SEC Day

429956_198552396917973_1933645540_nFollowing an exciting Celebrity Blogger Week (okay, we use the word "week" loosely -- it was 10 days), today is SEC Day. Think Presidents Day but without the car sales. As everyone knows the self-appointed (anointed?) Supreme Executive Committee of Lent Madness comprises Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck.

What exactly are the SEC's responsibilities? In addition to drinking herculean amounts of coffee throughout Lent (oh, who are we kidding? -- we do that all year), we oversee every detail to insure Lent Madness doesn't go off the rails and plunge into the Lenten wilderness. In addition to our Emmy Award-worthy-if-not-winning Monday Madness videos this includes the recruitment and cajoling of Celebrity Bloggers (the backbone of the whole operation); using a ouija board to determine which saints will be included in the bracket; moderating lots of comments; zapping any evidence of voter fraud; autographing copies of the Saintly Scorecard; managing the social media presence; hawking mugs and brackets; and generally living a Supreme lifestyle.

It's a lot of work but it's all for the love of God and the Lent Madness faithful. For two priests who both consider the other one his archnemesis (think Spy vs. Spy), it only works because they give up their rivalry for forty days and forty nights. Easter season is another matter entirely.

So who exactly are Tim and Scott? Thanks for asking and enjoy their bios.

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The Rev. Tim Schenck

The Rev. Tim Schenck 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 What Size Are God’s Shoes: Kids, Chaos, and the Spiritual Life (Morehouse 2008) and Dog in the Manger: Finding God in Christmas Chaos (Forward Movement 2013). 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 Family Confidential, he’s likely hanging out with his family that includes his wife Bryna, two sons Benedict (14) and Zachary (13), his dog Delilah, and a ferret named Mimi. Friend him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @FatherTim.

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The Rev. Scott Gunn

The Rev. Scott Gunn is an Episcopal priest and self-confessed technophile. He serves as the Executive Director of Forward Movement in Cincinnati, OH, whose historic mission is “to reinvigorate the life of the church.” Scott also serves in the inner sanctum of churchgeekery as a Deputy to General Convention, which will raise or lower his “street cred” depending on your perspective. Though Scott is happily married and the proud owner a dog named George (named after the first winner of the Golden Halo), he will never, ever have ferrets 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,Twitterflickr, or LinkedIn. His dog George is on Twitter at @GeorgeTDog.

We hope you enjoy Lent Madness 2014, learn a lot about some amazing people, and grow closer to Jesus. And if you don't? Scott and Tim each blame the other one.

Unrelated, but important note: make sure you watch the Quinquagesima video update from Archbishops Thomas Cranmer and John Chrysostom. With lens flare!

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Robert Hendrickson

Congratulations! After today you have officially survived Celebrity Blogger Week. See? That wasn't so hard. But first, our last but not least (or last shall be first depending on your perspective) CB. Read on.

New to the world of Celebrity Bloggerdom, Robert Hendrickson promises to bring us to the mountaintop this Lent. Well, that's not as impressive as it sounds since he lives in Denver but we like the metaphor and we're sticking with it. With a dog named Becket and a cat named Cuthbert, is it any surprise Robert was tapped as a Celebrity Blogger for Lent Madness 2014?

The Rev. Robert Hendrickson

The Rev. Robert Hendrickson

Robert Hendrickson was born into this world by a battalion of angels. This cosmic entry into the mortal coil has ingrained in him an interest in the supernatural and the fantastical. He will not readily admit to going to the occasional Renaissance Faire nor will he admit that he has been known to play the occasional video game (Skyrim being among his oft-denied favourites). Like any serious Anglican, he reads Tolkein, Lewis, and Arthurian legends and knows them like a badger knows snakehide. Robert is the Sub-Dean of Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver. He attended General Theological Seminary, was ordained to the priesthood in 2011, and served as a curate at Christ Church, New Haven where he started the Saint Hilda’s House young adult intentional community. He has also worked with the Ecumenical Office of the Episcopal Church, co-founded the Society of Catholic Priests of the Episcopal Church, and recently completed a book on young adult ministry titled Yearning: Authentic Transformation, Young Adults, and the Church. He is married to Dr. Karrie Cummings Hendrickson and who are the proud companions of Becket (a dolorous basset hound), Penelope (a fearless dachshund), Cuthbert (a once indomitable raccoon fighting cat), and Marshmallow (a rotund cat prone to wild fits of napping).

How has Lent Madness transformed your life?
Lent Madness had given me both clarity of purpose and of skin. It has done remarkable things for my overall demeanor and disposition. Whereas before, I had been a bit of a curmudgeon, I have now become something really more of a crank. This is thanks to the adulation and adoration that has come from the ranks upon ranks of fervent Lent Madness fans. This transformation is one that has given me a renewed commitment to a life of kindly dissolution in which I can write and contemplate the saintly virtues.

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Robert with Becket atop Mount Evans.

Obviously being a Celebrity Blogger is your greatest lifetime achievement. What perks have you enjoyed as a result of your status?
The chief perk of my newfound status has been the countless bouquets of flowers and edible arrangements that have arrived from delirious fans of Nicholas Ridley.

What do you hope the Lent Madness public will learn from the lives of the saints?
I hope that the Lent Madness readers will see the complexity of each of the lives of the saints. There is little in our own day that they did not face. Each was viewed with an amount of skepticism and even derision in their day and rarely does one become a saint without traveling a path that differs from the wider culture and even Church. We are each, in the lives of the saints, being given models for challenging ourselves to an ever more faithful journey with Christ as his story becomes ours and others see in us a glimpse of the divine image.

Someday, when you become the answer on Jeopardy, what will the question be?
"Who was martyred with a crossbow bolt while celebrating High Mass on Corpus Christi?"

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Adam Thomas

All Lent Madness fans should be grateful for one of the true unsung heroes of Lent Madness, Bracket Czar Adam Thomas. Adam created the now iconic fancy bracket we use for our little saintly competition. A former Celebrity Blogger, Adam now enjoys a title that clearly impressed the search committee at St. Mark's Church in Mystic, Connecticut, where he now serves as rector.

adamthomasAdam ThomasLent Madness Bracket Czar, was a 2012 Celebrity Blogger (most closely identified with upstart Philander Chase) who has morphed into our keeper of the bracket. This Lent is his first as rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mystic, Connecticut. Adam is the author of Digital Disciple: Real Christianity in the Virtual World (Abingdon 2011), which you should read since you are using the Internet right now and you are more than likely a Christian. His first novel Letters from Ruby, which is about an Episcopal priest (imagine that!) arrived in August 2013. Adam lives in Groton, Connecticut with his wife Leah, who is wonderful and lovely and every other good adjective you might think of. Check out his website WheretheWind.com, for six years of content. You can fan Adam on Facebook or follow him on Twitter@RevAdamThomas.

How has Lent Madness transformed your life?
Somehow Tim and Scott got me to convince myself it was a good idea to get up early every morning during Lent to make new graphics. Very Tom Sawyer of them. And all they had to do was throw me a nice title like Bracket Czar.

Obviously being a Celebrity Blogger is your greatest lifetime achievement. What perks have you enjoyed as a result of your status?
As the Bracket Czar I get all the fame of the Celebrity Bloggers without having to do research. I'll call that a win.

What do you hope the Lent Madness public will learn from the lives of the saints?

When it comes to brackets, Adam is as efficient as a droid.

When it comes to brackets, Adam is as efficient as a droid.

In all seriousness, I hope that Lent Madness instills in people a sense of hope that their lives can be reflections of God's love and glory as the lives of the saints are. I guarantee you that the people we write about this Lent didn't consider themselves saintly during their own lifetimes. They just were. They resonated with the movement of God in this world and their lives demonstrated the powerful results of such resonance. And so can ours.

Someday, when you become the answer on Jeopardy, what will the question be?
Pretty sure you guys wrote this question backwards: if Alex Trebec desires the contestants to say "Who is Adam Thomas?" then the words that will appear on the question board will say, "He singlehandedly upped the production values of the Lent Madness bracket; I mean, seriously, look at the 2010 one."

[Editor's note. It's true. The 2010 Bracket created by Tim was perhaps utilitarian but no work of art.]

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Laurie Brock

Entering her second year as a Celebrity Blogger, Laurie Brock is also the owner of Nina, the Official Horse of Lent Madness. Of course everybody in Kentucky owns a horse so we realize this is only a big deal to those outside the Bluegrass State. When she's not riding, writing, snarking up the joint on Twitter, tending to her congregation, following Alabama football, drinking bourbon, or walking her puppy Evie, we really have no idea what Laurie does all day.

Oh, she also has the distinction of teaching Tim how to ride a horse when he was in Kentucky to lead Clergy Conference for the Diocese of Lexington last year. He was not a natural.

The Rev. Laurie Brock

The Rev. Laurie Brock

Laurie Brock is a returning Celebrity Blogger because she loves getting free coffee mugs. Clergy never have enough coffee mugs or crosses. She serves as the rector of St. Michael the Archangel Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky. She blogs at Dirty Sexy Ministry and is the co-author of Where God Hides HolinessThoughts on Grief, Joy and the Search for Fabulous Heels (Church Publishing). She is also the creative force behind Fifty Days of Fabulous from Forward Movement. She frequently shares her quirky, snarky views on faith, Alabama football, and popular culture on Twitter at @drtysxyministry, but don’t follow unless you can laugh at yourself and your religion. Otherwise, you’ll just be offended. When she’s not doing priest things, she is riding her horse Nina and trying to avoid another spot on the Celebrity Blogger injured reserved list like last year.

How has Lent Madness transformed your life?
Well, I now have something to do during Lent other than repent. And I know way more about Hilda of Whitby and the other saints I've celebrity blogged for than I learned, even for seminary exams. Being a Celebrity Blogger engages one in the lives of the saints (not to mention a competitive Lenten discipline) beyond just a set of dry facts to the humorous, spiritual, tragic, and even oddly insane lives they lived. Plus Nina the Official Lent Madness Horse enjoys wearing her purple sheet (a sheet is the horse version of a light coat). And I can't go to any Church event without being mobbed by people wanting autographs. Well, maybe not so much that last sentence.
Obviously being a Celebrity Blogger is your greatest lifetime achievement. What perks have you enjoyed as a result of your status?
This year, Thomas Merton is one of my saints (vote THOMAS!), so I trekked to Gethsemani, the monastery where he lived and wrote not too far from where I live in Kentucky. I met one of the monks who knew Brother Louis (as Thomas was known to his fellow monks) who told me personal stories of their time together and quoted poetry about God as we sat in the garden where Thomas himself sat and prayed decades before. It was a lovely moment realizing I would have never had this ethereal opportunity without the generosity of the SEC, Scott and Tim, and without my ability to snark in 140 characters or less on Twitter (which is how I'm still convinced I got the call to the major leagues of Church blogging).

What do you hope the Lent Madness public will learn from the lives of the saints?

Laurie with Nina, the Official Horse of Lent Madness

Laurie with Nina, the Official Horse of Lent Madness

I was intrigued with the small scandal that erupted over Frances Perkins winning last year's Golden Halo. I had some people argue, "She's not really a saint." Well, no, her hair and fingernails didn't continue to grow after her death, and as far as we know, she didn't put a pickled barrel full of children back together after a mean shopkeeper had enough of their shenanigans and dismembered them (why no one tells that story from the life of St. Nicholas is beyond me). Do these qualities make a saint? Or is a saint someone who heroically lived his/her faith in a daring and courageous way? Frances is a wonderful example of using her faith to guide her decisions and influence others to help the least of these in this country at a time when women's leadership was considered suspect and rarely given heed. That seems heroic to me...I mean, imagine if we all lived our love for God and neighbor the way Frances did.

That, quite honestly, is part of being a saint. Fantastic stories of ancient saints are part of the hagiography of a saint, but saints, as the hymn says, are here and now. So I hope that Lent Madness is a way for people to feel their pre-concived ideas of who a saint is gently (and sometimes irreverently) expanded as they come to know saints past and present in a very real way.
Someday, when you become the answer on Jeopardy, what will the question be?
"Who is the first Episcopal priest to host Saturday Night Live?"
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Celebrity Blogger Week: Penny Nash

Ever since 2011, the first year we invited four Celebrity Bloggers to participate in the Faithful Four (because Tim was exhausted from writing all the bios himself), Penny Nash has been part of the Lent Madness team. In other words, this will be the fourth straight Lent that she's offered us a Penny for her thoughts. Which is a ridiculous statement but we figured we'd leave all the tri-cornered Colonial Williamsburg references to Penny herself. Read on.

DSC_0002Penny Nash, one of the four original Celebrity Bloggers, is still somewhat amazed that she is the associate rector at Bruton Parish Episcopal Church in downtown Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. When people ask her what women priests wore in the Colonial Era, her response is, “Pants.” She is a contributor to a lectionary series of sermons and reflections by a group called Homelists for the Homeless. The first two volumes, Hungry, and You Fed Me/Year C and Naked, and You Clothed Me/Year A are out and will be followed by the third volume (for Year B) in the fall of 2014; Letters to Me: Conversations with a Younger Self, a collection of essays for young adults; as well as to two Forward Movement “Day by Day” books. Known in the social media world as Penelopepiscopal, Penny posts prayers or reflections, accompanied by her own photography daily at her blog One Cannot Have Too Large a Party. Friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter@penelopepiscopl.

How has Lent Madness transformed your life?
Lent Madness has given me the strength to get up and do what needs to be done -- no, wait, that was Powdermilk Buiscuits. Plus, anybody who has ever been around me for five minutes knows I’m not shy. No, Lent Madness has transformed me into a fierce and focused competitor who spends hours watching the voting while composing snappy zingers to send to…wait, that’s probably not something to be proud of. OK, I give up. Perhaps people could make suggestions in the comments about how Lent Madness has transformed my life (in a good way, please).

Obviously being a Celebrity Blogger is your greatest lifetime achievement. What perks have you enjoyed as a result of your DSC_0081status?

Besides receiving free mugs and brackets, people recognize me everywhere I go, and almost always in a good way, except for…well, never mind about that. It happened just once. Right. OK, for instance, last year on Ash Wednesday as I was preparing for our “Ashes on the Go” distribution, a visitor from Alaska (!) came to the altar rail and said, “Hi! I’ve never received ashes from a Real Celebrity Blogger before!” That was pretty big. But the best perk was when another visitor (we have a lot of those here in Colonial Williamsburg) came out of the church one Sunday morning and introduced herself to me as a member of the parish where Lent Madness super fans Hope and Skye are also members. So, being a Celebrity Blogger brings me into the circles of other famous and cool people.

What do you hope the Lent Madness public will learn from the lives of the saints?

One of the great things about saints, and particularly about this year’s crop of saints in Lent Madness 2014, is that they are both normal people and also extraordinary people. I hope that each member of the Lent Madness public will find a saint or two who inspire them to do something extraordinary themselves for the love of God and in the name of Jesus Christ.

Someday, when you become the answer on Jeopardy, what will the question be?
"Who discovered a magical recipe for fudge brownies that helps people lose weight by eating two of them every day?"
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Celebrity Blogger Week: David Sibley

Everyone needs a Brooklyn hipster in his or her life. We're not entirely sure former chemists qualify as hipsters but David Sibley is most definitely living in Brooklyn amongst the artisinal-everything loving hipsters. Sure, he's actually from South Carolina but what's a little geographical fudgery among friends? This is David's second year as our youngest Celebrity Blogger but, since he's in parish ministry, he's aging rapidly.

The Rev. David Sibley

The Rev. David Sibley

David Sibley, while living in Brooklyn, does not craft artisanal cheeses. Instead, he serves as Priest-in-Charge of Saint John’s Church, Fort Hamilton, where six of the saints featured in this year’s bracket stare back at him every time he celebrates the Eucharist. 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 praying for the yearly resurrection of the Chicago Cubs’ World Series hopes. 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.

How has Lent Madness transformed your life?
Well, let’s just say that when you’re searching for Saintly Kitsch on Etsy and eBay during the Elate Eight, you see things, man. I just can’t unsee some of the terrible, terrible, kitsch that I’ve seen. There is nothing – nothing – that someone out there has not thought worthy of bedazzling.

For me, perhaps the most rewarding and transformative aspect of Lent Madness has been to hear the stories people share in comments and on social media about how the various saints have had an impact on their lives of prayer and discipleship. People come to regard the saints as their friends in faith, and as companions along a journey. So Lent Madness has become a regular part of Lent for me, and one that I look forward to each year, because it means not only learning some new things, but also, hearing how other people’s lives have been transformed by walking with the saints.

Obviously being a Celebrity Blogger is your greatest lifetime achievement. What perks have you enjoyed as a result of your status?
This one time, Tim handed me a free cup of coffee. It was a touching moment that I’ll cherish forever. Actually the biggest perk of being a Celebrity Blogger has been that I’ve been able to meet and converse with a whole bunch of really cool people over on social media, and made a few really good friends through the process.

What do you hope the Lent Madness public will learn from the lives of the saints?dsibley
I would hope people will learn see that when people follow after Jesus, God inspires ordinary people to lead lives of extraordinary faithfulness and boundless courage. My preaching professor in seminary often pointed to a saying attributed to Martin Luther, “God rides the lame horse; God carves the rotten wood.” For me, that’s true when I look at the lives of the saints: for as often as a saint wanted to quit, or failed in a venture, or was on the edge of burnout – God would transform brokenness and failure into something bigger and grander than they could have ever imagined. The lives of the saints are so often images of magnificent transformation in the service of Jesus Christ – and the saints inspire me to want to be transformed, too.

To paraphrase the old Tommy Lasorda Slim-Fast Commercials: If they can do it, I can do it, too!

Someday, when you become the answer on Jeopardy, what will the question be?
Now hold on a second: shouldn’t this go the other way? I thought the answer is a question on Jeopardy, and the question is the answer. I’m very confused as to what is actually being asked here, so I’m going to present the episode as I picture it playing out:

Contestant: “I’ll take Being Pedantic on Profiles for $500, Alex”
Alex Trebek: “During Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger Week 2014, he started arguing with a very easy profile question because he didn’t have an insightful way to write about his deep love of the Chicago Cubs and South Carolina Gamecocks, his tendency to binge television series on Netflix, or the fact that he spends way too much time on Twitter.”
Contestant: “Who is David Sibley?”
Alex Trebek: “Correct.”

That question, neeedless to say, should not be a Daily Double.

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Celebrity Blogger Week: David Creech

We're glad David Creech took us up on our offer to serve as a Celebrity Blogger this year for two main reasons. First, he's a Lutheran and this proves that we're ecumenical. Second, when we inevitably hear someone yelling "Is there a doctor in the Lent Madness house?" we have David around to save the day.

Dr. David Creech

Dr. David Creech

David Creech is Assistant Professor of Religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. A student of early Christianities, David knows a lot about saints — they killed many of his research subjects. He is a product of an Evangelical seminary and a Catholic PhD program and now teaches at a Lutheran college and worships with Episcopalians. For those looking for the ecumenical voice (read: objective and unbiased/quite confused) in this year’s competition, he’s your man. Although he does dress in robes from time to time, David brings the unique perspective of a layperson. His book title is long and boring (The Use of Scripture in the Apocryphon of John: A Diachronic Analysis of the Variant Versions) but nearly sold out of its initial print run of 200 copies. You can follow David on Twitter@dyingsparrows and read his oftentimes provocative posts at his blog by the same name. When not teaching and writing, David enjoys the company of his wife, Jessica, and their three children, Ian, Ela, and Dylan.

How has Lent Madness transformed your life?
Firstly, only Jesus transforms me. Lent Madness, however, has been a wonderful place to make friends and laugh. I found a community full of curious and playful people. Each day I was exposed to new ideas and learned fun facts about lives of extraordinary (and sometimes quite ordinary!) people. I found myself reflecting on their lives throughout the day. The Lent Madness blog and the Twitter feed allowed for further conversation, sometimes serious, sometimes playful, always a treat. I also enjoy the daily opportunity to explore the lives of the saints and to reflect on my own commitments and values.

Obviously being a Celebrity Blogger is your greatest lifetime achievement. What perks have you enjoyed as a result of your unnamedstatus? 
The perks of being a Celebrity Blogger really pale in comparison to all the credibility, prestige, and money that come from being an assistant professor of religion at a small, regional liberal arts school in the frozen Midwest. That said, what is most thrilling about being a Celebrity Blogger is that I now receive occasional emails from the inimitable Scott A. Gunn and the always right Reverend Tim Schenck (see what I did there?). Sometimes they even reply to my tweets. Oh, and I think I am supposed to get some mythical mug.

What do you hope the Lent Madness public will learn from the lives of the saints?
So much! I’d have to say that at the top of my list is the fact that the lives of the saints are messy and our memories of them are not always as accurate as we would like. Sometimes the saints seem very mundane, other times exceptional (even too exceptional). Whatever the case, their lives and how we remember them encourage us to think about what it means to be the people of God.

Someday, when you become the answer on Jeopardy, what will the question be?
"Who is the first Celebrity Blogger to seamlessly blend academic rigor and sardonic wit in 400 word biographies of the saints thus effectively making said biographies must read think pieces."

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Laura Darling

No, your eyes don't deceive you. Today's featured Celebrity Blogger looks an awful lot like a former CB named Laura Toepfer. We were going to do a whole separated at birth thing to confuse the Lent Madness faithful but decided to come clean. Laura got married after Lent Madness 2013; hence the name change. So to be clear: Laura Toepfer is Laura Darling.

While the Supreme Executive Committee cannot condone weddings during Lent (or anything else that might distract someone from Lent Madness) we are thrilled for Laura.

The Rev. Laura Darling

The Rev. Laura Darling

Laura Darling, now entering her third year as a battle-hardened Celebrity Blogger, spends half of her time as the Managing Director of Confirm not Conform, an organization devoted to creating confirmation programs that celebrate questions and authentic faith; half of her time as the Director of Spiritual Care and Senior Director of Senior Resources for Episcopal Senior Communities; and the other half of her time with her wife and their three dogs and two cats. After seven years in college, youth, and parish ministry, in 2008 Laura became a Kiva Fellow and worked with microfinance agencies in Uganda before returning to her native California. She preaches regularly throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and in her rare moments of spare time blogs at The Infusion and tweets @ldarling15. She also has a thing about obituaries.

  1. How has Lent Madness transformed your life?
  2. I look at the liturgical calendar completely differently. If it’s the feast of Evelyn Underhill, I remember, along with her teaching on mysticism, how she whupped Monica in round 2 back in 2012. What’s really sad is I didn’t even need to look that up. I just pulled that from off the top of my head. I can’t say if that’s a good thing or not. But it’s the truth. I’ve become one of those people who quote stats about sporting events. I haven’t gone so far down this trail that I’m able to pull up the matches for every saint; mostly the ones I wrote about. But still.

Obviously being a Celebrity Blogger is your greatest lifetime achievement. What perks have you enjoyed as a result of your unnamedstatus?
As a heavy-duty tea drinker, the free mugs are an excellent bonus. Especially since the last two Lent Madness mugs have been broken by marauding cats. I hope Frances Perkins proves more hearty. But it’s also really fun to be able to dig into the lives of the saints in a deep way. When you only have 400 words to summarize the life of someone who’s been influential to you and to the life of the church, it’s really tough and I think we all take it very seriously. I do a lot of research and dig into original documents as I am able. (I highly commend the website Project Canterbury as an online resource.) In a way, it’s easier to do the obscure saints because there’s less to find. I pity whoever wrote up Augustine of Hippo – I mean, how do you boil all that information down? But the saints I’ve gotten to write about are people I already cared about as spiritual influences; it’s been a joy to have the opportunity to learn more about them and think about them deeply and to represent them as best I can.

What do you hope the Lent Madness public will learn from the lives of the saints?
That there are lots of different ways to be a witness to God’s love and grace. That it’s not about being a certain type of person or doing a certain type of thing or having a particular kind of personality. That these are real people with foibles and frailties (I’m looking at you, John Wesley), and that Christian Perfection is not about never making mistakes, but that by God’s grace we may, though love, do the work of God in transforming the world.

Someday, when you become the answer on Jeopardy, what will the question be?
Well, I suspect the question will be “Who is Laura Darling?” As to what the answer will be, I have no idea, and I suspect no one will know it. Unless, of course, they are seriously hard core Lent Madness fanatics.

 

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Megan Castellan

The celebrity parade that is Celebrity Blogger Week continues with second-year participant Megan Castellan. Megan has the distinction of being the only CB to blog from different parts of the country in consecutive years. Last year she was serving in Arizona and this year she calls Kansas City, Missouri, home. This wouldn't be such a big deal except the Supreme Executive Committee was highly inconvenienced having to update Megan's bio. Not that it's all about us, of course.

castellan.megan_web

The Rev. Megan Castellan

Megan Castellan is Assistant Rector, and Chaplain at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Day School, Kansas City, Missouri. She is excited to be one of the few clergy to have a title (ARC) that is also a geometric figure, though why this fact has proved less amusing at parties, she can’t imagine.  Her ongoing adventures and strong opinions are chronicled in her blog Red Shoes, Funny Shirt  and on Twitter @revlucymeg. (She also writes on Mondays for the Episcopal Cafe, though the snark factor is significantly lower there.) In her spare time, she enjoys singing, cooking, being obsessive about television comedy, and marshaling the forces of the Ginger Rescue Squad, otherwise known as her rescue dog and rescue cat.

How has Lent Madness transformed your life?
For each saint I've had the pleasure of writing for, I developed an emotional attachment to that person. It's like we're friends, in a weird, beyond-the-grave, I-have-a-mug-with-your-face sort of way. The communion of saints is real to me in a different way now, and I frequently find myself thinking "What would Oscar Romero do? What would Catherine of Siena do? What would Harriet Tubman do?" And I do attribute the election of Pope Francis to a prayerful threat I made to Archbishop Romero to come see about his church already.

Obviously being a Celebrity Blogger is your greatest lifetime achievement. What perks have you enjoyed as a resultmegan hat of your status?
My hair is longer, my skin is brighter, my nails are stronger! I get free drinks in bars; children and pets trail after me in the streets! In more provable areas, discovering I was a Celebrity Blogger for Lent Madness caused great excitement when I was being interviewed for my current job, which helped enormously in my discernment process. I have met truly wonderful, funny people across the country, and even in Canada. I even get free mugs. This is the best job ever.

What do you hope the Lent Madness public will learn from the lives of the saints?
The saints are complex, unique characters; there's no one-size-fits-all form of sainthood, there's no one way to be holy or faithful. Some saints excelled at contemplation, and withdrawing from the world. Others were good at charging in, and changing the world from the middle of everything. Some saints had unshakeable faith in God; others were arguing with God every other minute. If you've thought it, struggled with it, or done it, chances are, a saint has, too.

Someday, when you become the answer on Jeopardy, what will the question be?
Answer: "Currently a school chaplain for children ranging in age from 2-14, the youngest ones cannot pronounce her last name, and call her "Chaplain Chocolate" or "Chaplain Quadriceps" instead."

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Celebrity Blogger Week: Amber Belldene

For the second day in a row, we're featuring a rookie during Celebrity Blogger Week. Amber Belldene is not your grandfather's Episcopal priest (unless your grandfather's Episcopal priest was also a romance writer), which is one of the reasons we're jazzed she's joined us for our pursuit of the Golden Halo.

Some of you have been wondering if there is a hazing process for new CBs. The official answer is that we do not condone hazing of any kind. Also the rumor that we require a Lent Madness tattoo is greatly exaggerated.

The Rev. Amber Belldene

The Rev. Amber Belldene

Amber Belldene is a romance writer and the alter ego of a vampire-loving Episcopal priest. She grew up on the Florida panhandle swimming with alligators, climbing oak trees, and diving for scallops…when she could pull herself away from a book. As a child, she hid her Nancy Drew novels inside the church bulletin and read mysteries during sermons — an irony that is not lost on her when she preaches these days. Amber believes stories are the best way to examine life’s truths, and she is passionate about the relationship between sexuality and spirituality — namely, that God made people with a desire for love, and that desire is the heart of every romance novel. Her paranormal romance series Blood Vine is now available from Omnific Publishing and her sexy contemporary novella One Sinful Night in São Paulo, about an Episcopal seminarian looking for love, is scheduled to release later this year. She loves wine, history, heirloom tomatoes and she lives with her husband and children in San Francisco. For more information about her books or to check out her blog go to www.amberbelldene.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmberBelldene or Facebook.

How has Lent Madness transformed your life?
So, I'm not going to lie. I haven't followed Lent Madness in the past, except second-hand through clergy buddies. But, I'm very excited to take part this year. We've hung the bracket poster up in the front office and I'm ready to be transformed!

2. Obviously being a Celebrity Blogger is your greatest lifetime achievement. What perks have you enjoyed as a result of your status?
Well, I've sold some romance novels, apparently, because when you look at my books on Amazon you see "People who bought this book also bought..." several books by Lent Madness Celebrity Bloggers. So, that's cool. I do realize racy romance novels are not everyone's cup of tea, but the more I talk with people who do read them about God, and holy longings, and sex, and spirituality, the more sure I am God has called me to this surprising pair of vocations. When I talk to readers and writers, I get to "preach" about incarnation and the goodness of creation, which includes us and our sexual desires, to an audience largely unfamiliar with the Episcopal Church. Many of them are excited to hear about a church that considers this to be a part of the Good News.

What do you hope the Lent Madness public will learn from the lives of the saints?amber
I love the idea of people engaging with the stories of Holy Women and Holy Men. These kind of examples inspire us to consider what faith has looked like throughout history, and what courage and sanctity look like in our modern context. Novelist-me thinks a lot about heroism, and what enables a person to devote their life to doing good or to take a risky stand on behalf of those in need. I love to teach Moses and then watch Martin Luther King Jr.'s last speech, in which he talks about how he too has seen the Promised Land, and he's not afraid, even though he may not get there. It was almost immediately afterward that he was killed. The speech is so wonderful for asking people to consider what would they stand up for, no matter the risks and I think many of the live of the saints have that quality as well.
Someday, when you become the answer on Jeopardy, what will the question be?
"What early twenty-first century Episcopal priest shamelessly invited scandal by writing rated-R (okay, maybe X) romance novels and proclaiming sexuality is a path to experiencing divine love?"
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