Lent Madness 2017 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 unsung role as Lent Madness Bracket Czar, regularly updating the bracket throughout Lent.
Enjoy reading the contributor bios below, log onto their respective website and blogs, and by all means buy their books! (where applicable). Oh, and PLEASE don’t mob them when you see them out in public places. The aura of “celebrity” can be a heavy burden.
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.
The 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 Anna Fitch Courie is an army wife, nurse, layperson, and the author of “Christ Walk: A 40 Day Spiritual Fitness Program” (Church Publishing, Inc., 2015); “Christ Walk Kids” (Church Publishing, 2016); “Sally the Comet (CreateSpace, 2015); and “Sally and the Constellations (CreateSpace, pending). Anna finds her calling where health and spirituality intersect. Anna is a registered nurse by training and has been working in the health care field for the past eighteen years. More recently, she has been a consultant on building community coalitions on health. Anna is a graduate of Clemson University, the University of Wyoming, and Education for Ministry at Sewanee: the University of the South. In her spare time, she fights cancer, consults in public health, and runs Christ Walk, retreats, writes books, and blogs for “50 Days of Fabulous” and “Lent Madness.” 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. You can find her on her blog at Christ Walk; on Facebook; on Twitter @christwalk1; and on Instagram @christwalk1.
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 counts her blessings – and gives thanks to the Supreme Executive Committee – for the honor of returning as a Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger for a third year. Neva Rae is the Public Affairs Officer for the Episcopal Church which continues to keep her busy, dedicated, connected, and on her toes. Neva Rae remains active in her own Episcopal Church – St. John’s, Somerville NJ, Diocese of New Jersey. She is a frequent presenter and also is active in various volunteer, social and philanthropic causes. Relaxation for this Jersey Girl is enjoying music (ranging from Clapton and Copeland to Beethoven and Puccini), cheering (often in vain) for the Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles, and checking off “bucket list” items – in 2016 she checked off Stonehenge, Scotland, and running longer than she ever dreamed. Next goal on her bucket list is to visit all 50 states (she’s currently marked off 47). Neva Rae looks forward to adding another Lent Madness mug to her collection.
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. David has recently begun work as the Director for LEAD — an organization committed to providing resources for leaders and ministries. Connect with him on Twitter @rev_david and Facebook.
Beth Lewis Beth Lewis is the President & CEO of 1517 Media, the ministry of publishing of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). 1517 Media is the parent organization for Augsburg Fortress, Fortress Press, and Sparkhouse. This call, having begun in 2002, followed 20+ years of work for several Fortune 500 publishing companies and owner of a computer and technology career school. Beth has announced her retirement from this role, effective September 2018. But, retirement from this role means she hopes to continue speaking, serving on Boards, etc. while finding more time to spend traveling and wine tasting with her husband, the Rev. Dr. Rick Rouse. They have recently built a new home in Mukilteo, WA to be closer to young grandchildren and wineries. Beth is a popular speaker in ecumenical groups on a wide range of topics; some of the most popular are Grow, Hold, Fold: Transforming Your Ministry for the 21st Century; Gutenberg to Google: Effective Use of Technology for Congregations; 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! 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.