When SEC Day arrives on the Lenten calendar, you are guaranteed three things: 1) Celebrity Blogger Week has come to a close; 2) pancake batter is being prepared in parish kitchens throughout the world; and 3) "Ash Thursday" and the start of Lent Madness draweth nigh. In less than two days, the Madness will kick off with our opening round battle between Stephen and Alban. Did you hear that? Less than two days!
But first, here's a peek behind the purple curtain of the Supreme Executive Committee, the (more-or-less) benevolent dictatorship that runs Lent Madness.
The Rev. Tim Schenck, the mad scientist behind the creation of Lent Madness, is rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts, on the South Shore of Boston. He is the author of four books full of humor and faith including most recently Father Tim’s Church Survival Guide (Morehouse 2015) and Dust Bunnies in the Basket: Finding God in Lent & Easter (Forward Movement 2015). Tim writes a monthly syndicated column for Gatehouse Media titled “In Good Faith.” When he’s not tending to his parish, drinking coffee, or blogging at Clergy Confidential, he’s likely hanging out with his family that includes his wife Bryna, two sons Benedict (17) and Zachary (16), his dog Delilah, and a ferret named Mimi. Friend him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @FatherTim or Instagram. Mimi the ferret has her own Twitter presence, although Tim’s clergy “friends” have not given him the password so Mimi’s sole aim in life is to troll Tim on Twitter.
The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn is a geek of both the church and of technology. He serves as the executive director of Forward Movement in Cincinnati, Ohio, whose mission is to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. Scott is also a Deputy to the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, the ultimate achievement for serious church geeks. Along with the Rev. Melody Shobe, he has written an introduction to Christianity, Faithful Questions: Exploring the Way with Jesus. Though Scott is happily married and the proud owner of a dog named George, he will never, ever have a ferret at home. His blog is Seven whole days, where you’ll read church rants and raves, thoughts about technology, and random musings. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, flickr, or LinkedIn. Scott’s dog George also is online, so follow him on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to see the world through the eyes of a yellow lab.
In order to help you better understand what makes the SEC tick, we've asked ourselves a few questions...
1. What's it like to be Supreme?
Tim: Oh, hey, thanks for asking. Not many get to experience such rarified air. Besides the Pope, aka the Supreme Pontiff, and Diana Ross of the Supremes. It can be a heavy burden having the entire world's Lenten journey resting on your supreme shoulders, but the good news is, there's no one to contradict your every penitential whim and fancy. Because...supreme.
Scott: One of the biggest challenges is staying neutral. Kind of like the Supreme Court Justices at the State of the Union speech, who can't crack a smile or give an eye-roll when the President is speaking, we have to be scrupulously neutral during saintly smackdowns. On the other hand, like SCOTUS, we have lifetime appointments and no one can tell us how to run Lent Madness.
2. How do you manage to work with your archenemesis throughout Lent?
Tim: We all have our crosses to bear. Mine just happens to be Scott. Which is a tall order (#scottistalljoke). But if Jesus could deal with satan out in the wilderness during his time of trial, surely the least I can do is work closely with my archnemesis from Ash Thursday until the Easter proclamation at the Great Vigil. Then all becomes right with the world again.
Scott: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer; during Lent, work very closely with your archnemesis. The third clause of the famous saying is less well-known but no less true. Other than our love of Jesus and coffee (in that order), Tim and I disagree on nearly everything. So the fact that we manage to pull off Lent Madness together is, like Easter, a sign of God's love which surpasses human understanding. Of course, the upside is that Lent Madness makes it easy every year to decide my Lenten penance: it's Tim.
3. Seriously, what do you hope is accomplished by Lent Madness?
Tim: In this eighth (!) year of Lent Madness, the goal remains the same: to help people experience Lent not as a season to "get through" but as a spiritually fruitful time to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ. This is accomplished both by encountering some incredible people who have served God in their own day and through the online community that develops anew each year. The other goal is to gather together a committed group of people who take their faith, but not themselves, seriously. No, Christianity and joy are not mutually exclusive. Even during Lent.
Scott: I think there are two things I hope for from Lent Madness. First, I hope that this slightly irreverent game allows us all to see how God works in people who are at least as messed up as we are. That's hopeful for us, right? And second, perhaps for people who have never had a Lenten discipline of any kind, this might serve as the first real observance of a holy Lent. Over time, perhaps folks will find their way into a more serious way of keeping Lent, whilst continuing to play Lent Madness.
And just in case you missed yesterday's 11th hour edition of Tim and Scott's "award winning" Monday Madness video commentary, click here.