Happy Lent Madness Eve!

keep-calm-and-let-the-madness-begin-1As Ash Wednesday morphs into Lent Madness Eve, the stage is set for the start of the 2015 edition of “The World’s Most Popular Online Lenten Devotion”®. Tomorrow’s opening match-up between Gregory the Illuminator and Brendan the Navigator will go live at precisely 8:00 am Eastern Standard Time. Read about both saints and then vote (once!).

If you’re new to Lent Madness you may want to participate by leaving a comment — many people do and it’s fascinating to learn why people vote the way they do, how a particular saint has touched them or why they identify with or connect with a certain person or story. Sure, sometimes you might vote for a saint just because you like her name but often the reasons run much deeper. In a very tangible way, this is how the Lent Madness community is formed and it’s fun to check back throughout the day to see what people have posted.

Now, we know that all over the world, people are marking Lent Madness Eve. According to news reports, thousands have gathered in Times Square to watch the Halo drop. Others are popping non-alcoholic beverages and refraining from consuming chocolate.

We thought we’d offer a few suggestions for making your Lent Madness Eve both meaningful and safe. Here is a top ten list of activities to engage in as you keep vigil until 8:00 am EST.

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Lent is an Invitation

Dear friends in Christ,

On this one day a year, even Lent Madness pauses to reflect on our life, our blessings, and our mortality. The entire season of Lent is an invitation to recommit to following Jesus. This day, Ash Wednesday, is a poignant reminder that life is short. We are meant to savor our earthly life and to live it well.

At the end of life, few people regret not having worked more, nor do they wish they had spent more money on stuff. In fact, end of life regrets usually revolve around love. “I wish I had spent more time with my family. I wish I had forgiven the person who wronged me. I wish I had been a more faithful Christian.”

Ash WednesdayWhen we kneel before the altar and hear the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” we are reminded that we are mortal. We should not delay our decision to repent, to live more fully, to follow Jesus more faithfully.

Aside from the ridiculous competition and constant silliness of Lent Madness, we hope everyone who takes part will notice something about each of the saints. Every single one of the saints was a flawed human. You might be used to seeing them in stained glass or in marble, but they were living, breathing, messed up people not so different from us. And yet, each one of these saints managed to allow God’s grace to work in them such that Christ’s light shone brightly in their lives. They were witnesses to the world of the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

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Monday Madness — February 16, 2015

The moment you’ve been waiting for is almost here. Yes, the Purple Fever is building toward Ash Thursday, coming up later this week. In this week’s episode of Monday Madness, Tim and Scott talk about how to prepare for Ash Thursday, and they explain the bare shelves in the Lentorium, much like the bare shelves in the milk aisle at the Hingham Supermarket.

If you are intrigued by the idea of acquiring your very own Golden Halo Flying Disc, just pop over to Forward Movement’s website for this and many other Lent Madness items. Rumor has it you can find other resources for Lent there also.

ResizeImageHandler.ashxIt’s not too late to read the Saintly Scorecard on your Kindle, Nook, or iThing.

Remember to tell all your friends to like Lent Madness on Facebook and follow @LentMadness on Twitter. To get the full SEC effect, you’ll want to follow @ScottAGunn and @FatherTim as well.

With the first day of voting hours away, it’s time to get serious about Lent Madness. Except for Ash Wednesday, when we encourage you to be serious about repentance.

Celebrity Blogger Week: Robert Hendrickson

The final Celebrity Blogger to be highlighted is Robert Hendrickson. Since Robert was apparently too busy in his new position as Acting Dean of St. John’s Cathedral (the dean was recently elected Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of Southeast Florida) to answer our questions, we have taken the liberty of answering for him.  

The Rev. Robert Hendrickson

The Rev. Robert Hendrickson was born into this world by a battalion of angels. This cosmic entry into the mortal coil has ingrained in him an interest in the supernatural and the fantastical. He will not readily admit to going to the occasional Renaissance Faire nor will he admit that he has been known to play the occasional video game (Skyrim being among his oft-denied favourites). Like any serious Anglican, he reads Tolkein, Lewis, and Arthurian legends and knows them like a badger knows snakehide. Robert is the Acting Dean of Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver. He attended General Theological Seminary, was ordained to the priesthood in 2011. He has also worked with the Ecumenical Office of the Episcopal Church, co-founded the Society of Catholic Priests of the Episcopal Church, and recently completed a book on young adult ministry titled Yearning: Authentic Transformation, Young Adults, and the Church. He is married to Dr. Karrie Cummings Hendrickson and are the proud companions of Becket (a dolorous basset hound), Penelope (a fearless dachshund), Cuthbert (a once indomitable raccoon fighting cat), and Marshmallow (a rotund cat prone to wild fits of napping).

What do you most love about the extraordinary honor of being a Celebrity Blogger (besides global adulation)?
Flexible deadlines for submitting answers to questions about what I like best about being a Celebrity Blogger.

What is the quirkiest thing you’ve learned about one of your saints and how does this inspire your faith?10801592_10154858983855632_1859141308510160356_n
As the hymn says, they’re just like you and me.

Downton Abbey or The Walking Dead and why?
I like Downton Abbey best, because it hearkens back to a time when clergy were known as Mr. Smith instead of Fr. Smith.

Besides Lent Madness, what do you most look forward to in the season of Lent?
In trying to reconnect with some ancient traditions of the church, I intend to undertake a detailed study and practice based on The 39 Articles of Religion. For all of Lent, I will be preaching using the Book of Homilies, leading off with the sermon “Against Excess of Apparel,” and continuing with “Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.” Likewise, following Article 18, I will give up reserving, displaying, and parading the Sacrament. I think this will be an exciting and invigorating practice to get back to the fundamental origins of Anglican Christianity.

Also, it’s a nice break from saying “Alleluia! Alleluia!” at the dismissal, which I do every Sunday, except during Lent. 

Celebrity Blogger Week: David Sibley

David Sibley holds the distinction of being the youngest Celebrity Blogger. Again. But what he lacks in chronological age he makes up for in shoe size. Since he’s also the tallest Celebrity Blogger.

Having recently moved from Brooklyn to Long Island, David did forego his status as our hippest Celebrity Blogger. But fear not. In a pinch, he still knows where to find organic, free-range, artisanal cheese.

The Rev. David Sibley

The Rev. David Sibley 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.

What do you most love about the extraordinary honor of being a Celebrity Blogger (besides global adulation)?
By far the best part of being a Celebrity Blogger is hearing from Lent Madness fans about their own connections to a saint, and the impact that saint and their witness have made in their lives. Last year, an extraordinary amount of people connected to Charles Wesley – and the connections were everything from his hymns, to his practice of field preaching, to his deep commitment to his principles – and the stories were fantastic. It’s a reminder that a saint that one person may regard as “mere history” may be the source of another person’s vibrant and living faith. And that’s really cool.

What is the quirkiest thing you’ve learned about one of your saints and how does this inspire your faith?
Thecla wins this one hands down. According to legend, Thecla, in the face of her immanent death and still desiring to be baptized, dove into a pool of ravenous seals and baptized herself. I had no idea that seals were even a thing in the ancient Mediterranean world! For me, Thecla is an example of what it means to follow Jesus without counting the cost – even to her own life. If I could have even a portion of her enthusiasm and fervor – a fraction of her desire to follow after Jesus – I would count myself richly blessed.

Downton Abbey or The Walking Dead and why?
Are there sports I could be watching, instead? I mean, like a curling match, or soccer, or some high school team on local access unnamedcable? I’d go with that first. When forced to choose, I think I’d probably have to go with The Walking Dead. Plot-wise, it felt like Downton Abbey jumped the shark a couple seasons ago when one of the characters magically and unexpectedly got up and walked after months and months of suffering from a war injury. At least with The Walking Dead, the premise of zombies was implausible from the very beginning, and was outright and in your face about it. I appreciate that kind of swagger and bravado: “Yep, there’s zombies, no, we don’t care what you think about it.”

Besides Lent Madness, what do you most look forward to in the season of Lent?
I really love sports and gamesmanship, so the spectator sport of watching the annual clergy social media game of one upsmanship around who worked hardest during Holy Week. It always starts off pretty tame, but eventually, you’d think some of us clergy picture the song “Sixteen Tons” playing in the background as we march off to church to…wash feet.

More seriously, I appreciate Lent as a time to get back to what is important, most core, most meaningful in the life of discipleship. I tend to take lots of things on to myself during the year, so Lent becomes a good time to put some of them aside, and rededicate myself to the core pieces of the life of discipleship: prayer, study, and service. I look forward to that every year, and this Lent is no exception.

SEC NOTE: Apparently David won the U.S. Open last year. We’re stumped as to why this fact didn’t make it into his official Lent Madness bio.

Celebrity Blogger Week: Laurie Brock

In Laurie Brock’s case, the “horse you rode in on” has a name. And that name is Nina. She is the only Celebrity Blogger that owns a horse. Though on more than one occasion a member of the SEC has been likened to the back end of such an animal.

The Rev. Laurie Brock

The Rev. Laurie Brock 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.

What do you most love about the extraordinary honor of being a Celebrity Blogger (besides global adulation)?
I love that I never have to wait in line at the most famous restaurants and attended last year’s Oscars as a VIP! And the guest spot as zombie number 7 on The Walking Dead! Wow!

Well, not really. None of that really happens if you’re a Celebrity Blogger, although occasionally I get recognized at church functions as “One of those people who writes for that thing.”

Being part of a community that engages the stories of the saints and all their foibles and accomplishments is quite rewarding. My Celebrity Blogger responsibilities require I dig into the lives of the saints in a way my day-to-day ministry doesn’t generally allow. The saints of the church were very real people whose lives are far more complex and dimensioned than the one page hagiographies we get in Lesser Feasts and Fasts or many of the other lives of the saints books available. I hope Celebrity Bloggers are able to share some of that dimension and invite our Lent Madness followers to appreciate the examples of inspiring, unsettling, quirky, and amazing faith our saints give us in the sermons that are their lives.

What is the quirkiest thing you’ve learned about one of your saints and how does this inspire your faith?unnamed
While it’s not exactly quirky, both Teresa of Avila and Francis of Assisi were quite the rebellious teenagers who would most certainly not have been voted most spiritual or most likely to become a saint by their high school classmates. They remind me that God is never finished with us, that as long as we are breathing, God can work with all the aspects of our lives for God’s will to be done, even (and maybe even especially) the questionable, imperfect, and messy parts of our lives. As one of the other saints in this madness is quoted — God rides the lame horse and carves the rotten wood. Indeed. And thanks be to God for that.

Downton Abbey or The Walking Dead and why?
The Walking Dead. Zombies. Great stories. Daryl Dixon. And a fierce woman who isn’t afraid to use her katana.

Besides Lent Madness, what do you most look forward to in the season of Lent?
The usual online arguments between clergy about the appropriate colors for Lent — purple or oxblood and unbleached linen — and whether or not baptism during Lent is appropriate. And new episodes of The Walking Dead. And the communal journey as we prepare for Easter in prayer and spiritual discipline. That, too.

SEC Note: Since she’s from the south, Laurie is genetically disposed to snake handling. Please don’t try this at home, kids. The SEC would prefer not to get sued when things go horribly wrong.

Celebrity Blogger Week: Laura Darling

For the second day in a row, we’re featuring a Celebrity Blogger from California. This has nothing to do with Tim’s pining for sunshine amid the 75 inches of snow that has fallen on Hingham, Massachusetts, in the past two weeks. Laura Darling was an early adopter of Lent Madness when it began in 2010 (though back then she was Laura Toepfer). In other words she is a wise and prophetic woman.

The Rev. Laura Toepfer

The Rev. Laura Darling spends half of her time as the Managing Director of Confirm not Conform, an organization devoted to creating confirmation programs that celebrate questions and authentic faith; half of her time as the Director of Spiritual Care and Senior Director of Senior Resources for Episcopal Senior Communities; and the other half of her time with her wife and their three dogs and two cats. After seven years in college, youth, and parish ministry, in 2008 Laura became a Kiva Fellow and worked with microfinance agencies in Uganda before returning to her native California. She preaches regularly throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and in her rare moments of spare time blogs at The Infusion and tweets @ldarling15. She also has a thing about obituaries.

What do you most love about the extraordinary honor of being a Celebrity Blogger (besides global adulation)?
You know, when you go out and the paparazzi are swarming and screaming, “What about Evelyn Underhill?” it can be hard. But you just have to stay grounded, you know? You just have to keep it real. I mean, all those swag bags full of relics they give you at the Golden Halo awards…you just have to remind yourself about what’s important in life. The little things, like the laughter of small children, the smell of a clean refrigerator. You know what I mean? I mean, if I were a pamphlet baron or something, I think it would be different, much harder. But it’s quite a simple life, being a Celebrity Blogger. I still watch House Hunters, like everyone else. I still clean out the litter box. It’s a quite ordinary life, aside from the miraculous healings.

What is the quirkiest thing you’ve learned about one of your saints and how does this inspire your faith?unnamed
Oh, Martha! Martha! I adore her so much. I love the legend of her going to France and either dispatching and/or holy-water-stunning a dragon, which I think is such a wonderful way of thinking about how we can deal with any significant problem we face. Which is to say, going to France is always an option. But there might be dragons there.

Downton Abbey or The Walking Dead and why?
Downton Abbey. Because I like to be able to sleep at night. But I did find this mashup called Downton Zombey that I thought was quite…something.

Besides Lent Madness, what do you most look forward to in the season of Lent?
Planting things.

SEC NOTE: We have no idea whether Laura has baptized that giant zucchini that she’s cradling like an infant. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

A How-To Guide for Lent Madness Voters

full mailboxAround this time of year, the Supreme Executive Inbox starts to fill with some version of “How do I play Lent Madness?” There are two options for answering this question. First, if you live in a pleasant place, such as Hawaii, the south of France, or a Caribbean resort, you can fly one or more members of the Supreme Executive Committee to your location for a personal tutorial. Second, if that sounds a bit extreme or if you can’t quite afford the purple limo demanded by the SEC, you can just watch this video.

Yes, friends, Maple Anglican has helpfully provided a lovely video to explain all the DOs and DON’Ts of Lent Madness, including how to vote. Spend four minutes now and enjoy forty days of unfettered voting fun.

Maple AnglicanSpeaking of Maple Anglican, the Supreme Executive Committee was saddened to learn that the Archbishops will not be providing regular color (or colour) commentary this year, due to Maple’s work demands. There may have also been some disputes with the Saints’ Actors Guild, but those are just rumors.

The SEC is very grateful for Maple’s many videos and for introducing the world to the delightful commentary of Archbishop John Chrysostom and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. We’ll miss their regular contribution this year, and we hope for more in the future. If you see the mysterious Maple Anglican (which seems unlikely, since he is mysterious), thank him for his devotion to the cause of Lent Madness.

Voting begins the day after Ash Wednesday on Thursday, February 19th — aka “Ash Thursday.” The first matchup of Lent Madness 2015 between Gregory the Illuminator and Brendan the Navigator will be posted at 8:00 a.m. EST. In other words, please don’t try to vote until then. It won’t work!

Celebrity Blogger Week: Nancy Frausto

As one of two Celebrity Bloggers hailing from California (give us a break, it’s a BIG state), Nancy Frausto has yet to rub the beautiful, warm sunshine in the face of the one member of the SEC who has been buried in snow the last couple of weeks. This shows either incredible self-restraint or a desire for one of our newest CBs to at least wait until Round One begins before rubbing ice melt into the wound.

The Rev. Nancy Frausto

The Rev. Nancy A. Frausto is THE ultimate Lent Madness fan girl . . . or so she says. After the defeat of Oscar Romero in 2013 and Moses the Black in 2014, Nancy has regained enough composure to accept the invitation of Celebrity Bloggerdom for 2015. While being neither a celebrity nor much of a blogger, the invitation came as a total surprise. Needless to say there was a ridiculous amount of “happy dancing” as she accepted the grand honor. Nancy is the Diocese of Los Angeles’ first Latina leader to pursue ordination after having grown up in a Spanish speaking Episcopal parish. She serves as Associate Priest at St. Mary’s Mariposa, Koreatown, and as Priest-in-Charge for Trinity Church, East Hollywood. An avid lover of scrappy churches, Nancy has discovered in her first year as a priest that Holy Hustlin’ (making money out of nothing to sustain your ministry) needs to be taught in seminary. When not Holy Hustlin’ you can find her singing her heart out to Patsy Cline at a Karaoke Bar or at comic book stores checking out the newest DC Comic.

What do you most love about the extraordinary honor of being a Celebrity Blogger (besides global adulation)?
I love that I might get the inside scoop on why Scott and Tim are each others’ archnemesis. Did George the dog or Mimi the ferret have anything to do with it? Is this a Professor X/Magneto relationship? Inquiring minds need to know!!

What is the quirkiest thing you’ve learned about one of your saints and how does this inspire your faith? unnamed
I loved finding out that Juan Diego would walk fifteen miles to attend mass every day! Talk about commitment and stamina!

Downton Abbey or the Walking Dead and why?
The Walking Dead all the way! Aside from the fact that we must be prepared for the unexpected, scavenging for supplies is not much different than scavenging for funds to support a “scrappy” church.

Besides Lent Madness, what do you most look forward to in the season of Lent?
I look forward to seeing how many of my Facebook friends will truly keep their word and not post, like, or even log on to social media for the whole season of Lent.

SEC Note: Did you know you can follow Scott’s dog on Twitter @GeorgeTDog? It’s true. Plus George has more followers than 95% of all bishops. According to Tim, Mimi the ferret will join Twitter when Hades freezes over.

Celebrity Blogger Week: David Creech

David Creech is not a Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger simply because he’s our token Lutheran. Really. It’s because he’s a real, live doctor. Whenever you’re watching the latest version of Monday Madness and you’re just so blown away by the high production values that you faint, someone will inevitably yell, “Is there a doctor in the house?” and Dr. Creech will make a house call. He will then rouse you with a dramatic reading of his PhD thesis. Voila! Problem solved.

Dr. David Creech

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.

What do you most love about the extraordinary honor of being a Celebrity Blogger (besides global adulation)?
I love most that I get to pretend for 40 short days that I actually still am a blogger. Yes, I occasionally write on a blog but with Lent Madness I actually, ontologically, become a blogger. Mind blown. I also enjoy all the friendships, and even the frenemies, that develop over the mutual love of these both flawed and special people we venerate. This year I am especially excited about renewing my fierce rivalry with Megan Castellan. Go Team Elizabeth Mother of John! (TEMJO for short.)

What is the quirkiest thing you’ve learned about one of your saints and how does this inspire your faith?unnamed
Barbara is quirky for even Lent Madness’ standards. I was fascinated at all the different stories that developed around her and that the hagiography, which was mostly late, led to questions about her sainthood. And yet she still finds herself on many lists. Somehow Barbara’s story resonates and gives meaning to people. Also, she is the patron saint of blowing sh*t up. What’s not to like?

Downton Abbey or The Walking Dead and why?
#TWD all the way. I study, write, and teach about dead people, what do you expect? More seriously, I appreciate the way in which the show asks questions about what it means to be human. It also offers a fascinating window into contemporary fears and values (y’all on Twitter should follow @kellyjbaker by the way). They also intentionally dabble in theology (sometimes wretchedly). Finally, Rick Grimes.

Besides Lent Madness, what do you most look forward to in the season of Lent?
I appreciate the time to reflect on my own humanity in all its messiness. Yet in the midst of the messiness we find God present and active, calling and empowering us to be the people of God. Lent reminds me of the wonder of the incarnation.