Nicholas Ferrar vs. Harriet Tubman

A day after the biggest whuppin’ of Lent Madness 2013, we meet two more fascinating figures on our continuing journey toward the Golden Halo. At first glance, Nicholas Ferrar, an early 17th-century Englishman, and Harriet Tubman, a 19th-century African-American born into slavery, seemingly have nothing in common. But of course, that’s the thing about Lent Madness — even the most disparate saints all have Jesus Christ at the center of their lives.

Yesterday, poor Chad of Lichfield was left hanging as Florence Li-Tim Oi trounced him 84% to 16%. The wide margin was pretty consistent throughout the day as those who obsessively check the results every ten minutes know.

In other news, the Supreme Executive Committee released a statement condemning an attempt to co-opt the bracket format to elect the next pope. They will, however, be forming a bracket to elect the next Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Because that’s different.

imagesNicholas Ferrar

Nicholas Ferrar (1592-1637) was born to a wealthy English family during the reign of Elizabeth I. Educated at Cambridge, he traveled abroad because of ill health after his studies ended. His travels were not serene — an encounter with a sliding donkey almost sent him over a German precipice, and his ship to Spain was chased by pirates. Returning home, he was called to assist his family in saving The Virginia Company, which had fallen upon hard times. He was elected to Parliament, but his efforts to save the company failed and it lost its charter.

At that point, Nicholas and his family determined to renounce worldliness and commit themselves to a life of prayer and godly living. About thirty of the family joined him at Little Gidding where he founded and led a unique religious community — an experiment in Christian living that was neither cult nor cloister.

Ferrar was ordained a deacon by Archbishop Laud in 1626 so that he could lead the community in worship (although he never considered the priesthood). His mother restored the church of St. John the Evangelist (abandoned during the 14th-century outbreak of the Black Death) before restoring the manor house for the family’s use.

Once settled, the community was committed to constant prayer (members took turns praying at the altar to obey the command to pray without ceasing) and they recited the entire Psalter every day in addition to praying all the offices from the Book of Common Prayer.

They also fasted and offered alms to relieve the poor, worked in the community to educate and look after the health of the local children, and also wrote books on the Christian faith. Some of the community members learned bookbinding; one of their books, a commission of a Gospel harmony by King Charles I, now resides in the British Library.

Ferrar was a college friend of George Herbert and upon his deathbed, Herbert sent the manuscript of his book of poems The Temple to Nicholas, asking him to determine whether it was worthy to be published, and if not, to burn it. Ferrar published The Temple in 1633.

Ferrar died in 1637 and is buried in front of the church door of St John the Evangelist at Little Gidding. The community was later broken up by Puritans, who called it an “Arminian Nunnery” and threw the brass font into the pond. The font was rescued and returned to the church 200 years later.

Collect for Nicholas Ferrar
Lord God, make us so reflect your perfect love; that, with your Deacon Nicholas Ferrar and his household, we may rule ourselves according to your Word, and serve you with our whole heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Penny Nash

Harriet_Tubman_croppedHarriet Tubman

The early details of Harriet Tubman’s life are fuzzy. So far as anyone can tell, and as far as she could later remember, she was born somewhere around 1822 on a plantation in Dorchester County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She was named Araminta Harriet Ross, and she grew up enslaved, working as a field hand.

During this time, while she was still in her early teens, she got into an altercation with an overseer, who was trying to catch a fleeing slave. She jumped in front of the escaping man, and in the melee, the overseer hurled an iron at her head. Harriet lay unconscious for several days, without treatment, and as a result, she suffered headaches, blackouts, sleeping spells, and hallucinations for the rest of her life.

For anyone else, this would have been a crippling setback, but for Harriet, the hallucinations were visions sent from God. They warned her of approaching danger, and assured her of God’s love and care for her and her people. In 1849, she escaped her captivity, and headed north to New York and freedom.

Almost immediately, she turned around, and came back to bring her family out as well. When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, making it unsafe for former slaves even in the northern states, Harriet was undeterred, and just ferried everyone on up to Ontario without skipping a beat. She earned the nickname “Moses” among the slaves, and the signal for her approach on the Underground Railroad was the song “Go Down, Moses.” (Meanwhile, advertisements were still being posted for her capture, with her former owner describing her as barely 5 feet tall, ‘very pretty,’ and calling her ‘Minty’).

When the war came, Harriet signed up. She became a cook and a nurse for the Union army, then when that proved unsatisfying, a spy and a soldier, leading Union troops onto Southern plantations to free the slaves, and lead them in revolt. (She did all this without being paid at all — being black and a woman was not a recipe for getting paid by the US government at the time). After the war, she went back to her home in New York, where she became active in the struggle for women’s suffrage. She helped write a book about her life, which ameliorated her financial situation somewhat. However, being Harriet Tubman, she immediately turned around and donated her financial holdings to the local AME Zion church and demanded that they open a home for the aged and infirm.

To the beginning of her life, through the end, Harriet lived by one rule — so that no one else would have to suffer as she had.

Collect for Harriet Tubman (and some other people)
O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth, and makes us free; strengthen and sustain us as you did your servant/s [Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, and] Harriet.  Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Megan Castellan


Nicholas Ferrar vs. Harriet Tubman

  • Harriet Tubman (80%, 3,092 Votes)
  • Nicholas Ferrar (20%, 794 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,881

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118 Comments to "Nicholas Ferrar vs. Harriet Tubman"

  1. February 27, 2013 - 8:05 am | Permalink

    Just in case anyone missed the Archbishop’s update video here it is:

    • Thomas's Gravatar Thomas
      February 27, 2013 - 6:32 pm | Permalink

      “Nicholas Ferrar (1592-1637) was born to a wealthy English family during the reign of Elizabeth I.”

      Okay, that’s a a factual statement, but leading with that description reads, “Ferrar was a rich, comfortable Anglo who served the church.” That introduction was excellent…for the Tubman contingent.

      I’ve always been intrigued with Little Gidding, and if you undertake additional research to understand that community, you might end up siding with the venerable deacon.

    • Louise's Gravatar Louise
      February 28, 2013 - 12:03 am | Permalink

      Tubman for me! God bless her for her sustained courage and love.

  2. Rev. John's Gravatar Rev. John
    February 27, 2013 - 8:22 am | Permalink

    Had to go with Farrar on this one. As much as I respect and honor Harriet Tubman, the setting aside of all worldliness and embracing a life of simplicty just resound with me.

    • Maggie Zeller's Gravatar Maggie Zeller
      February 27, 2013 - 8:59 am | Permalink

      Farrar, however, had the good fortune to have the finances necessary to embrace a life of simplicity. Being born into a life of forced “simplicity,” escaping and leading others to safety is a lot harder.

  3. Millie Ericson's Gravatar Millie Ericson
    February 27, 2013 - 8:24 am | Permalink

    Yesterday and today have been easy choices for me. Two women, in two different centuries, enduring unspeakable suffering with great courage, grace, faith and service, both lighting the way for us all!

    • CJ Freels's Gravatar CJ Freels
      February 27, 2013 - 10:37 am | Permalink

      I agree, great courage and much faith…..

  4. Hary Moncelle's Gravatar Hary Moncelle
    February 27, 2013 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    Harriet Tubman continues to show us the way to a better life, not a hard choice for me…Go Harriet!!!

  5. February 27, 2013 - 8:41 am | Permalink

    Tempted to go with Tubman for her extraordinary courage, faithfulness, and bravery. But have to end up voting for Ferrar. As a devotee and teacher of the Daily Office, those who kept it alive lo these many centuries are a certain kind of hero to me. Perhaps not as sexy a hero as Harriet Tubman, but a quieter type. Plus, anyone who was ordained by Archbishop Laud (another hero of the faith for me) and overturned in the end by Puritans gets my vote. Go Nicholas!

  6. February 27, 2013 - 8:48 am | Permalink

    Does “reciting the entire Psalter” mean they were reciting the entire Book of Psalms every day? If so, how long would this take?

    • February 27, 2013 - 9:05 am | Permalink

      Yes that’s what it means — I’m sure the amount of time would depend on the speed of recitation.

      • Susan's Gravatar Susan
        February 27, 2013 - 9:09 am | Permalink

        If someone is in the chapel all day praying, you have 24 hours for 150 psalms. That could be pretty slow.

    • February 27, 2013 - 9:24 am | Permalink

      I’ve kept this Night Watch of reading through the entire Psalter several times. It takes about four hours. Often Ferrar’s family took it in turns to read.

  7. Patricia Nakamura's Gravatar Patricia Nakamura
    February 27, 2013 - 8:53 am | Permalink

    When and how did Harriet become Tubman rather than Ross?

    • Peggy's Gravatar Peggy
      February 27, 2013 - 9:16 am | Permalink

      From Wikipedia – “Around 1844, she married a free black man named John Tubman. Although little is known about him or their time together, the union was complicated because of her slave status.”

      • February 27, 2013 - 4:30 pm | Permalink

        Peggy is right on the money. Also, evidently one of her trips on the Railroad was to bring John to Canada, but he elected to stay behind in Maryland with the freed woman he had married after Harriet had departed. She later married another guy in Auburn, NY.
        Someone needs to make this movie.

  8. Russ's Gravatar Russ
    February 27, 2013 - 8:54 am | Permalink

    Not so hard to renounce worldliness when your company has gone out of business, gotta go for Harriet.
    Sorry Nick…..

    • Melanie Barbarito's Gravatar Melanie Barbarito
      February 27, 2013 - 12:51 pm | Permalink

      The company did not go out of business until after Nicholas’ death, I believe. Your email sounded a bit snarky. The Ferrer family was often at risk for their lives simply because they regularly used the Book of Common Prayer.

  9. Barb's Gravatar Barb
    February 27, 2013 - 8:54 am | Permalink

    It’s always easier to do things when you have money and a higher station in life like Nicholas but to accomplish what Harriet did as a poor, black, slave is unbelievable. Her faith and commitment helped so many survive.

  10. John Clemens's Gravatar John Clemens
    February 27, 2013 - 8:55 am | Permalink

    Can’t help but wonder what would have become of the Farrar family if the Virginia company had been saved.

  11. Marguerite's Gravatar Marguerite
    February 27, 2013 - 8:57 am | Permalink

    Me, too, Rev John. Tubman is the dictionary definition of courage, but Ferrar’s renunciation of worldly goods speaks to me in this age of over consumption. Plus, he’s Geroge Herbert’s publisher.

  12. Aleathia (Dolores) Nicholson's Gravatar Aleathia (Dolores) Nicholson
    February 27, 2013 - 8:57 am | Permalink

    My paternal grandfather was an AMEZ minister and as an infant, I was christened in the AMEZ church. My mother was confirmed in 1940 and I was in the Episcopal Church then and forever..confirmed in 1950 and ordained to the Vocational Diaconate in 1989. Tubman was truly Moses and insured the freedom of countless numbers of slaves plus being a scout,nurse, and healer and Zion supporter in Albany NY. She suffered and turned it into salvation for the oppressed. Poor Nicholas may not survive this onslaught and I do hope he can at least break 1,000….but who knows? Ah! THE SHADOW KNOWS! Time for caffeine, fer sher!!! Good AM, Jane Papa..etc..etc..etc!

  13. February 27, 2013 - 8:58 am | Permalink

    This one was easy: Ferrar.

  14. Jenny Brake's Gravatar Jenny Brake
    February 27, 2013 - 9:10 am | Permalink

    It was Tubman for me but Little Gidding is a beautiful and holy place. I was there while on a pilgrimage.

  15. Robert Hart's Gravatar Robert Hart
    February 27, 2013 - 9:11 am | Permalink

    Celebrated my first Eucharist at Little Gidding on Nicholas Ferrar’s own altar, June 26, 1972. I have to vote for Nicholas.

  16. Deacon Karen's Gravatar Deacon Karen
    February 27, 2013 - 9:11 am | Permalink

    Hmmm, WWJD? Pray? Of Course, for a time. Risk life and limb to set the captives free? Without a doubt. Harriett gets my vote.

  17. February 27, 2013 - 9:13 am | Permalink

    As a deacon committed to making the the Daily Offices accessible, I’ve got to go with Nicholas Ferrar and the Little Gidding community all the way.

    The connection with George Herbert — “Seven whole days, not one in seven / I will praise thee” — seals the deal.

  18. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    February 27, 2013 - 9:14 am | Permalink

    I should be professionally committed to the 17th century, but I’ve always found Ferrar and the Little Gidding crowd a bit precious. There is much to admire, but they didn’t renounce their wealth, they lived off it. Still a toss up here.

    • Amy's Gravatar Amy
      February 27, 2013 - 10:24 am | Permalink

      But they did lose all their wealth — the family did. Fortunately their mother held on to her own inheritance and had just enough to buy a crumbling old manor that had been abandoned for 100 years. They worked hard to provide a living not only for themselves but to educate and take care of the community. They had an entire wing of the house set aside to assist widows of the community who had nothing else to live on.

  19. Carol Sullivan's Gravatar Carol Sullivan
    February 27, 2013 - 9:14 am | Permalink

    Having lived on MDs Eastern Shore for nearly 2/3 of my life, I have a natural bias towards Harriet. When the world was unkind to Ferrar, he retreated from it. When the world was unkind to Harriet, she fought back with tooth and claw in the service of others. While thinking and praying are to be admired, I am voting for the doer!

    • Harlie Youngblood's Gravatar Harlie Youngblood
      February 27, 2013 - 11:08 am | Permalink

      Caring for widows, children, and the poor is not retreating from the world.
      I, too, am voting for the doer: Nicholas Ferrar.

  20. February 27, 2013 - 9:15 am | Permalink

    My initial instinct was to vote for the exceedingly brave Harriet Tubman, especially for the sake of my bracket as I think she’ll win handily. In the end, I opted for Nicholas. His life of prayer and godly living was done within vibrant community while reaching out to others in need. Even if it came after some economic failure, it can be a tough choice and at least he did it. Others facing failures did not. Such a life isn’t always as easy as it sounds, and it could prove an exceedingly valuable witness within our day. So, win or lose, my vote was for Nicholas today.

  21. Jennifer Edwards's Gravatar Jennifer Edwards
    February 27, 2013 - 9:21 am | Permalink

    While giving up worldly goods is commendable, risking your life countless times to save others wins hands down. Harriet Tubman’s courage and strength were marks of greatness.

  22. St Patti's Gravatar St Patti
    February 27, 2013 - 9:23 am | Permalink

    Harriet’s extraordinary strength, courage, & action in the face of being property, rather than human…Wow…demonstrates what I believe God calls us to…& I admit I don’t yet have that kind of courage! Ferrar was devout & dedicated, but Tubman’s willingness to defy her oppressors to save others’ lives trumps.

  23. February 27, 2013 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    I’m going against the tide in this totally unfair match-up. I’m voting for Nicholas Ferrar, whose life is one of those that underpins my own journey.

  24. Beth's Gravatar Beth
    February 27, 2013 - 9:26 am | Permalink

    Harriet. Slavery, poverty, giving back.

  25. February 27, 2013 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    A once-enslaved Moses, our Harriet,
    though hunted and bruised, wouldn’t tarry yet.
    From the South to Ontario
    her people she’d ferry-o.
    And as for today: may she carry it!

  26. Nancy's Gravatar Nancy
    February 27, 2013 - 9:33 am | Permalink

    A sliding donkey makes me think of my own terror in the Grand Canyon on a mule. “Trust your mule,” the cowboy kept saying. So my vote’s for Nick despite what sounds like OCD devotion to the psalter.

    • Margret's Gravatar Margret
      February 27, 2013 - 11:15 pm | Permalink

      I agree! The fact that someone who both slid off a mountain and was chased by pirates followed by obsessive psalter reading is included in our role models for Anglican living is frankly awesome. Speaks to our wackiness.

      And, it’s just a rough road being up against Harriet Tubman for saint of the year.

  27. Laurie Atwater's Gravatar Laurie Atwater
    February 27, 2013 - 9:34 am | Permalink

    I’ve always been a great admirer of Harriet Tubman, and lived near an Underground Railroad house growing up. But Ferrar’s dedication in creating a community as he did gets my vote. And, win or lose (and probably lose), in the words of fellow “bracketee” T.S. Eliot in his “Little Gidding” —
    “Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
    We have taken from the defeated
    What they had to leave us—a symbol:
    A symbol perfected in death.
    And all shall be well and
    All manner of thing shall be well
    By the purification of the motive
    In the ground of our beseeching.”
    (Nice nod here to Dame Julian as well…)

  28. February 27, 2013 - 9:39 am | Permalink

    I’m daily feeling more and more conflicted about trying to judge between two people way more qualified to judge than I. I tell myself it’s a game, and all in purpose of learning about great saints – and so it is. Still, many comments trouble me – as if one of these were somehow more qualified to ‘advance’ than the other. My way around these scruples is to try to use the measure the two saints would use. I feel certain the humble deacon Ferrar would’ve insisted I vote for Harriet; and I believe Harriet would’ve considered a vote for her to be, in actuality, a vote for the God who empowered her to set captives free and lift up the oppressed.

    • Harlie Youngblood's Gravatar Harlie Youngblood
      February 28, 2013 - 12:33 am | Permalink

      I voted for Nicholas, but I found your reasoning to be very sensitive and moving.

    • Ginny Rodriguez's Gravatar Ginny Rodriguez
      February 28, 2013 - 12:49 am | Permalink

      Peach, thank you for your comment! Conflict describes this ‘game format’ to a “T”. I mean, I, too, feel conflicted in choosing the saint-of-the-day.
      You wrote “…try to use the measure the two saints would use.”
      “Ah-hah! That is the key!”, I thought. What did each saint do in his or her historical time and place ? Unencumbered by our current social notions of feminism, liberation theology, Victorianism and etc.-isms, each saint somehow made lemonade from the ersatz lemons of a specific time. (I know, many places lack lemons.)
      Thanks for the inspiration!
      (And, no, I haven’t decided yet. More torture. More anguish.)

  29. Paul Rosbolt's Gravatar Paul Rosbolt
    February 27, 2013 - 9:41 am | Permalink

    Interesting choice between a life of prayer and worship as service to God and direct action to save God’s people as service to God. I side with action. Go Tubman!!!

  30. Ruth's Gravatar Ruth
    February 27, 2013 - 9:44 am | Permalink

    Actively DOing vs contemplation, prayer, and yes, some doing, but not dangerously. It seems the Lent MDness voting population is much in favor of a Gospel of Doing. No fault there, but for once I shall not follow the crowd; I always choose Ruth over Martha.

    • Sarah Pope's Gravatar Sarah Pope
      February 27, 2013 - 11:17 am | Permalink

      You don’t think the Puritans weren’t dangerous? Interesting.

  31. Harry W's Gravatar Harry W
    February 27, 2013 - 9:48 am | Permalink

    Harriet Tubman gets my vote today; her collect gives the reasons: “Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children”. Harriet heard God’s call all of us and worked in the world to bring God’s vision to the people around her.

  32. Michael Cudney's Gravatar Michael Cudney
    February 27, 2013 - 10:01 am | Permalink

    Another very tough one, thank you very much SEC, he replies as he obsessively checks the results. But I have to go today with the Anglican, about whom I knew little until today. Both Nicholas and Harriet lived lives of service, but Nicholas, as a deacon, is exemplary in demonstrating what that order is all about.

  33. Skip's Gravatar Skip
    February 27, 2013 - 10:12 am | Permalink

    I have to echo the sentiment of Lou Florio and cast my vote for Nicholas Ferrar.

  34. The Holy Fool's Gravatar The Holy Fool
    February 27, 2013 - 10:14 am | Permalink

    The education, about all that participate in Lent Madness, and the excitement on the road to the “Final Four” make this a daily meditation. Harriet’s story is too compelling
    to me, to deny her my vote. I vote for Harriet….I still need a point guard and at 5′ she’ll
    be perfect. YOU GO GIRL.

  35. Allison Askins's Gravatar Allison Askins
    February 27, 2013 - 10:14 am | Permalink

    Harriet’s courage inspires. Nicholas’s devotion is admirable, but I can’t quite envision that life or the conversation that would ensue in my house if we attempted to live in such a way. Seems a bit obsessive to me. I’m going with the saint who stepped out in the messiness of the world, determined to change the arc of history.

  36. JoAnn's Gravatar JoAnn
    February 27, 2013 - 10:18 am | Permalink

    No contest for me at all. Harriet risked it all, time and time again. She had a vision that she put into action. Her march to freedom was not only for the enslaved but for the elderly, the infirm, and women.

  37. JAG's Gravatar JAG
    February 27, 2013 - 10:25 am | Permalink

    When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Harriet Tubman. This woman is still encouraging young women (of all colors) today.

  38. JaneC's Gravatar JaneC
    February 27, 2013 - 10:31 am | Permalink

    For the second day in a row it’s the Lightweight vs the Lady. As much as I dislike deserting the underdog I voted for Harriet. Nicholas had it easy. Sure, it must have been tragic moving from the Extremely Wealthy to the Still Got a Lot position but the fact that there was still enough left over for Mommy to restore the church and a manor house does not imply much hardship. Nicholas seems to have lived a passive life. The donkey incident reminds me of spectators who get hit by flying tires or engine blocks at the Indianapolis 500. He wasn’t even riding the donkey himself. says “he was almost killed when a donkey ran down a slope carrying a large piece of timber which almost struck Nicholas. All that saved him was that the donkey slipped.” The danger he encountered on his way home was that pirates chased the ship he happened to be on. They weren’t chasing him. Harriet was an activist and a doer. While both of them helped others it may be a case of Harriet getting the best press. Let’s hope for a fair fight tomorrow.

  39. Amy's Gravatar Amy
    February 27, 2013 - 10:33 am | Permalink

    Harriet Tubman is worthy to be remembered but Ferrar is one of those forgotten saints and I believe his story wasn’t told nearly as well as it could have been. He was the younger son of a wealthy merchant family and would have happily lived out the life of a scholar in balmy southern Europe but answered the call of his family to return to England and save them. His story involes a persuasive Sir Walter Raleigh who got them to commit all of their wealth to the Virginia Company which was eventually taken over by the crown (making a very nice profit for the king). Despite working very hard in parliment and confronting the outright and open embezzelment of funds from the company, Nicholas fails to win back any of the money his older brother and father had lost by their bad investments. That is when he renounced the world — and the rest of his family followed his lead. They ended up with only the inheritance of their mother (who wisely had kept her money away from the get rich schemes) and went to live in a falling down manor house in the middle of nowhere. Before anything else they fixed the church up for worship…. then set about providing for not just their extended household but the village that they found themselves close to. This included starting a school and a hospital, earning their own living, and praying round the clock. It is a great story of overcoming adversity and discovering a more meaningful way of life.

    • Catherine's Gravatar Catherine
      February 27, 2013 - 11:00 am | Permalink

      Thanks for this additional information about Nicholas and the circumstances of his life. His choices certainly required a different kind of courage in his day. I admire that.

    • February 27, 2013 - 12:49 pm | Permalink

      I have to go with Ferrar too since I too live in a community that is neither a convent or a cult. He understood the meaning of spiritual poverty in a profound way and lived his life embracing the basic Christian principles of sharing and teaching.

  40. David's Gravatar David
    February 27, 2013 - 10:43 am | Permalink

    Each is deserving of a vote — Ferrar for his devotion to a prayerful life and inspirational example of keeping the daily office, and Tubman for her courage in helping others to freedom in the face of life-threatening, troublesome consequences. For her righteous defiance, Tubman gets my vote.

  41. John Anderson's Gravatar John Anderson
    February 27, 2013 - 10:50 am | Permalink

    I am SO glad that you have spelled out Supreme Executive Committee (SEC). You had not done that for a while and I was beginning to think you were referring to the South Eastern Conference (also SEC) . I kept wondering why this athletic conference was involved. THanks again.

    • Verdery's Gravatar Verdery
      February 27, 2013 - 10:53 am | Permalink

      Or Securities and Exchange Commission.

    • Laurie Atwater's Gravatar Laurie Atwater
      February 27, 2013 - 10:54 am | Permalink

      Better than what comes to my mind, which is “Securities and Exchange Commission”. Ick.

    • The Holy Fool's Gravatar The Holy Fool
      February 27, 2013 - 10:54 am | Permalink

      Yes, thanks to you John. I thought the SEC was the conference….Being a big sports fan, and somehow the SEC being tied up with Lent Madness? So, thanks for the explination.

  42. Verdery's Gravatar Verdery
    February 27, 2013 - 10:53 am | Permalink

    I voted for Nicholas, much as I admire Harriet. Every once in a while we need to recognize those who plug along, doing what they can where they can. Turning one’s family into an early commune/co-op, “starting a school and a hospital, earning their own living” (thanks, Amy) can’t have been easy for someone from the wealthy class.
    Both Nicholas and Harriet are heroes, just in different ways.

  43. Catherine's Gravatar Catherine
    February 27, 2013 - 10:54 am | Permalink

    Ms Tubman will surely prevail in today’s match up due to her extraordinary courage and commitment. But I’m in a pray-without-ceasing sort of mood this morning, so Nicholas gets my vote. There is so much to pray for in this world and sometimes that’s all we can do.

  44. Alan's Gravatar Alan
    February 27, 2013 - 10:54 am | Permalink

    Voted for Nicholas. I’ve got to find out more about this: “Nicholas and his family determined to renounce worldliness and commit themselves to a life of prayer and godly living. About thirty of the family joined him at Little Gidding where he founded and led a unique religious community — an experiment in Christian living that was neither cult nor cloister.”

  45. Joy's Gravatar Joy
    February 27, 2013 - 11:01 am | Permalink

    Voted for Harriet. Given a choice of giving up worldliness and going for the simple life or plunging into the ugliness of life with energy, insisting upon justice and risking your life for the freedom of others? Clear choice for me.

  46. Gwin Hanahan's Gravatar Gwin Hanahan
    February 27, 2013 - 11:19 am | Permalink

    Sometimes it is a challenge to teach children about the Holy Spirit. I shall use the Collect for Harriet Tubman (et. al.) and her life story to teach about the Holy Spirit guiding us into all truth as the Holy Spirit goes out into the world. I will do this because I believe it will make sense to children.

    Not like the first terrible time I tried explaining the Holy Spirit to children!…whom I may have scarred for life. Mea Culpa!

    On the Day of Pentecost years ago I taught my children’s Sun Sch class about how the Holy Spirit goes out into the world doing good. As a Montessori teacher at the time, I wanted a visual, experiential, hands on lesson that the children could teach to others. From a garden establishment that sells them, I bought thousands of living lady bugs. Lady bugs are called “aphid wolves” because the l.b.’s chase down and gobble up lots of that garden predator, the destructive aphid. At Sun Sch we all very gently filled little plastic bags with hundreds of lady bugs. We released most of the lady bugs across the dewy church lawn, out into the world to do good. The children then gave small bags of lady bugs to the parishioners who wanted them. One of my little students ran up to her mother, waving the little bag of lady bugs in her hands and yelling, “Take these quick, Moma! Miss Gwin said the Holy Spirit is a wolf and these lady bugs will protect us.” Oh, dear. Follow up lessons ensued…to the children’s Sun Sch and their parents, the adult forums, and the vestry. I haven’t used the lady bug lesson again.

    Thank you, SEC. Harriet Tubman’s extraordinary life will be a wonderful lesson about many things, including how the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free.

  47. February 27, 2013 - 11:25 am | Permalink

    Tenuous Links of co-incidence or whatever. “Ferrar was a college friend of George Herbert”, who the Episcopal Church remembers today, and whose mother was a friend of John Donne (Source:, who in turn beat Agnes of Rome at the end of the First week of Lent Madness.

  48. Mollie Douglas Turner's Gravatar Mollie Douglas Turner
    February 27, 2013 - 11:37 am | Permalink

    It strikes me that both action and contemplation require huge commitment, and that one cannot happen effectively without the other. Different centuries, different social beginnings, different genders even, make a difference in how one is called to pray and to act. The active courage and spiritual leadership of Harriet Tubman was evident on the knife-edge of historical turmoil; the contemplative courage and social leadership of Nicholas Ferrar was lived out in a time when all the old (medieval) ways, including contemplative/monastic life, were being rejected in favor of exploring a New World, and devil take the hindmost. I want to vote for both of them, because they both have so much more courage than I do! Still on the fence…..

  49. Jenny Massey's Gravatar Jenny Massey
    February 27, 2013 - 11:38 am | Permalink

    Another Toughie, but as I had to go with Nicholas Ferrar. He and his family devoted their life to prayer and service. As a Daughter of the King, that resonates with me.

  50. Raggs Ragan's Gravatar Raggs Ragan
    February 27, 2013 - 11:40 am | Permalink

    Wonderful to see the lively discussion and passionate feelings today. Yesterday there did not seem to be many of us whose lives had been touched by the humble Chad (I am one), but today it is clear that there are a lot of us who have had both Nicholas and Mother Moses as ikons in our lives, a worthy match up. On balance I had to go with Mother Moses, perhaps because I so vividly recall creating plays with my students to act out her heroic life.

  51. February 27, 2013 - 11:52 am | Permalink

    I’m taking advantage of this moment to point out a pet peeve of mine: in the collect for the day, Harriet Tubman and the other women commemorated with her are referred to only by their first names. This is the ONLY time in all of the collects for lesser feasts and fasts in which the saints we commemorate are treated so informally.

    As I say in one of several blog posts I wrote on this, I know this isn’t world peace. But it’s a small sign, and I believe that it’s in changing the small things that the larger things are changed.

    Here’s what I wrote:

    And of course I voted for Harriet Tubman.

    • Ruth's Gravatar Ruth
      February 27, 2013 - 12:14 pm | Permalink

      Add to that: use their given names at a minimum, their married names as an afterthought: Harriet Ross (Tubman). Why do we give up our names for our husbands? Mine’s worth a whole lot, but he still didn’t raise me, nor does he ‘own’ me! (Second thought: should we all simply be known as God’s: Ruth Christian?)

    • William Loring's Gravatar William Loring
      February 28, 2013 - 12:23 am | Permalink

      I always thought it better to refer to Christian Saints by their Christian names in prayer, though admittedly it’s helpful to distinguish among e.g. Thomas the Apostle, Thomas Cranmer, and Thomas Aquinas. Perhaps full name or other designator in the title of the feast, and Christian name in the Collect with a reference to their life or work (we actually do that pretty well in our Collects) in the prayer itself.
      As to voting — well I admire Harriet and her accomplishments but I really wish I could better emulate Nicholas’ combination of prayer and service to his community so he gets my support.

  52. Dan Shockley's Gravatar Dan Shockley
    February 27, 2013 - 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Ferrar sounds like an admirable person.
    However, I voted for Harriet because I think today’s Christians need to honor – and follow the example of – those who take action against injustice more than they need encouragement to pray and do works of charity. Charity is good, but it is not solidarity. Christians need to proclaim the Gospel of the Good News: prisoners set free, healing, and the love of God poured out upon all people. Then we can all say with St. James: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”

    February 27, 2013 - 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Seriously, this is a contest? A woman born into slavery who risked life & limb to live her faith and rescue the viciously oppressed? That’s downright biblical. Another no-brainer!

  54. Robert's Gravatar Robert
    February 27, 2013 - 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I’m having a difficult time deciding here. Both are a great models and shining examples, one of a prayerful life and one of taking action ..the greatest challenge however is harmonizing those two in our own lives …while I decide both Harriet and Nicholas give me me to reflect upon.

  55. Milli Hayman's Gravatar Milli Hayman
    February 27, 2013 - 12:54 pm | Permalink

    This is a tough one. I admire Harriet Tubman and her brave service to others so much. But the story of Nicholoas Ferrar speaks to my soul. Perhaps it is because I am so fed up with the arrogance, selfishness and self-importance of so many, and yearn for a world where more people serve others with simple humbleness of spirit. Perhaps it is because I struggle myself to be more humble. Oh well, I will think and pray some more on this decision. In the meantime, this short article about Ferrar and Little Gidding on the Thinking Anglicans site is really nice: “A life of caring for ordinary people, of ministering to their needs, physical, intellectual and spiritual, a life of quiet, undemonstrative prayer and study, is one that we would all do well to emulate.”

  56. Carol A.'s Gravatar Carol A.
    February 27, 2013 - 1:08 pm | Permalink

    It looks to me like our participants are more interested in current or recent “saints” than those of antiquity.

  57. Stephen's Gravatar Stephen
    February 27, 2013 - 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Not a fair match up for me. I grew up knowing houses that were Underground railroad stations. We were proud of our ancestors who fought for freedom for all–we’re told one branch was kicked out of the Quakers because they took up arms. We read about her in school. I run past a memorial to the URR where slaves left Detroit to gain freedom in Canada. It’s quite moving to contemplate how they felt looking at the short distance across the river to a new life. Ferrar’s story may have been muted by time, so I feel he was set up on this match. (though now more of us know of his works, so his quiet ways continue.) Harriet Tubman has always been held up to me as a person who showed the work of God in action.

  58. John's Gravatar John
    February 27, 2013 - 1:26 pm | Permalink

    This deep into Lent Madness I’m beginning to discern a pattern in my own voting. I had all sorts of good reasons to vote for Nicholas Ferrar (I was an English teacher with a love of George Herbert and also a confirmed Anglo-Catholic in an age of liturgical reform), but as so often this season I voted for the more “modern” saint because I can’t deny that Tubman did much more to bring people into the Kingdom that is in our midst here and now. The example of the Ferrars is still one we can emulate in daily life; when we receive a calling to a more dangerous field of action, let Harriet Tubman be our guide.

  59. Rich's Gravatar Rich
    February 27, 2013 - 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Acts speak louder than words – the reciting of the Psalter vs living at risk of re-enslavement or death for most of her life while having to deal with/trust the many hundreds of people that she needed to both get slaves to freedom and the people she was helping to get away from their bondage. It’s so hard to weigh the merits of people’s acts from different worlds, but this round goes to Harriett Ross-Tubman

  60. Marianne's Gravatar Marianne
    February 27, 2013 - 1:38 pm | Permalink

    So tough. I voted for Ferrar, because I believe that what he did offers inspiration and lesson for an emergent church today, and because I am a corporate refugee as well!!

  61. Susan Chacon's Gravatar Susan Chacon
    February 27, 2013 - 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Harriet undoubtedly promises better kitsch, but I’m just a sucker for a deacon with no interest in the priesthood.

  62. Christina O'Hara's Gravatar Christina O'Hara
    February 27, 2013 - 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I loved learning about Ferrar, but Harriet has always been a heroine of mine, and who can resist a female Moses, so I had to go with her!

  63. Toni Ponzo's Gravatar Toni Ponzo
    February 27, 2013 - 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks once again to the SEC for giving us an opportunity to learn about more of our “saintly” ancestors. Never really knew anything about Nicholas Ferrar and his story is definitely inspiring in this time of Madison Avenue driven consumerism. That being said I had to go with Harriet Tubman who daily faced re-enslavement and death to bring hundreds to freedom.

  64. Jason Tank's Gravatar Jason Tank
    February 27, 2013 - 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Tough one. Living simply because you lost all your money vs. risking your life because the voices in your head keep telling you to. Hmm.

  65. Christianne McKee's Gravatar Christianne McKee
    February 27, 2013 - 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Curses on the SEC for giving us impossible choices this year! I wanted to vote for Harriet because of her heroic, even miraculous, work for freedom and justice for slaves, even when it meant endangering her life. But I have had a love for Little Gidding ever since I first read T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, the last of which is a reflection on Little Gidding. Referring to this place, he wrote “You are here to kneel where prayer has been valid.” I figured that Harriet would have the majority vote so I voted for the underdog, Nicholas Ferrar.

  66. Laura Campbell's Gravatar Laura Campbell
    February 27, 2013 - 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m a longtime fan of George Herbert and his friends at Little Gidding, but Harriet led an amazing life of self-sacrifice. She gets my vote today.

  67. Kathleen Kisner's Gravatar Kathleen Kisner
    February 27, 2013 - 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Being a United Methodist and Harriet being associated with AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Zion, I had to vote for Harriet!

  68. Heidi E's Gravatar Heidi E
    February 27, 2013 - 3:11 pm | Permalink

    My sense is that a lot of us are viewing these saints through 21st century lenses. Hence the more contemporary ones seem to be ahead in the voting. Women seem to be winning over their male counterpart in general. Am I right or am I mad?

  69. Judy Austin's Gravatar Judy Austin
    February 27, 2013 - 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Have to go with Tubman. Ferrar and his family reached out in far more limited ways and not as part of an effort to change not only people’s lives but a whole society. And after all, this IS the 21st Century–we can’t help being in this age.

  70. February 27, 2013 - 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Expect that Harriet Tubman will (and should!) win today, but I have to cast my vote for the pre-neo-monastic Nicholas Ferrar!

  71. Marguerite's Gravatar Marguerite
    February 27, 2013 - 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Have to admit Eliot’s Little Gidding forced my vote because “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” …. and of Lent Madness

  72. Jo Meachem's Gravatar Jo Meachem
    February 27, 2013 - 5:06 pm | Permalink

    This was a difficult choice for me, as Harriet Tubman is a fabulous woman, and endured great hardships to do great deeds of mercy, but I was so entranced by Nicholas’ determination to “pray without ceasing”, and to use what he had to take care of those in need that I finally gave him my “Seal of Approval”!

  73. Davis Dassori's Gravatar Davis Dassori
    February 27, 2013 - 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Among the many interesting tidbits to be found on the Little Gidding website,, are statements that Ferrar’s was the first religious community established in England since the Reformation, and that recent scholarship concludes that the “alleged ransacking of the church” by Puritans didn’t actually occur. Not to take issue with the Pope (or is Scott the Pope and Tim the Antipope?) of Lent Madness, you understand, I’m just saying . . . .

  74. Murray's Gravatar Murray
    February 27, 2013 - 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Little Gidding is hard to find, even with a GPS device. But if you follow the opening lines of the poem, you get there easily. Eliot may have gone down to defeat; a vote for Ferrar in Eliot’s honor, then.

  75. mmarthajean's Gravatar mmarthajean
    February 27, 2013 - 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Many years ago. my Jewish-Episcopalian daughter, as a 4th grader at a Catholic grade school had to dress as a saint. She wanted a female Episcopalian and with help from MKS, our beloved female priest, chose Harriet Tubman. As she stood at Mass, in her Goodwill clothes, clutching her Dad’s Lionel train engine, the Roman Catholic priest could not figure out who she was among the Saint Annes, Theresas and Roses.

  76. Nancy Evans's Gravatar Nancy Evans
    February 27, 2013 - 7:15 pm | Permalink

    I has to go with Harriet. She became a hero of mine when in grade school. I even remember doing a paper on her. For me she is defiantly a saint!!!

  77. Aldo Waker's Gravatar Aldo Waker
    February 27, 2013 - 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Still pissed that you pitted both Luther’s together. Both should still be moving up in the brackets! Wah, wah, wah!!!

  78. Jay's Gravatar Jay
    February 27, 2013 - 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Had to go with the (at this hour) underdog, Nicholas Ferrar. The work of such a community to live the gospel is certainly more understated than the heroic work of Harriet Tubman – but it is a powerful example for many that a full life of faith and service is not necessarily a life of great external heroism, but may be a life of quiet self-offering day after day.

  79. Barbara's Gravatar Barbara
    February 27, 2013 - 7:33 pm | Permalink

    The Lord is indeed glorious in his saints – so again I’m having trouble deciding.

    Maybe by midnight….

  80. Verdery's Gravatar Verdery
    February 27, 2013 - 7:55 pm | Permalink

    One of the really cool thing about this enterprise is that it demonstrates that there’s not just one way to be a saint. There are mystics and activists and poets and preachers and hermits and people who form communities and individuals who just plug along. The hymn may be old-fashioned, but it’s true–“the saints of God are just folk like me. And I [hope] to be one, too.”

    • Harlie Youngblood's Gravatar Harlie Youngblood
      February 27, 2013 - 10:43 pm | Permalink

      Well said!

  81. Relling Westfall's Gravatar Relling Westfall
    February 27, 2013 - 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Aside from the fact that Harriet thought her hallucinations were sent from God, I do not find any connection between Harriet and religious faith in the biographic entry. I know some may find this pedantic, but I do think a saint should display some faith connection.

    • Mariclaire's Gravatar Mariclaire
      February 27, 2013 - 8:22 pm | Permalink

      now I am regretting my choice and feeling very sorry about not even considering a faith connection. Harriet Tubman was an amazing woman-it is fortunate for everyone that the voices in her head were instructing her to free slaves rather than…well…I unwillingly think of Son of Sam.

    • February 27, 2013 - 8:55 pm | Permalink

      On the contrary, I believe that Harriet Tubman had a very strong faith. We all hear God in different ways, and she followed what she believed God was calling her to do. . . as do most of us. Perhaps you forget that Harriet Tubman was a slave — she did not have the same opportunities for education or to worship in church that free people did. Maybe this article will shed some light that may be missing in the biographical notes above:

  82. Kimberly's Gravatar Kimberly
    February 27, 2013 - 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Thank you again for providing us this unique opportunity for education. I truly believe it is impossible to make a wrong choice in any bracket……….

  83. Jim Oppenheimer's Gravatar Jim Oppenheimer
    February 27, 2013 - 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Presented with the lives of two saints, it would seem that when the voter commits to one of them, they then feel compelled to spend a lot of time and effort trashing the other.
    That’s the clear thrust of many of the posts. In a situation where both of the people are giants, albeit in differing manners and in differing times this hardly seems what Our Lord would desire.
    No doubt some wag will try to say it is all in good fun.
    Meh. I find this sad.

    • John Anderson's Gravatar John Anderson
      February 27, 2013 - 11:23 pm | Permalink

      I have not noticed any SERIOUS trashing of anyone. I am a retired teacher and I learned LOOOONG ago that if you can make learning fun was one way to win many students over. For years, I’ve heard clergy talk about Lenten discipline and reading about the Saints. We’ve oft thought that this was something we SHOULD do but NEVER do. Lenten Madness has got far more people involved than ever. And it is fun.

      • Relling Westfall's Gravatar Relling Westfall
        February 28, 2013 - 9:17 am | Permalink

        Thank you John. As a teacher of English in community college, I absolutely endorse your comments. I was reflecting the other day how “softly” a dispute had been handled in the comments. When compared to other discussions, I do not think this is “trashing.” I see many people ask for information.

  84. February 28, 2013 - 12:06 am | Permalink

    Harriet, but with mixed feelings

  85. February 28, 2013 - 12:10 am | Permalink

    I grew up in New England, and we were taught the inside story about the Pilgrims. They were not very nice people. So, I am very sympathetic regarding anyone that had a run in with them.

  86. Elizabeth Grainger's Gravatar Elizabeth Grainger
    February 28, 2013 - 12:57 am | Permalink

    I am saddened by the sarcastic tone of some of the comments about Nicholas Ferrar. Have we really forgotten so much of our church history that we can consider an Anglican who died only three years prior to the English Civil War to have been somehow unfamiliar with danger and persecution? These daily match-ups needn’t be an opportunity to denigrate any of these holy people, but rather an occasion to celebrate them — and an opportunity to educate ourselves.

  87. Cindy Selby's Gravatar Cindy Selby
    February 28, 2013 - 1:02 am | Permalink

    A sliding donkey? I need to hear the rest of THAT story! Nevertheless, I voted for Harriet, because she stood up for her fellow man despite huge risks to her own welfare, because it was the right thing to do.

  88. Ginny Rodriguez's Gravatar Ginny Rodriguez
    February 28, 2013 - 3:05 am | Permalink

    Nicholas Ferrar used his wealth to care for his family, and widows and orphans. He had prayers and psalms said round the clock. Sounds like faith and action.
    Harriet Tubman rescued escaping slaves. When she had money, she gave it to people in greater need.
    I’m voting for Nicholas because he sustained reading the Daily Office. Something I find difficult to do on a daily basis.

  89. Kate Satchwill's Gravatar Kate Satchwill
    February 28, 2013 - 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Just thinking that your comparisons aren’t as parallel as they might be. To maximize equal opportunity, competitive brackets, some martyr v. martyr, activist v. activist, contemplative v contemplative categories. I loved the mother v son and Martin v Martin madness. Hmmmm, maybe the next competition should be seeded and pre-published for some CCD analysis and odds-making! Nothing fuels learning like a bit of competition.

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