Distinguished Celebrity Blogger David Sibley remains in the throes of baseball ecstasy as he continues to revel in last year’s World Series victory by his long-denied Chicago Cubs. Of course this pales in comparison to the euphoria he felt in shepherding Charles Wesley to the 2014 Golden Halo. We’re delighted David is back for another year of Lent Madness as we find out — in just a couple of months — whose halo will be doused with champagne in the saintly locker room.
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. 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.
1. What is the single most inspirational place you have ever visited (besides your own church).Probably the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Russia. Current political intrigue aside, and also current icky relationships between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian State aside, the original cathedral was destroyed by Stalin in 1931, intending to build the Palace of Soviets, which was to be the world’s tallest structure and home of the Soviet “legislature.” When World War II hit, and the money dried up for Stalin, that construction project stalled. Ultimately, Nikita Khrushchev turned the site into the world’s largest open air swimming pool. After the Fall of Communism in Russia, funds to rebuild the cathedral that Stalin had torn down poured in, often from ordinary, faithful Orthodox Christians in Russia – including the donations from over a million Muscovites. The tallest Orthodox Church in the world, it was reconsecrated in 2000.
While it may not be a spot of profound natural beauty, or the greatest of church edifices in the world, the Cathedral is a testament to the faithfulness of so many Christians during the time Orthodox Christianity was fiercely persecuted by the Soviet State. That the Cathedral was rebuilt to its original form, nearly 70 years after it was destroyed, is a testament to the faith of ordinary people in trying times, and that alone makes it breathtaking.
2. Share one unusual fact about yourself with the Lent Madness public.
While I’m now privileged to serve as the Rector of Christ Church in Manhasset, New York, I actually have undergraduate and graduate degrees in Chemistry – before hearing the call to ordination, I thought I would be a Chemistry Professor. My research focused on developing unique metal compounds that, when exposed to light, could make interesting chemical reactions happen with DNA – perhaps enabling, at some point in the future, these compounds to be used as selective anti-cancer agents. While I’m glad to have been called to where I am, I can’t deny missing lab work from time to time, and the excitement that would come from knowing that it was very possible that I was the first person on earth – ever – to make a particular complex. (Alas, that alone is not worthy of great note, but it was thrilling as a philosophical concept!) It was quite fun.
3. Of the saints you’ve written about for Lent Madness 2017, what most inspires you? What most disturbs you?
I wrote for Lent Madness 2017? That implies past tense – and I thought I only write in the last 8-12 hours when a Tim-given deadline hangs over my head like the Sword of Damacles. Oh, right, the Scorecard.
I think I was most inspired by Fanny Crosby, who became one of the most prolific hymn writers ever, overcoming the challenges of her blindness in a time when the medicine and technology really weren’t fully able to offer the quality of life to the blind that it does today. Crosby didn’t limit her work to hymn writing – she was active in doing mission work, too. Her persistence and faithfulness are inspiring.
Perhaps most disturbing was writing the story of David Oakerhater, which is deeply entwined with the story of the United States’ treatment of indigenous peoples. Oakerhater’s first exposure to Christianity – and to the Episcopal Church – was part of a program of forced assimilation. While the faith he encountered ultimately became his own – he would ultimately be ordained a Deacon – engaging with his story requires coming face to face with the sinfulness and presumption that characterized the era of westward expansion.
4. If you could get just one tattoo this Lent, what would it be? (besides the Lent Madness logo and “none” is not an option).
If I got a tattoo with a picture of Tim’s ferret, then I’d always have something that makes visible my need for deep and profound repentance.