Tag Archives: scott gunn

Forward Today: Advent is almost here, just when we need it

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent is coming up, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to it more than this year. This has been such a challenging year in many ways, and Advent brings just the blessing I need. I look forward to Advent’s invitation to repent and to focus on Jesus. And I look forward to some of my favorite hymns and scripture readings.

I hope you’ll find Advent as life-giving as I expect it will be for me. But this doesn’t just happen. We have to make time in a chaotic world for the peace and the reflection of Advent to work in us. Perhaps you’ll join me in setting aside some time each day. Perhaps you’ll pray the daily office (online or via our morning prayer or evening prayer podcasts).

Advent Word is a global movement, a way to pray through the season online and offline. Some suggestions for how to use #AdventWord are available on the Advent Word website. You’ll see the links to follow Advent Word on social media and to add your own voice to the conversation there. This year, we have a podcast. And Forward Movement has published a wonderful book of Advent meditations keyed to the words of #AdventWord. In case you still want a creative outlet, there are posters you can buy to color your way through the season. We have Advent Word posters and the ever-popular “Slow Down. Quiet. It’s Advent” calendar poster by Jay Sidebotham.

Over the years, Forward Movement has offered many different Advent reflections. You can peruse our books, pamphlets, online courses, and more using our interactive Advent/Christmas eCatalog. (Order by November 16 for standard shipping.)

Of course, you don’t need to spend a penny to savor the blessing of Advent. The scriptures are free. Advent Word is free. Quiet is free. And, more important, the grace of Jesus is free.

I do encourage you to make some space in your life for Advent. And let us welcome this blessing we so sorely need.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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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…

Check out our interactive Advent eCatalog | Forward Movement

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Event: Join the conversation with Dean Kate Moorehead about her book, Angels of the Bible: Finding Grace, Beauty, and Meaning

Just Launched: Developing a Rule of Life with Hillary Raining | ChurchNext

Forward Today: Work for the common good

Dear friends in Christ,

I am writing this the day before the US presidential election, because I don’t want my own personal thoughts to color what I might say about the results and our going work. Suffice it to say, some people will be pleased by the final results of local, state, and federal elections, and others will not be. And yet, we Americans need to find a way to live together.

As I have said many times, the Gospel is political, but it is not partisan. Regardless of which political party is ascendant, our Christian work remains the same. We are meant to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit prisoners (Matthew 25). We must pray for our enemies and work for peace. We must love one another as Christ has loved us.

Not knowing what the news brings on the morning you read this, I do know that prayer is never the wrong answer. I invite you to join me in the final prayer of our nine-day cycle of prayers for the election.

Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

And I close with the lovely and challenging benediction from the fifth chapter of 1 Thessalonians.

Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, beloved, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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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…

Advent 2020 resources | Forward Movement

Check out our Advent interactive eCatalog | Forward Movement

NEW: Growing Christians | Forward Movement

Lent Madness 2021 saints announced | Lent Madness

A Season of Prayer | Forward Movement and The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations

Forward Today: Move every human heart

Dear friends in Christ,

As the US election draws nearer, each day’s news seems to bring more stress. Regardless of our political views, we can agree that our leaders could do better. Poverty is on the rise. Disease runs rampant. Violence seems endemic. I could go on.

So what are we Christians to do? I’ve written about this quite a bit, and with good reason. This topic comes up again and again in conversations, online and in person.

First, we can pray. Prayer is not the only thing we should do, but it is an essential practice for every Christian. We can pray for our own strength and courage. We can pray for the needs of the world. And we can pray for our political leaders and candidates, especially the ones more repugnant to us.

Second, we can speak out. If the church and its members stay silent, we leave the moral voice of the public square to others. It is crucial for people to hear a word of hope, mercy, compassion, justice, love, and grace. Where else will people hear this, if not from the church. Deafening silence changes nothing. A voice crying out in the wilderness might make all the difference in the world.

Third, we can get involved. Vote! If you are worried about free and fair elections, volunteer as a poll worker. If you are concerned about the plight of the poor, contact local non-profits and ask what they need. And so on.

But it all begins with prayer. Today is the second day of a nine-day season of prayer for an election. I invite you to join me and Episcopalians all over the world in praying.

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

What a prayer! May every human heart be moved.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


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 Prayer | Forward Movement and The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations

Advent resources now available | Forward Movement

NEW: Growing Christians | Forward Movement

Lent Madness 2021 saints just announced | Lent Madness

Forward Today: Just two things

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday’s Gospel reading brings us Jesus giving the Great Commandment. When asked which commandment in the law is the greatest, Jesus answers,

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19 here as he focuses the entire faith on just two things: we are commanded to love God and to love our neighbors.

Talk about easier said than done! It’s easy to say we love God, but to love God with our whole being would be quite something. Take the mind for example. If I loved God with my whole mind, I wouldn’t be filling my mind with distractions such as mediocre television and social media scrolling.

And when Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, he is of course not just talking about the people who live next to us, people who are likely to be in our same cultural group, race, and economic status. He takes care elsewhere to teach us that our neighbors are, well, pretty much everyone.

Love God, love people. It seems so simple, and yet it is so hard to do.

When the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, we can become immobilized by a feeling of powerlessness. What can I do about all the problems? Just two things.

We can start with our own lives by loving God and loving our neighbors. Love is magnified as we share it. If more of us spent more of our energy loving God and loving our neighbors, the world would look different. Our church would certainly look different.

So I invite you, this very day, to just doing as Jesus commands, just two things. Love God. Love neighbor.

It’s impossible on our own, but we have a church filled with fellow disciples to be our companions. And we have the grace of God to help us.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Photo: Pixabay


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…

Advent resources now available | Forward Movement

Read an excerpt from Growing Christians | Grow Christians

Civil Conversations in Uncivil Times | ChurchNext

A Season of Prayer | Forward Movement and The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations

Forward Today: To serve a living and true God

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday, the assigned epistle reading is from 1 Thessalonians. We read how St. Paul greets the Thessalonians and then says this:

For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God… (1 Th 1:1-10)

There’s a lot to notice here. The Thessalonians have proclaimed the Gospel so effectively that St. Paul does not need to say more. We also read that the people of Thessalonica turned from idols to serve the living and true God.

We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that turning from idols is something that only ancient biblical people needed to do. In our baptismal service, we ask those to be baptized to renounce Satan and spiritual forces of wickedness, to renounce evil powers of the world that corrupt us, and to renounce sinful desires that draw us from the love of God. And then we ask them to promise to turn. We ask them to turn toward Jesus as our Savior and Lord, and to promise to put their whole trust in his grace and love.

We expect that the baptized life turns us from evil toward good, from Satan toward Jesus, and from distraction from God’s love toward trust in God’s love.

It’s very relevant today. We have made an idol of money. We may say we trust God, but it’s pretty easy to live as if money is what we trust. We have made an idol of security, as if it’s possible to be safe or as if the scriptures don’t tell us again and again to reject fear.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t use money or that we shouldn’t take prudent care of our selves and our world. But I do believe the scriptures call us to center our lives on trust in God’s grace.

What would it look like if we, like the Thessalonians, served the living and true God?

We would behave as if we know that God is living. God is not an abstraction or an ancient myth, but a living being who loves us more than we can imagine. God is alive and acts in our world.

We would behave as if we know that God is true. In an age in which we often invite “your truth” and “my truth”, we would proclaim the absolute certainty that God and God’s love are true. We would proclaim that we live in a reality in which some things are demonstrably false and others are demonstrably true. God’s grace and mercy is true, and we can trust that with our very lives.

What would it look like if we, like the Thessalonians, served the living and true God?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Photo: Pixabay


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…

Preorder: Growing Forward | Forward Movement

Civil Conversations in Uncivil Times | ChurchNext

Now Available: Share it Forward Packs | Forward Movement

A Season of Prayer | Forward Movement and The Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations

Forward Today: In quietness and confidence

Dear friends in Christ,

Lately nearly everyone I talk with tells me they find it difficult to watch the news these days. Whatever our political affiliation, we can agree that our leaders could be doing a better job. Whatever our views on any number of vital issues, we can agree that division is endemic.

What are we to do? It seems to me there are three ways we can respond, if we are able to do so. Perhaps just getting through a tough time is enough, and if that’s where you are, do what you can to survive. Ask for help if you need it, and offer help if you have it to give.

Here are three ways to respond:

  1. We can have conversations across lines of division to learn more about others and to work for reconciliation. If you’re not sure where to start, Forward Movement is offering a new, free ChurchNext class, Civil Conversations in Uncivil Times with Ray Suarez.
  2. We can pray for our leaders and our nation, especially as the United States heads into an election. Forward Movement has partnered with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations to offer a nine-day season of prayer. This novena includes simple prayers from our Book of Common Prayer and a litany to say each day, starting one week before the election and ending the day after. Learn more online.
  3. We can work to change our world. If we want more justice, we can be more just. If we want more compassion, we can be more compassionate. If we want more truth, we can speak the truth in love.

 

Despair is an understandable place to find ourselves, but ultimately, we Christians know that death and destruction never have the last word.

Amidst the chaos and confusion of this time, let us all seek the peace of Christ that passes all understanding.

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

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Photo: Pixabay


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…

Now Available: Share it Forward Packs | Forward Movement

Preorder: Growing Forward | Forward Movement

Abundant Love in Scarce Times | ECF Vital Practices

Forward Today: What were you made for?

Dear friends in Christ,

So often, it seems like social media is a wasteland. But then, every now and then, we catch a glimpse of something amazing. Just yesterday, my friend Fr. Robert Hendrickson tweeted an amazing image along with a brief story. Here’s the image and his story.

This chest was once an emperor’s and was used and owned by Napoleon III. It accompanied grand adventures and held the effects of an empire. It was built strong and fit for a king. Now it sits quietly, worn, aged, and aging still in a church hallway.

On it are placed bags of food for the hungry on some Sundays. On other mornings we find the left-behind effects of someone who has slept inside it through a cold desert night. It was built for a grand, noble, and life-saving purpose.

It has finally found that purpose, in this hallway, in this church in the desert—far from where it started yet finally home. What were you built for? Have you found it?

I’ve been to Fr. Hendrickson’s church, and I’ve walked past this very chest. It is impressive, but I had no idea about its background. And I was unaware of its use in this present day, acting as a kind of shelter to those who need it. Jesus has promised us in Matthew 25 that when we care for those at the margins, we are caring for Christ himself. In other words, the old chest made for an emperor is now a kind of tabernacle housing Christ. The old chest never had a higher purpose than at this very moment.

It’s a good parable, not just for objects but for people. Sometimes objects don’t find their highest purpose until they find a surprising use. So it is with people. God has made each one of us with particular gifts. It might take us a while to find our highest purpose, our true calling from God.

And sometimes, like that chest, it might look from the outside as if someone isn’t serving a noble purpose. But we often don’t see the purpose-filled deeds of others. High callings come in all shapes and sizes.

For our part, I hope we all ask ourselves—and ask God in our prayers—if we are following our highest calling, serving our noble purpose. And it might take us a circuitous route to get to that calling.

We can rest assured that God has given us a calling, if we can open our hearts to it. What were you made for?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Photo: Saint Philip’s In The Hills


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 Prayer: For an Election | The Episcopal Public Policy Network & Forward Movement

Civil Conversations in Uncivil Times: Practicing Our Faith in the Public Square | Free ChurchNext course

Pandemic Parenting: Letting Our Children Form Us | Grow Christians

Q&A with Author & Bishop Edward S. Little | Forward Movement

Forward Today: Church growth during a pandemic?!

Dear friends in Christ,

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend from one of the larger Episcopal congregations, and she told me they’d recently had a zoom class to welcome 48 (!) new members. I was astounded. And then I started hearing lots of reports from all across the country of new members joining churches, even though their encounter with the church has been through online worship only.

As I thought about it, I realized it makes sense. This time of year is one that often brings seekers and, potentially, new members to churches. Why should it be different just because most churches are not meeting in person? People are still hungry for connection with God and with their neighbors.

A Pew Research Center survey found that about a quarter of Americans had experienced a stronger faith during the pandemic. My own anecdotal experience suggests that there is a growing hunger for encounter with scripture during this time. In other words, perhaps this time of upheaval is pushing people to examine what’s important. Maybe this is a natural time for people to seek participation in a church community. Might the sacrifices of this time of pandemic invite connections to the costly discipleship to which our Lord Jesus invites us?

Outdoor Sunday service at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Portsmouth, RI

I mention all this because I think some church leaders have concluded that the pandemic must be a time of retrenchment, not growth. That’s probably the right posture in some congregations. But in many others, this could be be a fruitful time of numerical and spiritual growth.

Now, before I suggest some ways to nurture growth, I want to acknowledge that the pandemic is exhausting for many leaders. There are good physiological reasons for this. If you are a leader who cannot imagine anything beyond survival, please know that getting through this time is more than sufficient. Also know that others can help you and support you.

That said, if you and your church have the capacity for some new things, this could be a time of growth.

  • This is a good time to start or expand or rethink online education and formation offerings, especially Bible studies.
  • With more engagement online, have a look at your website. Is your information updated for current practices—and does it also give a sense of what practices were like before the pandemic (that is, what folks might expect in the future)?
  • Instead of greeters in the back of the church, maybe you need to commission online greeters who can notice new faces in online worship and in classes, and make connections to invite your guests to know more about your church.
  • Do you have a way to incorporate new members now?
  • Can you equip your current members to invite others to join your church? In some ways, it’s easier to invite someone to “come to church” now, because seekers can explore your church from the comfort of their couch.

 

Of course, I don’t know the context of your local church, and I don’t know how you and your church’s lay leaders and clergy are doing. Getting through this pandemic might be plenty. But if you’re up for growth, every sign I’m seeing says it’s possible now.

Our world sometimes seems like it’s spinning out of control. Now more than ever, people need what the church has to offer: the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a community of disciples who follow a way of justice, hope, love, compassion, mercy, and grace.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


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 Prayer: For an Election | The Episcopal Public Policy Network & Forward Movement

Free Forward Day by Day Email | Forward Movement

The Verdant Greening of Joy | Grow Christians

Now available: Come & See | Forward Movement

 

Forward Today: Getting by, by the grace of God

Dear friends in Christ,

There’s a lot going on these days, and the burden of it all can be daunting. We face political rancor, a fearsome pandemic, terrible fires, powerful storms, and the resulting economic uncertainty. 2020 is turning out to be an annus horribilis like none other.

People are suffering in large and small ways, and it’s not always visible. That person who always puts on a smile might be filled with dread. The cheery colleague might secretly be overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. We build personal walls to conceal our pain. It is the way of our culture.

Masks don’t just protect others and us from a virus. We use masks—literal and metaphorical—to protect us from the vulnerability of admitting our struggles.

It’s no different in church.

I hope we can all check in with one another. Offer tangible help if it’s needed, and ask for help if you can find the strength to do the very difficult thing of admitting not everything is under control. Within our churches, people may have needs that run the gamut from monetary support to emotional pain, from loneliness to anxiety. We often do a great job of caring for one another, and this might be the time to make sure we’re doing our best.

Your clergy bear a particular burden. Your priest has the task of caring for your congregation, and the burdens of that work can be considerable. Priests and deacons are often ordained with a strong pastoral sense, a desire to care for others. And that is harder to do when we are dispersed outside our churches. The peculiar challenges of this time may also push more people into emotionally fraught places. Priests with oversight of churches may keenly feel the weight of this moment.

Pray for one another, but especially pray for your clergy. They are certainly praying for you! Perhaps you will reach out to your clergy and offer reassurance and support. Don’t delay!

I say all this not because clergy are needier or holier or more special than others, but simply because caregivers themselves may need a bit of care. Of course, the same is true for doctors, nurses, first responders, and others. Thank them, pray for them, and offer tangible support—a meal, a kindness, a hand-written note.

You might read all this and worry about me. I’m fine, really. It’s a blessing to work with supportive colleagues at Forward Movement, and I’ve just come back from a vacation (which I highly recommend!). Sometimes after Forward Today goes out, I receive kind notes from readers, and I am always grateful. But today, please send your kind notes to someone else, someone who might be struggling.

We’ll get through this time, by the grace of God and because we are all in it together.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Photo: Pixabay


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 Prayer: For an Election | The Episcopal Public Policy Network & Forward Movement

Free Forward Day by Day Email | Forward Movement

Enough Love to Go Around | ECF Vital Practices

This is NOT Sunday School | Forward Movement, ChurchNext, Forma

 

Forward Today: The world changes one life at a time

Dear friends in Christ,

Lately when people ask me how I’m doing, I say something like, “Well, other than a deadly pandemic and a political dumpster fire, I’m fine!” We laugh. It’s funny because it’s true.

I don’t intend that as a knock on any political party. Whether you’re conservative or liberal, and whatever nation you live in, I think we can all agree that we wish our political leadership were…better.

I tend to engage in gallows humor. Laughter helps me get through tough times. Not everything is funny, of course, but little bursts of joy surely help me when life is challenging. But laughter isn’t the only way or the best way to survive when we face challenges.

The longer I’ve served at Forward Movement—in conversation with lay people and clergy from all over the church—I have become more and more convinced that daily prayer and regular scripture reading are the foundations of discipleship. Tending to our relationship with God in prayer keeps us focused on who we serve, and steeping ourselves in scripture reminds us that we are part of God’s great love for us and all creation.

If you’ve been reading Forward Today for a while, you’ve heard this before. And you’ll hear it again. Partly this is because I need the reminder myself. And partly it’s because there is always someone who hasn’t yet begun this ancient and life-giving practice.

So I want to encourage you all to do something that I try to do myself. Pray daily. Maybe you pray the daily office. Maybe you just talk to God. Maybe you have a favorite prayer resource you enjoy. There’s no right or wrong way to pray, but do pray.

And read your Bible. Read your way through a whole book of the Bible. Find a resource that takes you through a theme of the Bible, such as trust or forgiveness or mercy. Use the daily office lectionary to read much of scripture. Or just open up a Bible and start reading.

One of the greatest treasures of Forward Movement is Forward Day by Day. There’s a reason it has been beloved since it started in 1935. Each day, you get a snippet of scripture, a devotional reflection, and an invitation to pray. We do sell print subscriptions, of course. But I’m happy to say that we now offer a daily email with Forward Day by Day for free. If you want a regular invitation to read scripture and pray right in your inbox, you can sign up for free today.

Whether you use something from Forward Movement or just grab a Bible, I hope you’ll commit (or recommit) to reading and praying regularly. And consider inviting a friend to do the same.

Can I fix the pandemic? Can I fix our politics? No, but I can fix my heart. And the world changes one life at a time.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Photo: Pixabay


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…

This is NOT Sunday School | ChurchNext & Forma

In the depths of Pentecost days | Grow Christians

Unprecedented Times | ECF Vital Practices

The Way of Love: A Practical Guide to Following Jesus | Forward Movement