Dear friends in Christ,
These are strange times. Who would have imagined that the other bracket-based tournament that takes place in March -- the one where a "three pointer" doesn't refer to the Holy Trinity -- would be canceled? And while we're pleased to claim the title of Longest-Running Consecutive Madness in the World, we would have preferred to receive this honor under different circumstances.
In all seriousness, we know that many of you are struggling mightily right now, in one way or another. There is much fear and uncertainty in our midst. The good news is that we're all in this together, as fellow pilgrims on this journey of life and faith.
Some of you will find yourself unable to attend worship services or other meetings in your local churches. We hope you'll take advantage of whatever connections are offered from your church or denomination. We also hope neighbors will care for one another, offering hope and comfort, strength and solace; thereby literally carrying out the second great commandment Jesus gave us, to love our neighbors.
Many people will be longing for connection, and we wanted to let you know that Lent Madness isn't going anywhere. It may seem incongruous to engage in such frivolity during a public health crisis, but we have heard from many of you that the joy you experience here is important now more than ever. And you can experience that joy in the comfort and safety of your own home.
We often say that Lent Madness is an exception to the usual internet rule, "Do not read the comments." Indeed, the pop-up Lenten community that forms around this online devotion is one of the great joys of this ministry. Here, the comments are often edifying, and even encouraging. Sure, we may trade some friendly trash-talk about those who oppose our favorite saints, but mostly the comments are a beacon of lively joy in an age where that is a rare commodity. We trust that commenters will continue to be careful with one another, as we are all carrying great fragility.
It seems we need the example of the saints more than ever in this moment of time. Allow them into your lives as bearers of hope and perseverance.
Forward Movement, our sponsor, is one of many church-related ministries sharing resources during this time. If you have others that you'd like people to know about, please share them in the comments.
If you're looking for resources to support prayer and worship at home, check out a free ChurchNext online course, Prayer and Worship in Our Homes. This is a set of free (!) classes that will help you and your family if you're finding yourself unable to get to church. Among the sessions, there's a class on prayer with the saints taught by none other than the Supreme Executive Committee. There are other free ChurchNext classes too, and you can read about them in this recent announcement.
Lots of Episcopalians and others find it helpful to start the day with Morning Prayer, or maybe end the day with Evening Prayer. These are sets of prayers, psalms, and scripture readings taken from the Book of Common Prayer. You don't have to be Episcopalian to find this helpful! You can find the prayers on the Forward Movement website. Depending on what time of day you visit, you'll get morning prayer, noonday prayer, evening prayer, or compline (prayers for the end of day). If you prefer, you can listen to a podcast, A Morning at the Office. These are all free.
Of course, if your church is offering online worship, we hope you'll take advantage of that. If not, you can tune in to the Washington National Cathedral, where the Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is preaching tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. EDT. They'll be around every Sunday with great stuff.
There are more resources on the way, and we'll watch the comments for your ideas. We're glad to gather up some more resources and post more in a few days.
Please care for one another, and do not neglect to care for yourself. We're in this for the long haul, probably. Jesus Christ has promised to abide with us, and for that we can be eternally grateful.
Let us pray.
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Remember, friends, what Lent Madness is all about. Each one of the saints was a beacon of Christ's light and love. Each of the saints is in heaven praying for you. We are never alone.
Tim Schenck+ Scott Gunn+