Proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ

Outreach and Mission

A Note from Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement

Dear friends in Christ,

I write this on Election Day, not knowing yet what the results will be. As you receive this, we know who will be the next President of the United States. We know by now many of the people who will serve in Congress. Local races have been decided, and important issues have been decided in ballot initiatives.

Trinity Cathedral, Omaha (Photo by Dean Loya)

Trinity Cathedral, Omaha (Photo by Dean Loya)

No one needs a news anchor to predict something else. However our presidential campaign has turned out, we know that the United States is deeply divided. During the campaign–and before, to be sure–we have seen increased division along lines of race, economic class, political preference, sexual orientation and identity, religion, and more. That won’t change with the results of this election. In some ways, this election, like all others, is an opportunity to start a new chapter. This is true today perhaps more than any other day in recent memory.

What can we do? It’s an easy question to ask, a difficult one to answer, and a really hard one to live out. We Christians can pray. We can pray for reconciliation, for our enemies, for those who wish us harm, for those we fear, and for all those working for reconciliation. We can form relationships across obvious lines of division. We can make sure our churches are places where the whole community, not just some of the community, is welcome and involved. We can practice empathy by putting ourselves in the shoes of those with whom we disagree and trying to imagine what might bring about a common vision. We can work for justice and peace for all people, even when it is difficult or dangerous for us to do so. We can, above all else, give thanks for the God who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and whose love is stronger than any division on earth, stronger even than death itself.

Thanks be to God it is nearly Advent. We have a whole season ahead of us, a time to devote ourselves to preparing our hearts and our lives to receive the gift of Jesus Christ. We have a whole season to remember the promise of God’s kingdom of justice and righteousness. We have a whole reason to seek mercy and truth.

It’s time for us to stop decrying our division and to start doing something about it. That will take a different form for each person and each community. What will you do? What do you hope others will do? For now, let us pray.


O God, give me strength to live another day; let me not turn coward before its difficulties or prove recreant to its duties; let me not lose faith in other people; keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of ingratitude, treachery, or meanness; preserve me from minding little stings or giving them; help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure can dishearten me or take away the joy of conscious integrity; open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see good in all things; grant me this day some new vision of thy truth; inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness; and make me the cup of strength to suffering souls; in the name of the strong Deliverer, our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Forward Movement Executive Director



[Editor’s note:  Forward Movement, a ministry of the Episcopal Church, grew out of the determination of the General Convention in 1934 to counter a period of anxiety, distrust, and decline in the Episcopal Church with a “forward movement” charged to “reinvigorate the life of the church and to rehabilitate its general, diocesan, and parochial work.” It is best known for the popular daily devotional Forward Day by Day, which provides daily meditations based on scripture readings appointed by the lectionary and Daily Office. Forward Day by Day is published in English, Spanish, large print, audio cassette, and Braille editions, and the daily meditation is available online. Since 1935, Forward Movement has produced pamphlets, booklets, and books on such topics as prayer, liturgy, pastoral concerns, evangelism, stewardship, church history, and introductions to Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church.

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St. Matthew’s, Lincoln Provides Community, Learning, Love, for Yazidis

Dance class at St. Matthew's (Photo from Lincoln Journal Star)

Dance class at St. Matthew’s (Photo from Lincoln Journal Star)

“…The unofficial Yazidi headquarters in Lincoln — St. Matthew’s — has been happy to oblige the blossoming community in Lincoln, which Khalaf estimated at nearly 1,300 people.

Associate Pastor Steve Lahey said the church recognized an opportunity to fulfill its mission of helping those in need by lending time and talent after nearly a century of keeping to itself.

“What’s the purpose of having a church with gifts if you don’t share them?” he asked.

Lahey said the church is open to the Yazidis to use as they will, including everything from the education and dance classes to worship if they so choose…”

Click here to read the full story at the Lincoln Journal Star website.

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Recovery Eucharist – Holy Apostle’s, Mitchell

October 16, 2016, Pastor Sheryl Kester-Beyer officiated 12-Step Recovery Eucharist at Holy Apostles in Mitchell. Rae N. was invited to give her testimony of her of her addiction, intervention and how God played a role in her life. She shared a prayer with the congregation that made an impact on her life and recovery:

Pastor Sheryl Kester-Beyer and Ray N.

Pastor Sheryl Kester-Beyer and Ray N.

A Beautiful Prayer

I asked God to take away my habit.
God said “no”.
It is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said “no”.
His Spirit is whole, his body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience.
God said “no”.
Patience is a by-product of tribulations; it isn’t granted it is learned.

I asked God to give me happiness.
God said “no”.
I give you blessings; happiness is up to you.

I asked God to spare me pain.
God said “no”.
Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said “no”.
You must grow on your own, but I will prune you to make you fruitful.

I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said “no”.
I will give you life so that you may enjoy all things.

I asked God to help me love others, as much as he loves me.
God said “Ahhh”, finally you have the idea!

She shared she did not know the author. After she read her prayer and completed her testimony, Pastor Sheryl completed with her Homily. The parish was very warm and welcoming to Rae at coffee hour. Pastor Sheryl purchased and provided Biblical Helps for the Twelve Steps to the congregation.

For more information on the Episcopal Recovery Ministries go to the national website: or contact Nancy Brown or Sandra Raney with the Diocese Recovery Ministries. Please consider holding your own Recovery Eucharist within your own parish and invite a person within the recovery community to share their story.

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UTO Update – Tiny Houses on Standing Rock

Greetings from Sandra Squires, President, United Thank Offering Board

Tiny Houses on their way

Tiny Houses on their way

Shortly before Annual Council in Lincoln, I met with the United Thank Offering Board in Bismarck, North Dakota.  We chose that meeting site a year ago because we had funded a UTO project on the Standing Rock Reservation to build tiny houses for young men  living on the reservation who are going to school or working.

With UTO funds they have been able to build 4 tiny houses of about 350 square feet each complete with plumbing, a sleeping area, 3 with a loft, and a living room area.  These houses are mounted on a trailer, you can see that in the photographs, and then will be moved to a site to connect to electricity, water, and a septic tank.  They will then be stabilized with cement blocks and poles imbedded at each corner.

Each tiny house will accommodate one person.  Applicants have to either be full time students, full time employed or a combination.  They are eligible to live in the houses for up to 5 years as long as they maintain their eligibility.

Inside St. James' Church

Inside St. James’ Church

The Tiny Houses, which are being built for about $10,000 each, are housed next to St. James Episcopal Church in Cannon Ball.  This church was burned down by an arsonist several years ago and was rebuilt with a UTO grant in 2012.   We met inside the church for some teaching on tribal history and about the protests, they call themselves “protectors,” regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline which is being built near the water supply for the reservation and on sacred burial sites.

Fr. John Floberg, who has served on the reservations of North Dakota for 25 years, was our guide throughout our visit. Coming on to the reservation and returning to Bismarck, we passed through a military check-point to get onto the reservation.  There is one huge encampment with tents and tipis and a couple of smaller camps.  We visited the larger camp, Oceti Sakowin Camp, the same site where Presiding Bishop Michael Curry gave his talk about the similarity of this protest to the protests in Selma, Alabama, calling Standing Rock the new Selma. That video of Bishop Curry speaking at the protest site is here:

In addition, there is a photographic essay of Bishop Curry at the protest sites here:

Episcopal Flag at Protectors' Camp Site

Episcopal Flag at Protectors’ Camp Site

This journey as President of the United Thank Offering Board gives me a view on the great work of the Episcopal Church, in what Bishop Curry calls the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.

Thank you for your contributions to United Thank Offering, and continue to give generously so we can continue the work you see in these photos.


– Sandra Squires, President, UTO Board

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Monk in Residence: Brother James Dowd, OHC, Joins DioNEB Team

Br. James Dowd

Br. James Dowd

Brother James Dowd of the Order of the Holy Cross is joining the Diocesan staff for a two-year position as “Monk in Residence.” Brother James’s ministry will focus on enriching our prayer and spiritual life, and discovering and building better ways to befriend the poor in our communities. From his base at Trinity Cathedral, Brother James will additionally assist in coordinating the cathedral’s daily prayer life, and serve as Chaplain to the Downtown Episcopal Outreach community. Brother James will preach regularly at Trinity Cathedral and will be available as a guest preacher to the larger diocese.

“I am very pleased to welcome Brother James to our diocese, and I am so grateful to our Bishop Clarkson Foundation and to our Cathedral Chapter for their willingness to finance his ministry among us for the next two years,” said Bishop Barker, “Brother James is incredibly excited to join the staff of the Diocese of Nebraska where he hopes to bring monastic spirituality into the world and to share what he has learned in his monastic life with the people and clergy of the diocese, as we in turn teach him what we have learned of the spiritual life in our parishes and beyond.”

Prior to entering the monastery, Br. James lived in New York City (where he is from originally) and where he worked as a director of more than 100 theater productions and numerous live events for television for more than twenty years. He will begin his Nebraska ministry on September 1, 2016.

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All Things UTO

All Things UTO
Sandra Squires, President United Thank Offering Board

Let me tell you about a couple of UTO events—one local and one not so local.  First the story of Amy Churchill, member of St. Augustine’s of Canterbury in Elkhorn, who has recently taken over the job of UTO parish coordinator.  Amy is a wife and mother of two adorable little girls, and had her first experience with the entire cycle of implementing UTO—she visited Sunday school classes, got bulletin inserts where they needed to be and did an AWESOME job with Ingathering Sunday.  We even wore blue clothes to church to celebrate the historic UTO Blue Boxes.

Amy Churchill

Amy Churchill, St. Augustine’s UTO Parish Coordinator

Amy made it so much fun, and yesterday she even sat with me to talk to a new UTO parish coordinator and her priest.  It was a privilege to work with her and probably one of the most fun parts of my job as President of the UTO is connecting with new coordinators to share the excitement of this great ministry.

The “not-so-local” part of my life the last few months has been the review of grant requests for UTO funds.  Grant requests come in from the United States and all over the world—many from places of great poverty and need, but where someone has a vision of making the world a better place to the glory of God.

I can’t tell you about this year’s grants because they haven’t been announced yet, but I can tell about a couple of examples of past Nebraska grants that have touched people’s lives in different ways.  In celebration of 125 years of ministry, our UTO staff person, The Rev. Heather Melton, compiled a list of all the 5122 grants that had been awarded between 1883 and 2015.  Here is the link:

If you are a history buff, you will love reading this list!  Nebraska is in Province 6.  Last summer I found a grant awarded to my church, St. Augustine’s (Elkhorn) in 1984 for $4,000 “to assist volunteer efforts of a mission parish as it converts a barn to a church building.” How exciting is that!

Last year one of UTO’s most important grant awards was “Friends of Tamar,” awarded to Trinity Cathedral in Omaha, grant number 5100.  This awesome project is “to challenge violence against women and pursue peace and reconciliation.”  If you had the opportunity to hear Teresa Houser speak at Annual Council this past fall or to collect suitcases for Friends of Tamar, you know this ministry is in good hands. UTO is the proud sponsor of a part-time staff position for Friends of Tamar.

From buildings to staff positions, UTO gives the money you give in thanksgiving to others through grants.  I thank you for the daily reminders of prayer of thanksgiving for those small and large blessings in our lives that you manifest by dropping a coin or a bill in your Little Blue Box.  Remember, every penny given to your blue box goes to grants.


Sandra Squires


Blue dinosaur cake

Blue dinosaur cake

The Rowe family demonstrates the results of eating the blue cakes!

The Rowe family demonstrates the results of eating the blue cakes!

More blue cake!

More blue cake!

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What is UTO?

Sandra Squires, UTO President

Sandra Squires, UTO President

Hello, from Sandra Squires and the United Thank Offering (UTO) Board! From now until the summer of 2018, I will be serving as president of UTO, and hope to share some insights into the great ministry of UTO, and share some of my journey in this role. In this opening offering, I will address some basic questions about UTO, then tell you about my experiences in subsequent columns.


What is United Thank Offering?

UTO is a ministry that is associated with the Blue Boxes and thankful giving, and I have people tell me, “Oh, I remember I had a Blue Box as a child!” or “We called them mite boxes, and, yes, I had one I put my pennies into.” Well, we still have Blue Boxes, and we still ask you to remember to drop a coin in the box each time you thank God for the many blessings in your life. Then bring your boxes, or at least their contents, to the church during Ingathering Sundays.


What does UTO do with the money from the Blue Boxes?

Just as it has for 125+ years, United Thank Offering uses every penny of the money from the Blue Boxes to support ministries all over the world. In fact, this past summer, Trinity Cathedral was awarded a grant to help women fleeing from domestic violence, you may know it as the Suitcase Project.


How does the Board decide who gets the money?

Grants. The Board members read a lot of grant applications. People apply for grants, these are evaluated, then UTO awards the money. We give grants to young adults and seminarians, and to parishes and dioceses for ministry in the United States and throughout the world.

Last year we awarded over $1.5 million in grants, but we had $4.5 million in fundable grant requests– so keep adding to the Blue Boxes and being thankful for your many blessings so we can award even more grants.


Does Blue Box money pay for UTO Board travel and overhead?

No, every penny collected in the Blue Boxes goes to grants. We have a fund, the Memorial Gift Trust Fund, that funds the travel for the volunteer Board.


Sandra Squires

St. Augustine’s of Canterbury, Elkhorn



Your "little blue box" changes lives!

Your “little blue box” changes lives!

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2016 Youth Mission Team to the Dominican Republic is Forming NOW !!!


Rowan Ptomey, Uniting Hearts

The Diocese of Nebraska will continue its work in the mountains of central Dominican Republic June 15-22, 2016. High school youth over the age of sixteen, and their leaders, from across our Diocese will engage upon relationship building with the community of El Pedregal. This is the place we have helped complete several construction projects in recent years. We are now called to minister directly to our brothers and sisters of the community.

Potential ministry projects may include VBS with Bible exploration through special art and music projects. Other social ministry projects addressing the specific needs of the community, such as the distribution of supplies to those in need, are also being considered. It is also likely that we will do existing facility improvement involving painting or minor repairs in the community.


The Mortar Bucket Brigade – Working Together

Our Wednesday to Wednesday itinerary permits a unique opportunity to visit the Diocesan Offices and Seminary, and experience worship at the Epiphany Cathedral in Santo Domingo. Our experience will once again culminate in discovery of the Historic Colonial Zone where we will visit, shop and relax on our final afternoon and evening prior to returning home.

Our work in EL Pedregal will be directed by Padre Daniel Samuel. We will stay in dormitory-style accommodations at the gated Diocesan Camp where our meals will be specially prepared for us. Safe, bottled water will also be available. Team orientation to mission work, Dominican culture, and team building will occur beginning in March 2016 to prepare us for this life affirming opportunity.



The cost for the 2016 Mission will be $1500. A $100 deposit is necessary now to confirm participation, and all funds must be paid by May 8, 2016. Deposits may be sent to Beth Byrne, Diocesan Director of Finance, at 109 North 18th Street, Omaha NE 68102. Deposits may also be given to Don or Melissa Peeler.




Improving the Playground

How can you help?

First, please keep our 2015 NE Youth DR Mission Team in your prayers. Second, school supplies, books and used laptops may be donated for delivery this June to the School of the Mount of the Transfiguration. All donated laptops will be returned to factory settings prior to delivery. Finally, you may financially support this mission to change lives by sending monetary gifts to Beth Byrne, Diocesan Director of Finance, at 109 North 18th Street, Omaha NE 68102. Please indicate your gift is to support the NE Youth DR Mission.

Please contact Don and Melissa Peeler at 402-572-7556, or at, with any questions you may have regarding this life affirming ministry. If you would like the Peelers to visit your parish to speak on DR Youth Ministry, please contact them. The 2016 mission will be their 8th mission to the Dominican Republic, and the Peelers are happy to share their experience.



Join Our Team…the Life Changed Will Be Your Own!










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2016 UTO Young Adult and Seminarian Grant Application Process and Forms



Linked below are the invitation letter, applications and bishops/deans forms for the Young Adult and Seminarian Grant Programs from the United Thank Offering. We are pleased to announce that not only are we accepting grant applications from Young Adults, the UTO Board has also created a process for seminarians to apply for UTO grants for projects either at their field education site or in their home diocese.

There are a couple of changes from last year for the Young Adult grants:
Instead of awarding one per province, the Board will select the top ten applications to fund.
A video is not required, but applicants are welcome to submit one if they feel so called.
Just a reminder that Young Adult grants are for projects led by people 21-30 (not for projects to minister to that age group)

All of the applications are also available on our website –


The deadline for applications from the Diocese to my office is January 29th at 5 p.m. Eastern time.

If you have questions, please let me know.

All the best,

Heather Melton

2016 Young Adult Application

2016 Young Adult Bishop Approval

2016 Seminarian Application

2016 Seminarian Dean Approval Form

2016 Young Adult Seminarian Invitation Letter from UTO

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2016 United Thank Offering Grant Applications Now Accepted



Applications are now accepted for the 2016 United Thank Offering grants.  The application forms are available here.

The focus for the 2016 United Thank Offering grants is Mark Five of the Anglican Marks of Mission: To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth. 

“The United Thank Offering is continuing its tradition of thankfulness by awarding grants for 2016,” commented Sandra K. Squires, Ed.D., United Thank Offering Board President.

Established by United Thank Offering, a ministry of The Episcopal Church to promote thankfulness and mission in the whole Church, the purpose of the grants is to provide start-up money for a new project that focuses on the Fifth Mark of Mission. The funds are not permitted for the continuation of ongoing ministries.

Detailed guidelines for applying for the grants are here.   The deadline is 5 pm Eastern on Friday, March 4.

The list of allowable and projects not eligible are listed here.

Known worldwide as UTO, the United Thank Offering grants are awarded for projects that address human needs and help alleviate poverty, both domestically and internationally in The Episcopal Church.

Important notes
The United Thank Offering will accept:
• grant applications for start-up costs of a new ministry.
• one grant application per diocese within The Episcopal Church;
• one additional application for a companion grant from a diocese of The Episcopal Church may be submitted. This relationship may be formed with an aided diocese from The Episcopal Church or with a diocese from The Anglican Communion. The sponsoring bishop with jurisdiction will be responsible for the accounting of the grant.

For more information about guidelines and applications, contact the Rev. Heather Melton, missioner for United Thank Offering,

Spanish materials
United Thank Offering materials are available in Spanish and are available for download here. Included are both Blue Box designs which can be printed out on cardstock, cut and folded.

“The hope is that offering the materials for download will allow our dioceses that would have had to pay a high fee for shipping or import into their country to have access to United Thank Offering materials for just the cost of printing in their diocese or parish,” Melton added.

More information
For more information contact Melton at

The Five Marks of Mission are:
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

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