Lent Madness 2016 boasts an all-star lineup of Celebrity Bloggers serving as contributors. Amber Belldene, Laurie Brock, Megan Castellan, Anna Fitch Courie, David Creech, Neva Rae Fox, David Hansen, Beth Lewis, Hugo Olaiz, Derek Olsen, and David Sibley are all members of the Lent Madness team. Adam Thomas continues in his role as Lent Madness Bracket Czar and Maria Nolletti Ross keeps us well fed (at least virtually) with saintly recipes as the Lent Madness Resident Foodie.
Note: Laurie Brock, Megan Castellan, and David Sibley have earned the title Distinguished Celebrity Blogger as “payment” for their longevity of service and excellence in Celebrity Blogger-dom. We assume it looks good on a resume.
Enjoy reading the contributor bios below, log onto their respective website and blogs, and by all means buy their books! (where applicable).
The Rev. Laurie Brock, Distinguished Celebrity Blogger is a returning Celebrity Blogger because she loves getting free coffee mugs and receiving celebrity red carpet treatment at Episcopal gatherings. One of those things may not be entirely accurate. She serves as the rector of St. Michael the Archangel Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky. She blogs at Dirty Sexy Ministry, is the co-author of Where God Hides Holiness: Thoughts on Grief, Joy and the Search for Fabulous Heels (Church Publishing), and is also a contributor to a forthcoming book about the real lives of women clergy. A reality series on E! is surely coming soon. She is also the creative force behind Fifty Days of Fabulous from Forward Movement. She frequently shares her quirky, snarky views on faith, Alabama football,and popular culture on Twitter at @drtysxyministry, but don’t follow unless you can laugh at yourself and your religion. Otherwise, you’ll just be offended. When she’s not doing priest things, she is riding her horse Nina, the Official Horse of Lent Madness.
Rev. Megan Castellan, Distinguished Celebrity Blogger is Assistant Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri, and diocesan youth coordinator for the Metro Kansas City area. Previously, she has lived and worked in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Arizona, and that period of time in the West Bank that the government can’t know about. Her ongoing adventures and strong opinions are chronicled in her blog Red Shoes, Funny Shirt and on Twitter @revlucymeg. (From time to time, you can also catch her writing in various other places, like House of Deputies News, Episcopal Café, or Fidelia’s Sisters, though the snark factor is significantly lower there). In her spare time, she enjoys singing, playing with yarn, throwing jellybeans at politicians she disagrees with on TV, and cheering on KC-based sportsball teams.
Rev. David Sibley, Distinguished Celebrity Blogger is in the middle of his seventh year as a southern transplant into the northeast, where he now lives on Long Island and serves as Rector of Christ Church in Manhasset, New York. Raised right in the middle of South Carolina, David studied and did research as a chemist before being whisked away to seminary in New York City. When he’s not in church, David enjoys travel, hiking and camping, all things food and music related, and is a sports fanatic – with his teams of choice in baseball (Chicago Cubs), college football (South Carolina Gamecocks), and soccer (Liverpool FC) being minor obsessions. When the ideas are forthcoming, he’s been known to blog at Feeding on Manna, and holds forth much more often with his partners in crime on Twitter at @davidsibley.
The Rev. Amber Belldene is a romance writer and the alter ego of a vampire-loving Episcopal priest. She grew up on the Florida panhandle swimming with alligators, climbing oak trees, and diving for scallops…when she could pull herself away from a book. As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons — an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days. Amber believes stories are the best way to examine life’s truths, and she is passionate about the relationship between sexuality and spirituality — namely, that God made people with a desire for love, and that desire is the heart of every romance novel. Her paranormal romance series Blood Vine is now available from Omnific Publishing and her sexy contemporary novella One Sinful Night in São Paulo, about an Episcopal seminarian looking for love, is scheduled to release later this year. She loves wine, history, heirloom tomatoes and she lives with her husband and children in San Francisco. For more information about her books or to check out her blog go to www.amberbelldene.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmberBelldene or Facebook.
Anna Fitch Courie is an army wife, nurse, layperson, and the author of Christ Walk: A 40 Day Spiritual Fitness Program (Church Publishing 2015). She is excited to be a newbie on the Lent Madness team, and is digging deep for her own brand of spiritual snark. She secretly believes the only reason she is blogging for Lent Madness was her repeated posts about the importance coffee. Anna finds her calling where health and spirituality intersect. She will be searching for the saint that has walked the most “Christ Walk” miles and determining if they lead healthy lives. Read her blog Christ Walk and follow her on twitter @christwalk1. In her spare time, she fights cancer, consults in public health, and runs the “Christ Walk” program at various churches. In her dream world, she hikes the El Camino and Mount Rainier, sails, travels, cooks, reads, and attends every Clemson football game each season. Home is currently in Virginia, but really, home is wherever the Army (and God) sends her.
Dr. David Creech is Assistant Professor of Religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. A student of early Christianities, David knows a lot about saints—they anathematized many of his research subjects. He is a product of an Evangelical seminary and a Catholic PhD program and now teaches at a Lutheran college and worships with Episcopalians. For those looking for the ecumenical voice (read: objective and unbiased/quite confused) in this year’s competition, he’s your man. Although he does dress in robes from time to time, David brings the unique perspective of a layperson. His book title is long and boring (The Use of Scripture in the Apocryphon of John: A Diachronic Analysis of the Variant Versions) but nearly sold out of its initial print run of 200 copies. You can follow David on Twitter @dyingsparrows and read his oftentimes provocative posts at his blog by the same name. When not teaching and writing, David enjoys owning his three kids Ian, Ela, and Dylan at Sorry.
Neva Rae Fox is honored, thrilled, and downright delighted to return for a second year as a Celebrity Blogger. Neva Rae is the Public Affairs Officer for The Episcopal Church and many many people at General Convention 2015 identified her as firstname.lastname@example.org. However, to her surprise and delight, she has also been recognized as a Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger on assorted occasions. Still the Jersey Girl of the bunch (you got a problem with that?), Neva Rae remains active in her own Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New Jersey, serving on the communications committee, Altar Guild, ECW and as a reader, preacher, and lay Eucharistic minister. She is a frequent presenter in dioceses and organizations throughout the Church and is dedicated to other volunteer and philanthropic causes. She remains a diehard Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles fan – thereby proving she knows how to suffer. During the 2015 baseball season, she and her husband Bob were able to check off Fenway Park from their “bucket list.” And the great things continue — while her cat Duke adorned the back cover of the 2015 EpiscoCats calendar, Neva Rae has been informed that her other cat Bugsy will grace the February pages of the 2016 EpiscoCats calendar.
The Rev. David Hansen, despite growing up as a pastor’s kid, turned out okay. An ELCA pastor, he serves at Spirit of Joy! Lutheran Church in The Woodlands, Texas (outside of Houston), where he lives with his wife Megan, their daughter, and their menagerie of pets. When not preaching and teaching for the Lutheran diaspora in Texas, David is helping to drag the church into the digital age – teaching congregations and leaders to make use of online tools for ministry (You can catch David this year leading an Intensive as a part of the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza. He is a regular contributor and moderator in the Church Social Media (#chsocm) community, and wrote the forward to Celebrity Blogger alum Meredith Gould’s The Social Media Gospel. He is an occasional contributor to The Lutheran magazine and Living Lutheran, and blogs at Pastor David L. Hansen. Connect with him on twitter @rev_david and Facebook.
Beth Lewis has served as President & CEO of Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, since September 2002. During this time, the company has transitioned into a leader in delivery of digital content for congregations, higher education and families through their Augsburg Fortress, Fortress Press, sparkhouse, and Sparkhouse Family imprints. This call followed 20+ years of work for several Fortune 500 publishing companies and owner of a computer and technology career school. Beth is a popular speaker in ecumenical groups on a wide range of topics; some of the most popular are Gutenberg to Google: Effective Use of Technology for Congregations, Strategic Planning for Faith-Based Organizations, and Congregational Hospitality. Having been raised Lutheran in Lexington, Kentucky, Beth continues to be a dedicated fan of UK Wildcats basketball, so brackets are among her favorite things to follow! She writes the One Mission blog and you may connect with her on Twitter @bethalewis and on Facebook.
Hugo Olaiz is associate editor for Latino/Hispanic resources at Forward Movement. Hugo grew up in La Plata, Argentina — a country where provinces and cities are sometimes named after saints. After completing a degree in literature and classics, Hugo spent two years on mission in Paraguay. He later moved to the U.S. to do graduate studies in Spanish, linguistics, and translation, pursuing a Ph.D. in Hispanic linguistics at Berkeley, California. He later moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he became the news editor for Sunstone magazine. Upon moving to Carrboro, North Carolina, Hugo stumbled into an underground network of home-based businesses — hair styling, sewing, cooking — all run by Mexican immigrants; these contacts led him into Latino ministry and advocacy in the Diocese of North Carolina. Hugo lives in Oxford, Ohio, with his husband John-Charles Duffy and an aging beagle mix named Patches. In his spare time, he loves to entertain friends, edit Wikipedia entries, and watch opera clips on YouTube.
Dr. Derek Olsen is a layman within the Episcopal Church with a Ph.D. in New Testament and an interest in most things medieval, monastic, and liturgical. He is the liturgical editor of the St. Augustine’s Prayer Book, and the author of Reading Matthew with Monks, an investigation of early medieval reading and preaching. Forward Movement will be publishing his book on the spirituality of the Book of Common Prayer near the end of 2015. Derek currently serves on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission for Liturgy & Music. An IT professional by day, Derek is also the mastermind behind St Bede Productions which is responsible for the St Bede’s Breviary, Forward Movement’s Daily Prayer site, and the St Bede Blog (formerly haligweorc). He lives in Baltimore with his wife, an Episcopal priest, and their two daughters. He spends most of his spare time driving his daughters to and from ballet.
The Rev. Adam Thomas, Distinguished Lent Madness Bracket Czar, had one stint as a celebrity blogger, in which his Cinderella story Philander Chase made it way farther than the analysts expected. Since 2012, he has been the keeper of the bracket and writer of pithy headlines on the bracket page. This Lent is his third as rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mystic, Connecticut. Adam is the author of Digital Disciple: Real Christianity in the Virtual World (Abingdon 2011), which you should read since you are using the Internet right now and you are more than likely a Christian. His first novel Letters from Ruby, which is about an Episcopal priest (imagine that!) arrived in August 2013 and a video Bible study series Unusual Gospel for Unusual People followed in spring 2014. A passionate gamer, Adam just launched a new website about board games called Human Cleric Games. Adam lives in Mystic, Connecticut with his wife Leah and their beautiful and precocious twins. Check out his website WheretheWind.com, for nearly eight years of content. You can fan Adam on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @RevAdamThomas.
Maria Nolletti Ross, Lent Madness Resident Foodie, is a member of Church of the Servant Episcopal Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she serves in the Wilmington Faiths Against Gun Violence, Youth Group, and Communion Bread Baking Team. She’s a year one student in the Education for Ministry program and in a group that meets in participants’ homes on a rotating basis. Therefore, she’s resolved to spend more time cleaning her house which she shares with her husband, daughter, visiting college son, a geriatric miracle cat, two teenage cats, and fish galore. She invites you to follow along with her as she studies the lives of the saints, uncovers their modern-day messages, and cooks up related recipes on her blog Saints and Recipes. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram (marianollettiross) and check out her Saints and Recipes Facebook page.