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.

1. If you could have dinner with any saint, who would it be and what would you serve? (and, duh, why?)
Without a doubt, I’d definitely want to have dinner with Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius’ spirituality is centered in finding God in all things – including the hustle and bustle of everyday life; Ignatius’ methods for prayer do a good job of cutting through the crazy and getting back to the core of what is important in our relationship with God. Some of the most important moments of spiritual growth and some of the best times of discernment in my life have come when I’ve used the methods for prayer, bible study, and decision-making that Ignatius laid out in the Spiritual Exercises. I have a better relationship with God and with Jesus because of Ignatius’ wisdom – so how could I not want to have dinner with him? As to what I would serve – well, with me being from South Carolina, and Ignatius being from Spain, some form of seafood seems like a good commonality. Perhaps paella?

2. What hymn would you pay money never to hear again? And which hymn are you convinced is on the play list in heaven?
Hands down, without a doubt, I have no reason or desire to hear “Earth and All Stars” again. One of the verses of the hymn speaks about “classrooms and labs, [and] loud boiling test tubes.” My undergraduate major was in Chemistry, and, before seminary, I also completed a masters’ degree in the same topic. I must have spent thousands of hours in the labs. One sound I never heard? A loud boiling test tube. (For one thing, boils generally aren’t loud; for a second, we didn’t use test tubes). So for the couple of lines of “fake news” in the hymn, “Earth and All Stars” gets a hard pass from me.

Nobody will ever be able to convince me that “Love divine, all loves excelling” is not on the playlist in heaven. Personally, it’s a hymn that’s been a part of two of the most transformative moments of my life – when I married my wife and when I was ordained a priest. Charles Wesley’s lyrics never fail to bring me to tears, and while I put no stake on the proper tune for his lyrics, I need this hymn to be part of the heavenly playlist.

3. You’re busy during Lent. Why do you make time for the Saintly Smackdown? What do you get out of it personally? 
One of the things I know to be true about myself is that I need anchors in my life that help me slow down, look around, and take stock of where I am in my relationship with God. Lent is always one of those anchors for me – it sets things back in order, reminds me of God’s abiding love for me in the midst of my own brokenness, helps me recall my own need to accept grace as the free gift from God that it is, and lets me recommit to living anew into my baptismal promises. Lent Madness is a light hearted and fun Lenten discipline, but I find that meeting the saints anew every year during Lent helps connect me to the call to discipleship. I get to see over and over how ordinary women and men responded in faith to the call of God in their own day, and that helps me slow down – and it reminds me that I can respond to God, not necessarily as the person I think I need to be, but just as I am right now. That’s time well spent.

18 Comments to "Celebrity Blogger Week: David Sibley"

  1. February 10, 2018 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    Yes! I strongly dislike “Earth and All Stars” too; I will not allow my congregations to sing that one while I’m there. David Sibley, you are my new favorite celebrity blogger just for disliking that hymn–I don’t find many others out there who dislike it, so it’s a pleasure to run across someone who does.

  2. Jane Scocca's Gravatar Jane Scocca
    February 10, 2018 - 8:44 am | Permalink

    I second the motion. Please, no loud boiling test tubes. It doesn’t work for a bio major either.

    • Elaine's Gravatar Elaine
      February 12, 2018 - 10:07 am | Permalink

      It’s a dreadful hymn! So is the Easter hymn often sung to the same tune, “Alleluia! Jesus is risen.” It’s not quite a word salad, but a phrase salad (e.g., “Splendor, the Lamb, heaven forever!” or the last verse: “City of God, Easter forever, / golden Jerusalem, Jesus the Lamb, / river of life, saints and archangels, / sing with creation to God the I AM!”). Just ’cause it rhymes doesn’t make it poetry. I wonder if a good text can be set to the tune, “Earth and All Stars,” or if something’s inherently wrong with that tune.

  3. Willo's Gravatar Willo
    February 10, 2018 - 8:49 am | Permalink

    I especially relate to your last two sentences. It really is important to respond to God “just as I am right now”. After all
    God knows who I am all the time.

  4. Sally's Gravatar Sally
    February 10, 2018 - 9:11 am | Permalink

    “Love Divine…” is an amazing hymn to me, also, and I’m always warmed in my heart when it’s on our parish’s pew bulletin. I want it at my funeral and most other places until then. Thank you, David, for reminding me of the joy of the words!

  5. Diane's Gravatar Diane
    February 10, 2018 - 9:32 am | Permalink

    Thank you, David. Your thoughts on Lent were just want I needed this morning. Looking forward to anchoring my faith and, of course, Lent Madness.

  6. Louise's Gravatar Louise
    February 10, 2018 - 9:54 am | Permalink

    I’m with you in spirit David. Born in Chicago, a Cubbies fan all my life—my father used to take my brother and me to Cubbies games while my mother and sister inexplicably went to White Sox games. I’ve been living in the Northeast for more years than I care to admit but can still almost immediately recognize a Midwesterner. We are so friendly!

  7. Jen's Gravatar Jen
    February 10, 2018 - 10:25 am | Permalink

    Had never heard of it or come across it in any church……..not a tune that immediately draws you in, and so so words that must have been written by a scientist?

    • Peg S.'s Gravatar Peg S.
      February 10, 2018 - 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Maybe it’s more often heard in college towns. It has several well-intended verses that amuse or delight or irritate, depending on your point of view. I promise not to sing it in earshot of Rev. Sibley.

    • Gretchen Pritchard's Gravatar Gretchen Pritchard
      February 10, 2018 - 6:41 pm | Permalink

      Tossed off in a hurry for a campus chaplaincy, I suspect.

  8. Mrs. B.'s Gravatar Mrs. B.
    February 10, 2018 - 10:38 am | Permalink

    Dear Fr. Sibley, “Earth and All Stars” is the stupidest hymn (?) ever written. How did it ever make it into the hymnal? You are my favorite blogger; your spiritual commitment comes across loud and clear. Thank you for that.

  9. Lucy Porter's Gravatar Lucy Porter
    February 10, 2018 - 11:04 am | Permalink

    The only hymns worse than “Earth and All Stars” are those 24/7
    “contemporary” ones–7 words repeated 24 times. “Love Divine” definitely makes my heavenly playlist. I am also a transplanted Southerner, having realized my lifelong desire to move to New York City at age 24. As a retired United Methodist clergy, hospital chaplain, and unretired singer and writer, I find Lent Madness a great spiritual exercise, full of inspiration and humor, both necessary! Keep up the good work.

    • Linda N's Gravatar Linda N
      February 11, 2018 - 2:37 am | Permalink

      Not to mention their monotonous so-called melodies. “Hey! These are some great words! Let’s set them to a monotone and repeat them to infinity!”

  10. Betsy Rogers's Gravatar Betsy Rogers
    February 10, 2018 - 11:06 am | Permalink

    Totally agree on “Earth and All Stars.” This courageous stand alone might carry your saint across the finish line!

  11. Verdery D. Kassebaum's Gravatar Verdery D. Kassebaum
    February 10, 2018 - 2:51 pm | Permalink

    OK, I’m standing up for “Earth and All Stars”, though I understand about not wanting your test tubes to be boiling. What I like about it (besides the rollicking tune) is that it calls upon all of creation, all human endeavor and experience to sing a new song to God. I love the idea of marching bands and pounding hammers and rustling dry leaves, all singing at the top of their voices a new song to the One who has done marvelous things.
    And (full disclosure) I used to play a loud humming cello, so this song refers to me as well.

  12. Martin Goshgarian's Gravatar Martin Goshgarian
    February 10, 2018 - 5:50 pm | Permalink

    A certain college church uses Earth… for the last hymn in an otherwise unblemished Evensong. I find the tune unfit to the aura of an evening worship. Charles Wesley is super, but I consider Hyfrydol overused.

  13. Bette Ashcroft's Gravatar Bette Ashcroft
    February 10, 2018 - 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Is Rev. Sibley still blogging, or is he actually a celebrity tweeter? Just wondering.

  14. Betsy Amey's Gravatar Betsy Amey
    February 13, 2018 - 7:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you on “Earth and All Stars” — especially hate the praise of “loud sounding wisdom!” Can’t tell whether it refers to one of my pompous relatives . . . or guess who? Soft-spoken wisdom is better, I think!

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