The Beginnings of Forward Day by Day

In the beginning, the Forward Movement Commission had no office, budget, or staff. But it now had a booklet, and word of it spread quickly. Orders were received for 672,405 copies of “Discipleship.” But who would package and mail them? The memory of those days in January and February of 1935 was a “nightmare,” Bishop Hobson later said. Volunteers, many of them high school students, worked at tables that covered the floor of the gymnasium of the old Cathedral House in Cincinnati. Often they stayed until 2:00 am filling orders. The ink was hardly dry on one printing before another was ordered.

"Discipleship" was a Lenten devotional guide. Easter was late in 1935, falling on April 21, giving the volunteers until Ash Wednesday, March 6, to have all the copies of “Discipleship” wrapped, stamped, mailed, and delivered to the parishes. They met the deadline.

The other three points of the commission’s plan proceeded swiftly. Members of the commission contacted the bishop of every diocese and meetings were held throughout the church to exchange ideas, explain the purposes of Forward Movement, discuss discipleship, rebuild trust, and generally “to reinvigorate the life of the church.”

The sleeping church began to stir. Lent had hardly begun before Bishop Hobson began receiving requests for a devotional manual for the Easter season. A booklet entitled “Disciples of the Living Christ” was hastily put together and 600,000 copies distributed by Easter Day. Readers then wanted something for the summer, and “Follow On,” based on the Book of Acts, was produced and distributed. It was now evident that Episcopalians would use a daily devotional guide if one were available, which came as a surprise to Hobson and others since several earlier efforts at such a publication had failed after a few issues.

It was the fourth such booklet, for fall of 1935, that was first called Forward Day by Day. Initially Forward Day by Day was issued six times a year, then five times a year. In 1969 it became a quarterly and has remained so. With a devotion for each day of the year based on the Daily Office Lectionary in The Book of Common Prayer, and now the Revised Common Lectionary on Sundays, Forward Day by Day has been a resource for Christian disciples, Episcopalians and others, for eight decades.

Part 4: Forward Movement Commission Begins Foray into Publishing

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