Episcopal Youth Meet Lent Madness and a Vote is Taken

About 800 youth and hundreds of adults at the Episcopal Youth Event received a rare visit from the Supreme Executive Committee today. Tim and Scott invited participants to cast the first vote of Lent Madness 2015, deciding whether St. Francis of Assisi or St. Gabriel the Archangel would earn a spot on the bracket. Here’s the video of the SEC that was played on the giant screens for 1,000+ people.

Later that day, participants cast their votes. While the results were being tabulated, the SEC offered two workshops on the saints. Dozens of EYE youth came to talk about saints and this new approach to Lent.

Also today, the Presiding Bishop posed for a selfie with the SEC. Were they posing with her? Or she with them? You decide, but take note of the way she showed her love of Lent Madness by wearing a purple shirt.

PB selfie

This evening, on the last day of EYE, the results of the vote were announced just before the closing Eucharist. Here’s how the crowd reacted to the news.

Tune into Lent Madness on Twitter or Facebook for more photos from the day. While the SEC usually talks about how honored everyone else is by their presence, today we can turn the tables. It was a treat and an honor to join hundreds of the most passionate people in the Episcopal Church for a day of learning, fellowship, worship, and, of course, voting.

Behind the Curtain at the SEC Annual Spring Retreat

As devoted Lent Madness fans will know, Tim and Scott (a.k.a. the Supreme Executive Committee) meet every spring to unpack and contextualize the previous Lent Madness and engage in vision-casting and missional strategy for the next year.

This year’s meeting is taking place at various coffee shops in and around Cincinnati. The meeting began with the gentle sound of a Tibetan prayer bowl inviting relationship with the Spirit and/or spirits. After Tim and Scott removed their shoes, they proceeded to “check in” while in the Lotus position at a prie-dieu so as to integrate Christian spirituality into the global context in an entrepreneurial fashion. Both Tim and Scott shared their public narrative about their ministry settings from strengths-based perspectives, taking care to map their assets.

Once they were fully present to one another, they spoke into the circle of trust while reviewing the previous year’s minutes. Using “I statements” they corrected the minutes. For example, “I feel that there should be a comma in the third sentence.” In order to prevent deforestation and respect the dignity of Staples, they used PowerPoint to review the minutes.

Two hours passed, and it was time for a fresh contextual check-in to process their insights. Assured of growth in emotional intelligence and personal well-being, they mindfully moved into African Bible Study of the temptation in the wilderness. Following Bible Study, they enjoyed an ecologically sustainable, free-range lunch (that died a natural death).

Later, they opened themselves to the movement of the Spirit and/or spirits to begin to discern the 2015 bracket of Lent Madness. This was done both in plenary and small groups, with frequent reporting back. Tim and Scott made use of the latest techniques for writing down the names with both markers and brightly colored dots.

At this time, to preserve confidentiality, Tim and Scott are unable to reveal any details. However, we have a few photos to share. Stay tuned for news from the SEC tomorrow, but don’t expect to see a bracket.

For now, the SEC is resting after compline — and a lively hour-long debate over who would officiate at said office.


Tim and Scott search for an undisclosed, secure, marble-clad location
Searching for Secure Location

The SEC pores over the nominations

The SEC attempts to use modern art as a source of inspiration, with mixed results
SEC looking for Saints

Is there any Wisdom to be found in the fountain?
Wisdom in Water?

Though they are ineligible for the bracket, Tim and Scott check to see if they can glean anything from Jesus or Mary
Mary Jesus and SEC

Last photo by Faith Lang. All others by Sherilyn Pearce.

Nominations Open!

Nominations for next year’s field of 32 saints are currently being accepted by the Supreme Executive Committee. Yes, in addition to Eastertide, today begins Nominationtide.

lent madness tote bagBut before we get to the main attraction, we encourage you to visit the Lentorium. You can prove your love for Lent Madness by loading up on Lent Madness merchandise, including the Lent Madness 2014 tote bag, the Lent Madness wall clock, some Lent Madness 2014 coasters, a Lent Madness 2014 magnet, and much, much more. And, of course, don’t forget to stock up on Charles Wesley or Lent Madness perpetual purple mugs.

And now, on to the main attraction, the call for nominations for Lent Madness 2015!

As always, we seek to put together a balanced bracket of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical representing the breadth and diversity of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Inevitably, some will disagree with certain match-ups or be disappointed that their favorite saint didn’t end up in the official bracket. If you find yourself muttering invective against the SEC, we implore you to take a deep cleansing breath. Remember, there’s always Lent Madness 2029.

While the SEC remains responsible for the formation of the final bracket, we encourage your participation in the nominating process. As in past years, we might even listen to some of your suggestions.

As you discern saints to nominate, please keep in mind that a number of saints are ineligible for next year’s “saintly smack down.” This includes the entire field of Lent Madness 2014, those saints who made it to the Round of the Elate Eight in 2013 and 2012, and those from the 2011 Faithful Four. Here is a comprehensive list of ineligible saints. Please keep this in mind as you submit your nominations — which you can do by leaving a comment on this post.

Also, please note that the saints you nominate should be in the sanctoral calendar of one or more churches. We’re open minded. To a point.

Remember that when it comes to saints in Lent Madness, many are called yet few are chosen (by the SEC). So leave a comment below with your (eligible) nomination!

The Field from 2014 (all ineligible)
Mary of Egypt
David of Wales
Ephrem of Edessa
Catherine of Siena
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Alfred the Great
Catherine of Alexandria
Antony of Egypt
Moses the Black
Thomas Gallaudet
Joseph of Arimathea
John Wesley
Charles Henry Brent
Christina the Astonishing
Julia Chester Emry
Charles Wesley
FD Maurice
SJI Schereschewsky
Phillips Brooks
Harriet Bedell
JS Bach
Anna Cooper
John of the Cross
James Holly
Nicholas Ridley
Louis of France
Thomas Merton
Basil the Great

Past Golden Halo Winners (ineligible)
George Herbert, C.S. Lewis, Mary Magalene, Frances Perkins, Charles Wesley

From 2011 — 2013 (ineligible)
Jonathan Daniels
Harriet Tubman
Hilda of Whitby
Dorothy Day
Li-Tim Oi
Oscar Romero
Emma of Hawaii
Margaret of Scotland
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Evelyn Underhill
Thomas Cranmer
Clare of Assisi
Thomas Beckett

By the way, it’s worth remembering that all the talk you hear these days about transparency and accountability is moot for the SEC. We reveal little and answer to no one. So if you don’t like the choices that we’ll announce at an unspecified future date known only to us (see what we did there?), start your own online devotional.

For now, we wish you a joyous Eastertide and Nominationtide.

Monday Madness — April 28, 2014

The last Monday Madness of 2014 is ready for your viewing pleasure. After this episode, the SEC switches to Monthly Madness until the next high season of Lent Madness. Anyway, in this episode, Scott and Tim talk about how Lent Madness has become not only the world’s most popular and beloved online Lenten devotion, but the AWARD-WINNING Lenten devotion. They also preview Nomination Week for Lent Madness 2015, coming to a web browser near you very soon. And there’s more. Much, much more.

You really should visit the Lentorium and spend some of your hard-earned cash on unbeatable Lent Madness merchandise. Consumer therapy is the perfect way to deal with long-term Lent Madness withdrawal. You can buy a Lent Madness playing cardsCharles Wesley Golden Halo 2014 Lent Madness mug or a perpetual purple Lent Madness mug. But that’s not all.

Starting today, you can buy Lent Madness playing cards. Be the first on your block to get some, and then buy a set for all your friends. At just $21.50, these high-quality shiny cards are a bargain.

Forget the mall, forget the shopping channels on your television, forget the catalogs in your mailbox. The best place to spend your hard-earned cash is in the Lentorium. The best way to show you love Lent Madness the most is to have a pile of Lent Madness stuff.

Accolades for the Golden Halo Winner

Charles in Charge

Our friends over at the Wesley Bros. comic site have created a special graphic to celebrate Charles Wesley’s Golden Halo victory in Lent Madness 2014. You can get your own copy — suitable for framing — over at the Wesley Bros. site. And by the way, you should totally look there regularly, because it is funny and educational, just like Lent Madness only all Wesleyan, all the time.

Praise for Charles Wesley and for Lent Madness abounds. Check out articles at The Episcopal Cafe, The Living Church, and Episcopal News Service.

We would be remiss if we didn’t encourage you to visit the Lentorium, where you can buy Charles Wesley mugs and Lent Madness purple mugs.

Now, all this silliness aside, we hope you’ll get yourself to church this evening for the start of the Three Holy Days.

Congratulations to 2014 Golden Halo Winner — Charles Wesley!

Charles Wesley

The Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee congratulates Charles Wesley on his victory in Lent Madness 2014 and authorizes the following text to be sung on Easter Day at liturgies throughout the world.

Charles Wesley is risen today, Alleluia!
his triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who the Golden Halo won, Alleluia!
‘gainst all saints, the battle done! Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
unto Charles, with golden ring, Alleluia!
who endured his brother John, Alleluia!
all his hymns are sine qua non. Alleluia!

But the bracket he endured, Alleluia!
left his victory assured, Alleluia!
now above the rest he’s king, Alleluia!
where the saintly angels sing. Alleluia!

Sing we to the S-E-C, Alleluia!
praise their humor, praise their glee, Alleluia!
praise Lent Madness, all you lot: Alleluia!
Celeb Bloggers, Tim and Scott, Alleluia!

** Liturgical Note: As the wise and adept preacher will naturally mention Charles Wesley’s winning the Golden Halo on Easter Day, this hymn is most appropriately sung immediately following the sermon. The fourth verse, while optional, requires organ, trumpet, and timpani if it is to be used within the context of the liturgy.

In the final video of Lent Madness 2014 from the Archbishops, the Golden Halo winner is proclaimed and the kick-off date for Lent Madness 2015 is announced.

But wait, there’s more!

Charles Wesley mugCommemorate this great moment in church history by purchasing your very own Charles Wesley mug. It features Charles with the words “2014 Golden Halo Winner” and “Lent Madness.” This is the perfect gift for every Episcopalian and every Methodist. Or really anyone who likes good hymns. The Charles Wesley Golden Halo Winner Lent Madness 2014 mug is white ceramic, ready to hold 11 ounces of your favorite beverage. Pre-order yours now for just $11. Buy five or more for just $9 each. They’ll ship soon! Buy now!

Who will win the Golden Halo?Maybe you want to get a more general Lent Madness mug. How about a purple ceramic mug that says “Who will win the Golden Halo?” on one side with the Lent Madness logo on the other? Eleven ounces of tea or coffee will be more delicious, thanks to the wondrous powers of purple. This makes a great gift for anyone who loves warm beverages, the color purple, or mostly cylindrical objects. Pre-order for just $11. Buy five or more for just $9 each. They’ll ship soon! Buy now!

For the Golden Halo: Harriet Bedell vs. Charles Wesley

2013 Golden Halo winner Frances Perkins prepares to hand over her halo

2013 Golden Halo winner Frances Perkins prepares to hand over her halo

We embarked upon this Lent Madness journey over five weeks ago on “Ash Thursday.” With your help we have whittled the field of 32 saints down to two: Harriet Bedell and Charles Wesley. Who will walk away with the coveted Golden Halo of Lent Madness 2014? Only 24 hours and your voting participation will reveal this holy mystery.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome, we’ve met some truly remarkable holy people along the way. Perhaps you learned about some folks you’d never heard of or maybe you renewed acquaintances with saints who have long offered inspiration. Of course the entire notion of placing saints in a bracket is absurd — each “contestant” has already earned a crown of righteousness in addition to a “golden halo.” But at the heart of Lent Madness is the abiding conviction that encountering those who have come before us in the faith enriches and enlivens our own walk with the risen Christ.

In the process of this whimsical Lenten devotion we’ve all made some new online friends, encountered a community of believers who take their faith but not themselves too seriously, learned some things, were inspired by saintly witnesses, and had a lot fun along the way.

Of course we literally couldn’t have done this without our stellar Celebrity Bloggers to whom we offer sincere gratitude. Amber Belldene, Laurie Brock, Megan Castellan, David Creech, Laura Darling, Robert Hendrickson, Maria Kane, Penny Nash, Heidi Shott, and David Sibley. Thanks to Bracket Czar Adam Thomas for his stellar behind-the-scenes work in keeping the bracket updated daily. And we can’t forget the ever mysterious Maple Anglican who brought us the inimitable shenanigans of Archbishops Thomas and John. You all rock!

Speaking of Maple Anglican, here’s the last Archbishop’s Update. But before you watch it (or after) be sure to check out some Golden Halo fashion tips from Lent Madness fan and Vogue model (seriously) Julia Frakes.

Finally, thanks to all of you who participated by voting, commenting, drinking coffee out of Lent Madness mugs, filling in brackets, talking about saints at coffee hour, liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter, and allowing us to play a small role in your Lenten journey. We’ve loved having each one of you along for the “madness” and on behalf of the Supreme Executive Committee we wish you a blessed Holy Week and a joyous Easter.

Oh, wait, there’s one more thing before we set our face toward the Triduum. But first we should note that Heidi Shott has shepherded Harriet Bedell through the brackets while David Sibley has done the same for Charles Wesley. We’ve asked them for a single image and one quote. We’ve already heard a lot about them and from them — click the bracket tab and scroll down to view their previous match-ups if you want to refresh your memory. And the, it’s time.

The polls will be open for 24 hours and the winner will be announced at 8:00 am Eastern time on Maundy Thursday. Now go cast your vote — the 2014 Lent Madness Golden Halo hangs in the balance!

Harriet Bedell


“Measured in terms of the number of lives she has touched and brightened, the achievements of Deaconess Bedell assume monumental proportions….She probably fits into no simple category for missionaries that her church knows. She has always been a pioneer; and she has been at home in Collier County which proudly calls her its own. This humble woman of God and servant of all who come to her…gives one the impression she might go on forever, as indeed her spirit will.”

Charlton Tebeau, Collier County historian, in “Florida’s Last Frontier,” 1966.

Charles Wesley


Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.

Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;

Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,

Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.


NOTE: At 10:55 p.m. EDT, the Supreme Executive Committee banned three voters and removed 41 votes from Harriet Bedell, due to voting irregularity. Remember to VOTE ONCE ONLY.

The voters in question were in Buffalo, NY; Rochester, MN; and Gulfport, MS.

Harriet Bedell vs. Charles Wesley

  • Charles Wesley (51%, 3,607 Votes)
  • Harriet Bedell (49%, 3,407 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,014

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An Interview with Julia Frakes, Actual Celebrity Blogger

Julia Frakes. Photographed by Mark Iantosca for Teen Vogue.

Julia Frakes. Photographed by Mark Iantosca for Teen Vogue.

At Lent Madness HQ, as you know, we monitor the internet for Lent Madness action very carefully. Not long ago, we noticed that Julia Frakes — fashion writer, blogger, stylist and model — is a Lent Madness fan. You can read her stuff in lots of places, but her tumblr is a good spot with links to various magazine articles and more. She’s also active on Twitter as @bunnyBISOUS. Her bio can be found on her tumblr. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for the SEC.

marc-jacobs-rtw-fw2014-runway-43_010526315867SEC: So you’ve written about fashion quite a bit. In our Faithful Four lineup, who is the fashion standout? What gives this saint the edge?
JF: As the first European convert to Christianity, I suppose it goes without saying that Saint Lydia of Thyatira, the seller of purple, reigns alongside the ultimate trendsetters glorified on the Episcopal Church’s Holy Women, Holy Men ranks–and arguably in the whole of theological history to boot #nobigdeal. Lydia’s adept business acumen enabled her epoch-altering philanthropy, church establishment, and good works: an economic security owing in no small measure to her stunning purple dyes—the color of passion and splendor, of regal and papal vestments, precious stones, and ornate prose (case in point).

In fact, it’s not a far stretch to imagine Marc Jacobs’ most recent lilac-strewn collection–backlit by a hazy purple catwalk set and crowned by legendary colorist Guido Palau’s custom-dyed “dusty violet” angular wigs in the style of Ancient Greece–as a runway tribute to Saint Lydia of Thyatira. Talk about a #trendsetter.

SEC: I suppose it’s a challenge to find an ensemble to work with the Golden Halo. What tips would you give the saint who wins Lent Madness 2014?
RodarteJF: I reckon we all could learn a life lesson or two–above and beyond the earthly realms of ensemble/halo-coordination–from Lupita Nyong’o’s breakout night at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Not only did she earn the Oscar for her standout performance in 12 Years a Slave, but she won the red carpet arrayed in a robin’s egg blue Prada gown and a diamond Fred Leighton halo. Further how-to tidbits to prepare for a potential Golden Halo bequeathing ceremony can certainly be gleaned from the innovative designer-sisters behind Rodarte, who recently crowned a collection with intergalactic, star-strewn halos (see here, here, and here).


Photo: Filippo Fior/Gorunway.com

Golden Halo contenders can twig a tip from a recent Balenciaga collection presented by designer Nicolas Ghesquière (now at the helm of Louis Vuitton), whose gilded halos were an out-of-this-world hybrid of alien and arboreal aesthetics. Whether emulating Lupita, Rodarte, or Balenciaga, all halo-bearers could benefit from contemplating the Heavens for divine (outfit) inspiration.

SEC: You’ve done some modeling too, and I gather that personality is as important as anything else on the runway or in front of the camera. If our saints decide to start modeling their Golden Halo, what should they keep in mind? Who do you think would be best at this?
JF: Well, hymnwriter Charles Wesley no doubt has “the rhythm,” so to speak (sing?), but if Phillips Brooks could extend the venerable passion and record-setting pace of his preaching–a quick, spirited velocity emulated by the most stirring of orators (including Martin Luther King, Jr.!)–to a modeling endeavor, then he would no doubt test the shutter speeds and inventiveness of even famed fashion photographers.

SEC: Most of your @bunnybisous Twitter followers aren’t church geeks, but you’ve had a few things to say about Lent Madness. How can we all learn to share the Good News on social media?
JF: Between university courses and work, it’s been an honor lend a hand with my hometown @GraceChurch1921’s social media efforts–although it can admittedly become a bit confusing at times, as I also tweet on behalf of a few other organizations and magazines (and yes, many mistweets and various techy lessons have been learnt the hard way). As Episcopalians, we are so blessed to be members of a church acclaimed for its welcoming hospitality–a real world, in-the-flesh culture (emblazoned on our “The Episcopal Church Welcomes You” signs and manifest in our parishes’ all-embracing and nonjudgmental coffee culture)–that entreats all Episcopalians to attend to our intersectionality and celebrate our neighbors with open hearts. I feel like Saint Harriet Bedell is the personifies this tenet: Her empathy and identification with all those in her far-reaching ministry–from Alaska to Florida—where she was so deeply respected that The Cheyenne even adopted her into their tribe, giving her the name “Bird Woman.” I mean, talk about #trailcred. As betweeted by Dr. Meredith Gould’s groundbreaking and community-building #ChSocM initiative, every one of us is empowered to share the Good News in the so-called virtual sphere, with strikingly tangible and powerful effects.

I strive not to ignore the unique opportunities that “having a following” presents: if I can levy any limited clout, I must do so in considered advocacy for social justice. To effectively beget change by bridging liberal and radical feminist activist approaches and operating within and outside of institutional constructs strikes me as the most promising course of action: successfully integrating both legislative and social movement support—outside a given organization while ensuring ardent support from inside players—is crucial when, as in the effective justice movements for pay equity and affirmative action, either a threat is levied, resources are imperiled, or coercion is deployed. Within groups, engagement in social identity politics can mobilize stigmatized groups by providing the cathartic emotional work necessary to upturn shame, isolation, and fear into an outrage that provokes pride, mutual support, and urgency for action.

SEC: Any saints from current or previous years of Lent Madness that you really like?
JF: Oh yes! The divine wisdom of Saints Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, Dame Julian of Norwich, Ignatius of Loyola, Augustine, Jeanne d’Arc, and C.S. Lewis all continue to play a pivotal role in my own spiritual journey. On that note, if I may be so bold, may I cast my 2015 bracket ballot? Is the Supreme Executive Committee accepting nominations? / Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out and submit the Saints Søren Kierkegaard, Thomas Aquinas, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Thurgood Marshall, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Thomas à Kempis, Lord Shaftesbury, Ralph Adams Cram, and Albrecht Dürer for your most esteemed consideration of Lent Madness contendership.

SEC: Thanks for your time. Since you were kind enough to answer these questions, we’ll let you slide in these nominations early, despite the fact that everyone else has to wait until nominations are invited. Good luck with your studies!

Oh, and we can’t wait to hear your raves about the stylish fashions of the SEC’s black shirts with white collars.

What is Spy Wednesday?

As you know, the Supreme Executive Committee has declared that the final battle for the Golden Halo will take place tomorrow on Spy Wednesday. Several of you have asked us about this unusual name for the Wednesday in Holy Week. Ever willing to educate and inspire, we are only too happy to oblige.

spywednesdaypaintingSpy Wednesday gets its name because this is the day on which Judas betrayed Jesus to the Sanhedrin. Because Judas is thought to be sneaky, his actions conjured up the image of a spy. The synoptic gospels all include an account of the betrayal — Matthew 26:12-14, Mark 14:10-12, Luke 22:3-6.

This is how the Gospel of Luke recounts the events:

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. (Luke 22:3-6)

The illustration above evocatively depicts this infamous scene. If you go to Holy Eucharist every day of Holy Week, the Gospel readings provide the narrative of Jesus’ final days, an ever-quickening story that spins out of control and finally brings us to Good Friday.

It is surely a strange juxtaposition to think about Spy Wednesday and Lent Madness in the same 01_01moment. But the whole point of Lent Madness is to engage us all in an exploration of the ways God’s grace has filled the lives of women and men through history and across all cultures. Sure, we’ve been silly and even competitive about our Lenten exercise. In the end though, we are learning to see in fresh ways how Jesus Christ matters to all humanity. That seems like a good and holy thing to do on Spy Wednesday.

Charles Wesley vs. Phillips Brooks

We’re getting closer, friends. In less than 24 hours we’ll know who will be competing against Harriet Bedell for the Golden Halo. Yes, you heard that correctly, Harriet Bedell! Did anyone who filled out a bracket have Harriet competing in the championship round? Anybody? Harriet capped off a stunning Cinderella-like romp through Lent Madness 2014 by defeating Lydia yesterday 54% to 46% and will vie for the Golden Halo on Spy Wednesday with either Charles Wesley or Phillips Brooks.

But first, Charles and Phillips stare one another down in this battle of wordsmiths. Hymn writer and preacher. Though, to be fair, Wesley preached a bunch of sermons and Brooks wrote some hymns. And many generations have been inspired by their passion and creativity.

To make it this far, Charles Wesley defeated John Wesley, Thomas Merton, and Anna Cooper while Phillips Brooks turned away Simeon, Catherine of Siena, and Julia Chester Emery.

Oh, and congratulations to the Lent Madness Faithful for helping us achieve our goal of 10,000 likes on Facebook! We had great faith in you and the milestone was tripped at 10:18 pm Eastern Standard Time by a Canadian (of all things) proving that Lent Madness is indeed a global phenomenon. Or at least that Maple Anglican is a lot more influential than we thought.

After watching Tim and Scott’s last Lenten edition of the award winning (well, not yet but we’re optimistic and/or deluded) Monday Madness, let’s see what the Archbishops have to say about today’s match-up:

Charles Wesley


Charles Wesley Writing, by Richard Douglass

The other day, I asked a friend what I should say in order to convince you, dear reader, to cast your vote for Charles Wesley in today’s Lent Madness match-up. I was given a definite and absolute answer: “it’s all about the hymns!”

In one sense, of course the case for Charles Wesley centers on his 6,000+ hymns. For me, those hymns have been present at some of the most dear and cherished moments of my life –- I’ve attended weddings and funerals and sung Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. I recall the Christmas Eve eucharists as child where I would be so excited to sing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Easter morning was never complete without Christ the Lord is Risen Today/Jesus Christ is Risen Today. 

His hymns punctuate the seasons of the church’s year (as with Come Thou Long Expected Jesus and Lo! He

Charles Wesley, from St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco, CA

Charles Wesley, from St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church, San Francisco, CA

Comes with Clouds Descending), and they provide language to express our desire to offer our highest praises to God (O For a Thousand Tongues To Sing!). At times, they simply stand in awe and amazement at God’s incredible love for us (And Can it Be That I Should Gain?).

But in a larger sense, I like Charles Wesley for way more than writing my favorite hymns. Because for Wesley, the hymns -– magnificent as they are –- were but other tools in his toolbox –- yet another way of striving to reach every last person with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Charles Wesley wanted every last person on earth to have that same feeling of confidence and assurance in Jesus Christ’s love for them, just as he had experienced his own “strange palpitation of the heart” and assurance that Jesus loved him on that Pentecost Day in 1738.

It’s no secret that this mission of Charles Wesley often led him right up to the edge of trouble. With his brother, Charles received disapproval from church authorities when, casting aside long-standing practice, he went out into the fields to preach the gospel to people who otherwise never would have had an opportunity to step into a church. And preach he did –- to thousands upon thousands.

unnamedAnd the hymns…Charles Wesley’s many hymns were to him yet another means by which the gospel could be heard, that Jesus Christ could be known, and Jesus’ love could be felt by everyone. The famous 19th century American preacher Henry Ward Beecher once confessed his understanding of the power of those hymns to stir the heart when he said: “I would rather have written that hymn of Wesley’s, Jesus, Lover of My Soul, than to have the fame of all the kings that ever sat on the earth.”

Charles Wesley was described by those who knew him as “a man made for friendship.” And for him, that’s what all those hymns, all those sermons, and all his work was all about: friendship with God and with neighbor.

That’s a commitment, and a ministry, that we can sing about today and every day, even as we, like Charles Wesley, cast our crowns before Jesus… lost in wonder, love, and praise.

David Sibley

 Phillips Brooks

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

In the later decades of the 19th Century Phillips Brooks, rector of Trinity Church, Boston, was a national celebrity. It was a time when, unlike today, being widely-known, much less widely-respected and beloved as Brooks was, was no small feat.

Once clocked by a reporter at preaching more than 200 words per minute, Phillips Brooks must have been a been a magnetic, not to say breathless, preacher. We can’t know. Thomas Edison’s phonograph was not widely in use by Brooks’s death in 1893, but Martin Luther King, Jr.’s son has claimed that the cadence of Brooks’s sermons influenced his father’s preaching style. If we have Brooks to thank, in small part, for “I Have a Dream,” then we owe a great debt.

Upon reading his sermons more than 100 years later, it’s remarkable how overcome I am by a potent jolt of inspiration. I want to be a better person. I want to serve God with my best self and my whole heart. Sign me up!

Listen to the man:

The danger facing all of us — let me say it again, for one feels it tremendously — is not that we shall

Hall of Fame of Great Americans, Bronx Community College

Hall of Fame of Great Americans, Bronx Community College

make an absolute failure of life, nor that we shall fall into outright viciousness, nor that we shall be terribly unhappy, nor that we shall feel that life has no meaning at all — not these things. The danger is that we may fail to perceive life’s greatest meaning, fall short of its highest good, miss its deepest and most abiding happiness, be unable to render the most needed service, be unconscious of life ablaze with the light of the Presence of God — and be content to have it so — that is the danger. That some day we may wake up and find that always we have been busy with the husks and trappings of life — and have really missed life itself. For life without God, to one who has known the richness and joy of life with Him, is unthinkable, impossible. That is what one prays one’s friends may be spared — satisfaction with a life that falls short of the best, that has in it no tingle and thrill which come from a friendship with the Father.

Brooks knew that it all comes down to love, as he shared so eloquently in a letter to young Helen Keller.

Trinity Church, Boston

Trinity Church, Boston

“There is one universal religion, Helen – the religion of Love. Love your Heavenly Father with your whole heart and soul, love every child of God as much as ever you can, and remember that the possibilities of good are greater than the possibilities of evil; and you have the key to Heaven.”

The words Brooks shares are not bound by time. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” Indeed, they are met in Christ every night of our lives. And his call to prayer to a God who knows no bounds sounds like it was written yesterday.

“Pray the largest prayers. You cannot think a prayer so large that God, in answering it, will not wish you had made it larger. Pray not for crutches but for wings.”

Heidi Shott


Charles Wesley vs. Phillips Brooks

  • Charles Wesley (64%, 3,177 Votes)
  • Phillips Brooks (36%, 1,790 Votes)

Total Voters: 4,965

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