Celebrity Blogger Week: Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller

When you’re a well-known religion reporter you get nagged to write about Lent Madness on a yearly basis. It’s just one of the hazards of the job. Emily McFarlan Miller is a first-time Celebrity Blogger and religion reporter who finally succumbed to the age-old maxim, “If you can’t get them to stop nagging you, join them.” We’re delighted to have her on board.

In other news, you can catch Tim discussing all things Lent Madness on Matthew Brough’s Spirituality for Ordinary People Podcast. Matthew is a Canadian Presbyterian pastor and podcaster which is a niche market we’re going after HARD this Lent. Tim even deigns to mention Scott in the podcast, though it takes him 23 minutes and 10 seconds to do so.

Emily McFarlan Miller is inundated every Lent with messages from friends asking if she’s heard of this Lent Madness thing because they know how she feels about the saints. Emily is a national reporter for the Religion News Service, where she covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity. In 2017, she wrote an article about Lent Madness, and the rest is history. When she’s not writing for or about Lent Madness, she’s working toward a master’s in intercultural studies from the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies and Portland Seminary, volunteering for Hope for the First Nations and leading a women’s small group at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Chicago. In addition to the stories of the saints, she loves books, vinyl, reruns of The X-Files and working with her husband Joel on their fixer-upper. Find Emily on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as emmillerwrites.

Read more »

Celebrity Blogger Week: Megan Castellan

The Rev. Megan Castellan

Another day, another Lent Madness veteran. Megan Castellan has been a Celebrity Blogger for a long time. So long that she helped Brigid of Kildare become the first ever Silver Halo Winner (the Supreme Executive Committee occasionally awards the second place finisher with official laurels — based on their whim). But enough about the space and time continuum. Megan will be spending Lent in some sort of time machine/cosmic transporter as she moves between calls this Lent (read her bio below for the skinny).

The Rev. Megan Castellan, Distinguished Celebrity Blogger, is really living into the Lenten thing this year. She starts Lent as the Assistant Rector of St. Paul’s, Kansas City, MO and Diocesan Network Coordinator for Youth, and ends it as the Rector of  St. John’s, Ithaca, New York. 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 Episcopal Café, Fidelia’s Sisters, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, or The (late, lamented) Toast. 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.

1. If you could have dinner with any saint, who would it be and what would you serve? (and, duh, why?)
I get very intimidated by people I admire, so this is a hard one. Were I to have dinner with any saint, I would probably just stare quietly at my plate in abashed silence. That being said, I would love to have a long conversation with Sojourner Truth. She has one of the most fascinating life stories of all time, and saw so much happen. She won a case in federal court, became a renowned public speaker, fought off a murder charge (google it!), and she took on the forces of slavery, racism, and sexism. So much of what she said in her speeches rings true even today, so I’d love to get her take on current affairs.

2. What hymn would you pay money never to hear again? And which hymn are you convinced is on the play list in heaven?
The First Noel needs to be burned in effigy. I don’t care how classic and English it is; it sounds like a bunch of tipsy sailors recounting the Christmas narrative while lost on the ocean.

I will, however, put in a plug for the Calvin Hampton version of There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy, which fits the text much better than the overly-cheery march it usually goes with. And They Cast Their Nets in Galilee is also a favorite, though admittedly also pretty somber.

3. You’re busy during Lent. Why do you make time for the Saintly Smackdown? What do you get out of it personally?
Researching the saints each year and telling their stories has become my own Lenten devotion. It never fails, but I discover a story or two that stay with me for the next year. The other gift of Lent Madness for me is watching how people react to the stories of the saints. It is truly unpredictable and chaotic, but I love each day as people share what they found inspirational about a given saint. It’s lovely to be in a space that remains joyous, compassionate, and witty.

Monday Madness — February 5, 2018

Here at Lent Madness we’re not unduly bound by tradition. Or at least not as much as certain stuffier circles of the church. Oh, who are we kidding? We hate change. Nonetheless, we are introducing something radical as this week’s episode of Monday Madness brings all-new theme music and opening title design! Watch and behold.

Today is also the last day you can place Lentorium orders and know that you’ll get your items in the USA with standard shipping by the start of Lent Madness (February 15). So the SEC urges you to stock up on Saintly Scorecards (single, bulk, or Kindle) and Giant Bracket Posters. In fact, why not head over to the Lentorium for all your Lenten needs? If you’re unsure about shipping times or if you want to remember what it’s like to talk with friendly customer service folks, give Forward Movement a call at 800-543-1813 during business hours to order.

Have you followed Lent Madness on Twitter? Have you liked Lent Madness on Facebook? Remember, if we don’t get to 20,000 likes on Facebook, a Lent Shutdown is almost certain. Tell everyone you know to like Lent Madness on Facebook. We are getting very close to the goal, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid renting a blimp in your city to tell everyone about the page!

Lastly, if you’re looking for something for Lent besides Lent Madness, check out this year’s Lenten book from Forward Movement (Are We There Yet?), or buy Tim’s Lent/Easter book, or shop around for Lenten resources at Forward Movement. Or just send Scott or Tim a $20 bill and they’ll email some stuff they printed out about Lent. Hey, it might be good. You just never know.

Read more »

Celebrity Blogger Week: Laurie Brock

The Rev. Laurie Brock

Laurie Brock, an Alabama football fan still basking in the warm glow of yet another National Championship, has been a Celebrity Blogger for so long that we’ve lost count of when she started. We do recall that she shepherded Francis of Assisi to the Golden Halo in 2015. More importantly, she is the owner of Nina, the Official Horse of Lent Madness. This proves two things: 1) Laurie is an accomplished horse rider and 2) we will give fancy titles to anything that neighs.

The Rev. Laurie Brock, Distinguished Celebrity Blogger, is a returning Celebrity Blogger because…well, let’s be honest, who WOULDN’T want this gig? She serves as the rector of St. Michael the Archangel Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky. She blogs at www.revlauriebrock.com, and her new book, Horses Speak of God, is available in April of this year. 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 @revlaurieinlex. When she’s not doing priest things, she is riding her horse Nina, the Official Horse of Lent Madness.

Read more »

Celebrity Blogger Week: Carol Howard Merritt

The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt

Carol Howard Merritt is a first-time Celebrity Blogger AND our first ever Presbyterian contributor! Yes, it’s a slippery slope and the next thing you know, John Calvin will end up in the bracket. But we’re delighted Carol is aboard and we know you’ll enjoy getting to know her. With over 10,000 followers on Twitter she also has the rest of us beat — like pushing “actual” celebrity. Her official Lent Madness bio evokes the brevity of Hemingway so you may want to poke around her website a bit.

The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt (@CarolHoward) is a Presbyterian (USA) pastor and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with A Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church (HarperOne). She is a regular writer at the Christian Century where her blog is hosted. Visit: http://www.carolhowardmerritt.org/ or find Carol on Twitter @CarolHoward.

Read more »

Celebrity Blogger Week: Maria Virginia Ross

Wow. All this saint stuff sure makes us hungry. Fortunately we have a Celebrity Chef on staff to assist with all your culinary needs. Maria Virginia Ross typically shares a recipe — and some saintly insights — on the Saturdays of Lent. You can find her posts on our Facebook page (you HAVE liked the Lent Madness Facebook page, right?). If you pray really hard, perhaps Maria will deliver the savory delight in question to your doorstep. If your prayers are less effective, you may have to actually follow the recipe and make it yourself. Either way, we’re pleased to offer this bonus saintly service to the Lent Madness public.

Maria Virginia Ross

Maria Virginia Ross, Lent Madness Celebrity Chef, shares saintly recipes on our Facebook and Twitter pages on the weekends during Lent to help stave off the inevitable Lent Madness Withdrawal. A member of the laity, she attends Church of the Servant Episcopal in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she serves on the Wilmington Faiths Against Gun Violence Team. She also serves on the Blessed Bakers Team taking turns baking Communion Bread for Sunday services and cookies for inner-city youth programs. Maria blogs about Jesus, saints, angels, spiritual journeys, recovery, and food at Saints and Recipes. She’s a retired full-time mom, amateur photographer, beach meanderer, mountain hiker, intuitive empath, hippie, Whovian, and creator of the Bohemian Writers Coffee Club. Maria is writing a book about the Saints. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

1. If you could have dinner with any saint, who would it be and what would you serve? (and, duh, why?)
St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of my birthday and crazy courage. I would serve him whatever I was having for dinner because St. Francis didn’t care about food. He either fasted or ate with great appreciation whatever feast was placed in front of him. Like a Bohemian, he was all craft first. And, while he had many talents, including writing, his craft was following the Way of Jesus Christ at all times and in every situation. For dessert, I would only ever serve him Honey Almond Cookies because those were his favorite, and he’s mine.

2. What hymn would you pay money never to hear again? And which hymn are you convinced is on the play list in heaven?
I can’t remember the names of all those boring, in-one-ear-out-the-other hymns. My favorite hymn is “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light,” by Kathleen Thomerson, Episcopal Hymn 490 After not attending church during my teens and early twenties, I visited an Episcopal church, we sang this song, and that was it. I was in.

3. You’re busy during Lent. Why do you make time for the Saintly Smackdown? What do you get out of it personally? 

  • It’s fun.
  • It’s funny.
  • I’m introduced to Holy People I barely, or never, knew existed. Many times this leads me to deeper research and writing for Saints and Recipes.
  • Connections are made.
  • Miracles happen.

Celebrity Blogger Week: Adam Thomas

The Rev. Adam Thomas

Adam Thomas has been with the Lent Madness team ever since he had the misfortune of serving as the assistant priest in Cohasset, Massachusetts. This wouldn’t have been a bad thing — in fact it’s a lovely town — except that Tim was rector of the church in the next town. Suddenly Adam found himself in the penitential vortex and the rest is history. After serving as a Celebrity Blogger in 2012, Adam “retired” and got kicked upstairs to become the Bracket Czar. In this role he  designed the bracket itself for many years and updates it every morning during Lent. It’s an unsung but vital role and we’re all grateful.

The Rev. Adam Thomas, Distinguished Lent Madness Bracket Czar, had one stint as a celebrity blogger before going backstage at Lent Madness as keeper of the bracket and writer of pithy headlines on the bracket page. This Lent is his fifth as rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mystic, Connecticut. Adamis the author of Digital Disciple: Real Christianity in the Virtual World (Abingdon 2011), the novel Letters from Ruby (2013), and a video Bible study series Unusual Gospel for Unusual People (2014). Now he writes fantasy novels in his limited spare time, or designs board games, or plans for his next session of Dungeons and DragonsAdam lives in Mystic, Connecticut with his wife Leah and their beautiful and precocious twins. Check out his website WheretheWind.com, for nearly ten years of content. You can fan Adam on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @RevAdamThomas.

Read more »

Lent Madness Bulletin Inserts!

Some people think of the Supreme Executive Committee as penitence potentates, looking to gain whatever advantage can be gained from the season of Lent. But that’s not the only side of the SEC. They also enjoy bestowing gifts upon the Lent Madness faithful. Thus it is, if you are looking to share the Lent Madness love with your entire congregation, the SEC has a gift for you. For the first time ever, we offer you Bulletin Inserts!

We don’t think anyone needs instructions, but here’s how bulletin inserts work: print them and insert them into your church bulletins. Hence the name.

We guess if you wanted to be subversive about it, you could print a bunch and stick them in:

a) The bulletins of other churches.

b) The Playbill when you finally score tickets to Hamilton.

c) The hidden stash of Super Bowl programs currently sitting in a Minneapolis warehouse.

d) Your neighbors’ newspapers.

If nothing else, you will be providing a service to your fellow parishioners who are likely desperate to do something (anything!) other than pay attention to the sermon.

Download the insert right now, fire up your printer, and get ready to shake up your Sunday morning.

Celebrity Blogger Week: Marcus Halley

The Rev. Marcus Halley

Finally! A newly-minted Celebrity Blogger to introduce. We’re excited to add Marcus Halley to the Lent Madness team this year. Sure, Minnesota is now over-represented (cough…David Creech…cough) but can you really ever have too much tuna fish casserole?

In other news, for your pre-Lenten reading pleasure, here’s a rare, behind-the-scenes Q & A with Lent Madness creator Tim Schenck. Among other tidbits, learn which Celebrity Bloggers cause him to lose sleep with their loosely held definition of “deadline.”

The Rev. Marcus Halley is an Episcopal priest and rector of Saint Paul’s Church on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A native North Carolinian, Marcus previously served as Pastor for Young Adults and Families at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri in the Diocese of West Missouri. He is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, NC), the Interdenominational Theological Center (Atlanta, GA), and the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee, TN.)  Prior to ordination as an Episcopal priest, Fr. Marcus served as a pastoral resident at Emory University Hospital – Midtown in Atlanta, Georgia. This is his first year as a Celebrity Blogger.

Read more »

Celebrity Blogger Week: Neva Rae Fox

Neva Rae Fox

We’re excited that returning Celebrity Blogger Neva Rae Fox agreed to answer our questions despite the fact that it’s Super Bowl Week. You may not know this, but Neva is a HUGE Philadelphia Eagles fan. We’re not sure if she was one of those Philly fans who once famously booed Santa Claus but at least St. Nicholas isn’t in this year’s bracket.

Oh, and for those of you rabid football fans considering blowing off church on Super Bowl Sunday, consider this. We don’t THINK God cares about the outcome of football games. I mean, presumably God has bigger fish to fry. But do you really want to take that chance?

Neva Rae Fox cannot fully express how excited she is to return to the Lent Madness crew for a fourth year, remaining the only Jersey Girl among the celebrity bloggers. Since last year’s Lent Madness season, she has ticked off a few more items on her bucket list, most notably: visiting Hawaii (thereby marking 48 off her quest of visiting all 50 states!); three more MLB parks to her current total of 16; and enjoying four exciting operas that she had never seen before. She is the Public Affairs Officer for the Episcopal Church and looks forward to seeing thousands of Episcopalian friends at our upcoming family reunion known as General Convention – stop by the media room and say Hi! Neva Rae remains active in her Diocese of NJ church as well as local, regional and national organizations and groups – some you may have heard of, and some you probably haven’t. Neva Rae is excited about the 2018 season of learning, fun and frivolity known as Lent Madness and, of course, to another mug for her collection!

Read more »