Peter vs. Paul

Lent Madness 2018 has officially begun! After months of soul-aching anticipation, “Ash Thursday” has arrived. Over the next (more or less) 40 days and 40 nights, you will have the opportunity to re-immortalize one of our 32 competing saints with the coveted Golden Halo.

Today we see two heavyweights facing off in the Apostolic Rumble. Will we rob Peter to pay Paul or will Paul get robbed to pay Peter? That, dear friends, is up to you and your single (we mean that and we have spies everywhere) vote.

If you’re new to Lent Madness, welcome! If you have any questions about how to participate, just let us know by leaving a comment. The Lent Madness community is both friendly and helpful, often answering questions before the Supreme Executive Committee arrives in their grand purple, if imaginary, chariot. You can view and/or print out the full bracket of saints by clicking here.

We urge you to take full part in the Madness. Leave comments here on the website. Read what others have to say. Enjoy the friendly rivalry and trash talk on social media. Do additional research. During the day, check in on the website often to see how each day’s contest is going. And above all, delight in seeing how each saint was a powerful witness of Jesus Christ.

Be sure to sign up for e-mail updates on our home page (upper right corner) so you never miss a vote, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and encourage your friends to jump into the fray.

We can assure you this will be a wild, joyful, educational, ocassionally gut-wrenching ride. We’re delighted to share this journey with you. Let the Madness begin!

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A time to hate evil and love good

Ash cross

Dear friends in Christ,

One day each year, we take a pause from the usual madness to be serious about Lent. On Ash Wednesday, all distractions fade away, and we are reminded of a simple fact: we are all dying, and this precious life of ours is a gift to be savored.

If you said morning prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer today, you might have noticed a little tidbit in Amos. “Hate evil and love good.” It’s easy to say, but it’s very hard to do. It’s not all that difficult to hate evil in other people, but hating evil in ourselves is never easy. And that’s the point of Lent. We confront our own failings, so that we might make room for God’s grace to create new hearts in us.

The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us we are not alone in our struggle to hate evil and to love good.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

It’s not that the saints are sitting in the Lent Dome and watching us all on the big screen. That’s not what Hebrews is talking about when it says they are witnesses. Rather, we are surrounded by a cloud of martyrs, women and men who witness to us by their deaths. We are preceded in our earthly pilgrimage by those who struggled, like us, to hate evil and love good. And they loved good more than evil, Jesus more than life.

We hope you make it to church today to hear the solemn reminder that life is short. The time to repent is now. And then we hope you enjoy this whole season of Lent, an opportunity to return to God, to make our hearts new. Lent Madness may be mad, but it also draws us together in community as we learn from those who hated evil and loved good.

Tomorrow the madness begins. Today, we give thanks that we have a redeemer in Jesus Christ. Today, we give thanks for boundless grace to help us learn to hate evil and love good.

Tim+     Scott+

Photo: U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Jenny Hyden, 20th Fighter Wing public affairs officer, stands with a cross of ashes on her forehead on Ash Wednesday at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 18, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham/Released


While the Celebrity Bloggers got an entire WEEK (actually two, but who’s counting?), the Supreme Executive Committee of Lent Madness gets but a day. And they have to begrudgingly share it. Nonetheless, this is the day that the SEC hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

What are the job requirements for serving in this capacity? This is shrouded in mystery. All we really know is that Tim and Scott are self-appointed and serve for life. And that they drink a lot of (black) coffee. This more-or-less benevolent dictatorship began in 2012 when Tim, who created Lent Madness two years earlier, partnered with Scott and the folks at Forward Movement. The rest is penitential history.

The SEC does take responsibility for ultimately choosing the 32 saints each year — though in an uncharacteristic display of democracy they do open up the floor to nominations during Easter season. They also stand as final judge and jury on all decisions and rulings related to Lent Madness, including but-not-limited-to issues of voter fraud, Monday Madness, Celebrity Bloggers, humor, comment moderation, and eligibility of saints.

When not collaborating on Lent Madness, Tim and Scott spend time bickering in online public forums, as each considers the other his archnemesis.

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Monday Madness — Game On Edition

This week’s Monday Madness focuses on the big news: after nail-biter, down-to-the-wire drama, the Supreme Executive Committee has announced that Lent will proceed, since the Lent Madness Facebook page achieved its goal of 20,000 likes, just in time for Ash Thursday. As you know, the threat of a Lent shutdown had been made, throwing the ash and pancake industries into turmoil. Tim and Scott discuss the averted shutdown, as well as previewing the opening contest in Lent Madness 2018. We finally find out if the voters will rob Peter to pay Paul or if they’ll rob Paul to pay Peter. Either way, someone’s getting robbed.

Now is the time you should be finishing up your bracket predictions and generally talking up Lent Madness. While it’s too late to get bracket posters, you can print out your own brackets by visiting the bracket tab of the Lent Madness website. And it’s too late to send you printed scorecards, but they’re still available for your Kindle, Nook, or iBook gizmos. If you see the SEC out and about, you can hand them your e-reader and a Sharpie, and they might autograph your gizmo.

Remember, the action all starts this Thursday at 8:00 Eastern time. The SEC suggests staying up all night on Lent Madness Eve and hitting refresh in your web browser, just in case some glitch results in an early start to the voting.

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Lent is Saved!

The Supreme Executive Committee of Lent Madness is pleased to announce that Lent 2018 will go on as previously scheduled. For the first time since Jesus himself entered the wilderness, this was not a foregone conclusion. If Lent Madness did not receive the required 20,000 likes on its Facebook page, a Lent shutdown would have gone into effect, sending the Lenten-Industrial Complex into meltdown mode and dashing the penitential hopes of billions of faithful Christians.

Thanks to the surge in Facebook likes over the past two weeks — over 2,000 — Lent will proceed as usual. While this news was greeted with euphoria all over the globe, not everyone was overjoyed with the news. “Rats! Now I actually have to write an Ash Wednesday sermon,” one priest stated on condition of anonymity. And reports have surfaced that the Hershey Corporation actively sought to suppress Lent by hacking into the Lent Madness website.

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We Love Lent!

Everybody knows we love Lent here at Lent Madness headquarters. What’s not to love about a season specifically set aside to grow your faith and get closer to Jesus? This year, however, the Lenten love feels a bit more…passionate. We’re not sure exactly why, but it may have to do with Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day.

This calendar mashup (first time since 1945) has us thinking about ways to share the Lenten love on February 14. Here are some suggestions:

1. Give your beloved some fancy chocolates that will be stale by the time they can finally be consumed after 40 days and 40 nights (you did give up chocolate for Lent this year, right?).

2. Put on sexy sack cloth — you just never know when the mood will be right for some penitential action.

3. Use ashes for mascara before heading out for that romantic dinner.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: David Sibley

The Rev. David Sibley

Celebrity Blogger Week concludes with wizened and wily Lent Madness veteran, David Sibley. David shepherded the beloved and prolific hymn writer Charles Wesley to the Golden Halo in 2014. Between that and his Chicago Cubs finally winning the World Series, we really don’t see why David doesn’t just retire from life, his goals achieved. Nonetheless, we’re glad he plods along and tends to his Lent Madness obligations out of his great charity.

The 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. David occasionally holds forth on Twitter at @davidsibley.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: David Hansen

The Rev. David Hansen

It’s not true that David Hansen was named a Celebrity Blogger because we are enamored with the fact that his church’s official name includes an exclamation point (Spirit of Joy! Lutheran Church). Nor is it true that we are considering changing the name of our little online devotion to Lent Madness! or even Lent! Madness. David was our very first Lutheran CB and we’re delighted he’s stuck with us. Tomorrow will mark the end of Celebrity Blogger Week as we are now less than a week away from Lent Madness! (see, another exclamation point).

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 YouthMinistry 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.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Amber Belldene

The Rev. Amber Belldene

As a romance writer and Episcopal priest, we really should just have Amber Belldene write the definitive Ash Wednesday/Valentine’s Day mash-up sermon and then preach it as our own next week. That would be plagiarism, however, and plagiarism is bad. So we won’t. But who wouldn’t want to be a vampire on the wall when Amber gets in the pulpit on February 14 this year? Okay, we’ve squeezed enough blood out of this topic. Go read about Amber. Better yet, go read her books.

In other news, Lent Madness 2018 has gone global with an article appearing in the Anglican Communion News Service.

The Rev. Amber Belldene is a romance writer and the alter ego of a book-loving Episcopal priest. 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 sexy Hot Under the Coller Series features Episcopal priest heroines finding love and learning to be inspiring church leaders. She loves cocktails, 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.comFollow her on Twitter @AmberBelldene or Facebook.

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Free Lent Madness News Release

Is your parish doing Lent Madness this year? Would you like to share this news with the wider community and gain some publicity for your church? We can help.

What you’ll find below is a news release you are welcome to modify for use in your own context. Want to throw in a quote from the person who’s most passionate about Lent Madness in your congregation? Or add a picture of your parish display? We can’t guarantee you’ll receive coverage from your local newspaper but here a hint: they’re generally desperate for content. And your church’s participation in a fun, unusual Lenten learning opportunity is news!

So get creative and if you receive any media coverage, we’d love to hear about it and share your results with the broader Lent Madness community.


Great feature topic — religious, fun, seasonal, informative

  • Lent Madness “saintly smackdown” kicks off February 15
  • Online devotion inspired by NCAA’s March Madness
  • Pits 32 saints in elimination match with daily voting
  • Led by two Episcopal priests
  • Fresh way for Christians to engage the world with humor and faith


For Immediate Release

Date:               February 8, 2018
Contact:         The Rev. Tim Schenck
The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn

High Resolution graphics supplied on request

Local churches available for interviews in many media markets

Which Saint Will Win the Golden Halo?
Lent Madness kicks off February 15

For the ninth year running, people worldwide are gearing up for Lent Madness, the “saintly smackdown” in which thirty-two saints do battle to win the coveted Golden Halo. Calling itself the world’s most popular online Lenten devotion, Lent Madness brings together cut-throat competition, the lives of the saints, humor, and the chance to see how God works in the lives of women and men across all walks of life.

The creator of Lent Madness, the Rev. Tim Schenck, sees much timeliness in this year’s edition. “During a time of great division and stress in our country, people are actively seeking role models who exemplify hope in a broken world.” Schenck, who is rector of St. John’s Church in Hingham, Massachusetts, continues, “The saints aren’t just distant figures trapped in stained glass windows. They were real people God used in inspiring ways, often during difficult times in human history. These are stories we need now more than ever.”

Lent Madness began on Schenck’s blog in 2010 as he sought a way to combine his love of sports with his passion for the lives of saints. Starting in 2012, he partnered with Forward Movement, an official ministry of the Episcopal Church, to bring Lent Madness to the masses.

The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, Schenck’s Lent Madness co-conspirator, says, “As we see the ways Christ’s love burns brightly in a great variety of women and men, we see the possibility that Christ’s love can burn brightly in our own hearts.” Gunn, who is executive director of Forward Movement in Cincinnati, Ohio, adds, “It’s fun to build a competition around saints in all their diversity, but what they hold in common is a fierce determination to follow Jesus. There are no saints of the status quo.”

Schenck and Gunn believe the world needs hopeful, forward-looking, inspirational role models now more than ever, and the saints of the church provide that. As a way of poking fun at church hierarchies and committees, they form the self-appointed Supreme Executive Committee, a more-or-less benevolent dictatorship that runs the entire operation.

Here’s how it works: on the weekdays of Lent, information is posted at about two different saints. Each pairing remains open for 24 hours as participants read about and then vote to determine which saint moves on to the next round. Sixteen saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the Golden Halo.

The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch.

This year Lent Madness features an intriguing slate of saints ancient and modern, Biblical and ecclesiastical. 2018 heavyweights include John the Evangelist, Margaret of Scotland, John Wesley, Katharina von Bora, and the apostles Peter and Paul.

This all kicks off on “Ash Thursday,” February 15. To participate, the public can visit the Lent Madness website, where participants can also print out a bracket for free to see how they fare or “compete” against friends and family members. Like that other March tournament, there will be drama and intrigue, upsets and thrashings, last-minute victories and Cinderellas. Unlike professional and collegiate sporting events, there is no admission cost for Lent Madness, but souvenirs and study aids are available in the “Lentorium” section of the Lent Madness website.

Eleven “celebrity bloggers” from across the country have been tapped to write for the project: the Rev. Amber Belldene of San Francisco, CA; the Rev. Laurie Brock of Lexington, KY; Anna Fitch Courie of Ft. Leavenworth, KS; Dr. David Creech of Moorhead, MN; the Rev. Megan Castellan of Kansas City, MO; Neva Rae Fox of Somerville, NJ; the Rev. David Hansen of Woodlands, TX; Marcus Halley of Minneapolis, MN; Carol Howard Merrit of Cincinnati, OH; Emily McFarlan Miller of Chicago, IL; and the Rev. David Sibley of Manhasset, NY. Information about each of the celebrity bloggers and the rest of the team is available on the Lent Madness website.

This year’s Golden Halo winner will join illustrious company. Previous winners were George Herbert, 17th century English poet, 2010; C. S. Lewis, 20th century British writer and theologian, 2011; Mary Magdalene, disciple of Jesus, 2012; Frances Perkins, 20th century American public servant, 2013; Charles Wesley, 18th century English preacher and hymn writer, 2014; Francis of Assisi, 13th century monastic and advocate for the poor, 2015; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 20th century German theologian and activist who was killed by the Nazis, 2016; and Florence Nightingale, 19th century nurse and social reformer, 2017.

People looking for a Lenten discipline that is fun, educational, occasionally goofy, and always joyful, are invited to join in the Lent Madness journey.

Lent Madness is sponsored by Forward Movement, whose mission is to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. With offices in Cincinnati since 1935, Forward Movement is an official ministry of the Episcopal Church producing resources to support Christians in their daily lives. Learn more at