías, mayordomía, y qué pasos tomar cuando cambia el clero.

 

 

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

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