Lent Madness 2020 boasts an all-star lineup of Celebrity Bloggers serving as contributors. Amber Belldene, Laurie Brock, Megan Castellan, Anna Fitch Courie, David Creech, Miguel Escobar, Neva Rae Fox, David Hansen, Emily McFarlan Miller, Carol Howard Merritt, Sandra Montes, and David Sibley are all members of the Lent Madness team. Adam Thomas continues in his unsung role as Lent Madness Bracket Czar, regularly updating the bracket throughout Lent; and Sr. Diana Doncaster remains the Official Hymn Writer of Lent Madness.
Enjoy reading the contributor bios below, log onto their respective website and blogs, and by all means buy their books! (where applicable). Oh, and PLEASE don’t mob them when you see them out in public places. The aura of “celebrity” can be a heavy burden.
The Rev. Laurie Brock, returns as a Distinguished Celebrity Blogger because she loves getting free coffee mugs and receiving the celebrity red carpet treatment at Episcopal gatherings. One of those things may not be entirely accurate. She serves as the rector of St. Michael the Archangel Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky. She blogs at www.revlauriebrock.com. Her book, Horses Speak of God, was published in Summer 2018. She frequently shares her quirky, snarky views on faith, Alabama football, and popular culture on Twitter at @revlaurieinlex, 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, the Official Horse of Lent Madness.
The Rev. Megan Castellan, Distinguished Celebrity Blogger, is the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ithaca, NY. Previously, she lived and worked in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Arizona, Missouri, and a period of time in the West Bank that the government can’t know about. Her ongoing adventures and strong opinions are chronicled in her blog Red Shoes, Funny Shirt and on Twitter @revlucymeg. (From time to time, you can also catch her writing in various other places, like Episcopal Café, Fidelia’s Sisters, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, or The (late, lamented) Toast. Sometimes, even actual books.) In her spare time, she enjoys singing, playing with yarn, throwing jellybeans at politicians she disagrees with on TV, and contemplating Jesus-based revolutions.
Rev. David Sibley, Distinguished Celebrity Blogger serves as rector of St. Paul’s Church in Walla Walla, Washington, within the Diocese of Spokane. Raised in South Carolina, David proudly studied and did research in chemistry at Furman University before a call to ordination. He is a graduate of General Theological Seminary in New York City, and spent the eight years prior to his move to Walla Walla serving as a priest at churches in Brooklyn and Long Island. When he’s not in church, David enjoys travel, hiking and camping around the incredible landscape of Eastern Washington and the Palouse, all things food and music related, and enjoying any number of sporting events, especially the Chicago Cubs, Walla Walla Sweets, South Carolina Gamecocks, and Liverpool Football Club. David and his wife Em, an adjust assistant professor at Whitman College, share a home with their Lakeland Terrier, Siena. Neither of them is too foolish to say they are Siena’s owners.
The Rev. Amber Belldene 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. Now Amber is an episcopal priest and student of religion who believes stories are the best way to explore human truths. For more information about her books or to check out her blog go to www.amberbelldene.com.
Anna Fitch Courie is an army wife, nurse, college instructor, and author. Anna has been working in the health care field for 20 years. The serves as adjunct faculty at the College of St. Scholastica and a public health nurse consultant on building community coalitions on health. Anna is a graduate of Clemson University, the University of Wyoming, and Education for Ministry at Sewanee: The University of the South. She is currently enrolled at Ohio State University in the doctoral in nursing practice program. Anna is the author of six titles, including books that focus on health promotion programs for churches. In her spare time, she fights cancer, consults in public health, facilitates retreats, writes books, and blogs for Living Compass Ministries, Christ Walk, and Lent Madness. In her dream world, she hikes the El Camino and Mount Rainier, sails, travels, cooks, reads, and attends every Clemson football game each season. Home is wherever the Army (and God) sends her. You can find her on her blog at Christ Walk; on Facebook; on Twitter @christwalk1; and on Instagram @christwalk1.
Dr. David Creech is Associate Professor of Religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. David spends most of his days thinking, writing, and teaching on early Christianities. He is fascinated by hagiography, both ancient and modern. He is a product of an Evangelical seminary and a Catholic PhD program and teaches at a Lutheran college and worships with Episcopalians. Some would say he is an ecumenical voice but mostly he’s just confused. 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. He also edited the New Testament portion of The Path, a fantastic abridged Bible (now in Spanish!) He is currently working on a project exploring early Christian criminality. You can follow David on Twitter @dyingsparrows. When not teaching and writing, he enjoys all sorts of outdoor activities (mountain biking, volleyball, and disc golf are his faves). A native of Southern California now exiled in the Upper Midwest, David lives in Minnesota with his three exceptional children, Ian, Ela, and Dylan.
Miguel Escobar is Director of Anglican Studies at Episcopal Divinity School at Union. There he works with the Dean Kelly Brown Douglas in building a MDiv in Anglican Studies program aimed at forming Gospel-based, social justice faith leaders for the Episcopal Church. Previously, Miguel served as managing program director for leadership, communications and external affairs at the Episcopal Church Foundation. He earned a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in 2007 and served as communications assistant to then-Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori from 2007 to 2010. Escobar is a member of the board of directors of Forward Movement and serves on the advisory council of Duke Divinity School’s Leadership programs and Episcopal Relief and Development’s church programs committee. He grew up in the Texas hill country and attended Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, where he studied the Roman Catholic social justice tradition, Latin American liberation theologies, and minored in Spanish. He joined the Episcopal Church through St. Mary’s, West Harlem, drawn by the congregation’s diversity and commitment to social justice, and is now a member of All Saints Episcopal Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Neva Rae Fox For two years in a row, the Lenten seasons have been unique for Neva Rae Fox. Like the rest of the world, Lent 2020 found her in quarantine, sheltering-in-place with her husband and her two cats, with Zoom being her link to the world, to her clients, and to the university students she was teaching online. Lent 2019 found her nursing a severely broken arm. For 2021, Neva Rae finds herself optimistic, looking forward to a (hopefully) less-stressed and less-difficult Lent. She is thrilled to be returning as a Lent Madness Celebratory Blogger, having led St. Joseph to the finals last year. And adding a LM mug to her collection is always a bonus. Like others, this Jersey Girl misses baseball (go Phillies!), operas (Met season on hold), concerts (no Ringo this year), but mostly gathering with her friends in church and camaraderie. She is confident that, on the other side of the pandemic, people of faith will gather in thanksgiving for deliverance…and will focus on Lent Madness 2021.
The Rev. David Hansen, despite growing up as a pastor’s kid, turned out okay. An ELCA pastor, he serves at Spirit of Joy! Lutheran Church in The Woodlands, Texas (outside of Houston), where he lives with his wife Megan, their daughter, and their menagerie of pets. When not preaching and teaching for the Lutheran diaspora in Texas, David is helping to drag the church into the digital age – teaching congregations and leaders to make use of online tools for ministry (You can catch David this year leading an Intensive as a part of the ELCA YouthMinistry Network Extravaganza. He is a regular contributor and moderator in the Church Social Media (#chsocm) community, and wrote the forward to Celebrity Blogger alum Meredith Gould’s The Social Media Gospel. He is an occasional contributor to The Lutheran magazine and Living Lutheran, and blogs at Pastor David L. Hansen. David has recently begun work as the Director for LEAD — an organization committed to providing resources for leaders and ministries. Connect with him on Twitter @rev_david and Facebook.
Emily McFarlan Miller is inundated every Lent with messages from friends asking if she’s heard of this Lent Madness thing because they know how she feels about the saints. Emily is a national reporter for the Religion News Service, where she covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity. In 2017, she wrote an article about Lent Madness, and the rest is history. When she’s not writing for or about Lent Madness, she’s working toward a master’s in intercultural studies from the North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies and Portland Seminary, volunteering for Hope for the First Nations and leading a women’s small group at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Chicago. In addition to the stories of the saints, she loves books, vinyl, reruns of The X-Files and working with her husband Joel on their fixer-upper. Find Emily on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as emmillerwrites.
The Rev. Carol Howard Merritt (@CarolHoward) is a Presbyterian (USA) pastor and an award-winning author. Her latest book is Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with A Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church (HarperOne). She is a regular writer at the Christian Century where her blog is hosted. Visit: http://www.carolhowardmerritt.
Sandra Montes will be in New York City during Lent this year as interim worship director at Union Theological Seminary. She is also Spanish language resources consultant at Episcopal Church Foundation (conveniently four minutes away from Union). She has a doctorate in education and uses it when people question her strong opinions, usually shared on social media. Her first book, Becoming REAL and Thriving in Ministry is coming out in May 2020. She loves to sing and dance with her dog, Chank’i and spend time with her family.
The Rev. Adam Thomas, Distinguished Lent Madness Bracket Czar, had one stint as a celebrity blogger before going backstage at Lent Madness as keeper of the bracket and writer of pithy headlines on the bracket page. This Lent is his seventh as rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mystic, Connecticut. Adam is the author of several books, some published by Abingdon Press and some independently published. Find them all on his Amazon author’s page. Now he writes fantasy novels in his limited spare time or plans for his next session of Dungeons and Dragons. Adam lives in Mystic with his wife Leah and their beautiful and precocious twins. Check out his website WheretheWind.com, for almost 12 years of content. You can follow Adam on Facebook or Twitter @RevAdamThomas.
Sister Diana Doncaster is a member of the Community of the Transfiguration (ctsisters.org) attempting to stay out of trouble in the Convent in Cincinnati, OH. Yes, they are Episcopalians. Her primary claim to fame, aside from being the first priest in her community, is her ability to write doggerel at the drop of a veil – or a saint’s bio. When not writing Lent Madness hymns, and attempting to write actual hymns for worship, she spends a good deal of time writing and editing The Transfiguration Quarterly, the magazine for the Community, working on three unpublished “masterpieces”, serving on committees, praying, worshipping, making things with beads. She is a spiritual director, liturgical purist and is trying to teach herself how to be a pianist. She regrets not having an archnemesis, but is taking applications.