Lent Madness 2019 boasts an all-star lineup of Celebrity Bloggers serving as contributors. Amber Belldene, Laurie Brock, Megan Castellan, Anna Fitch Courie, David Creech, Marcus Halley, David Hansen, Emily McFarlan Miller, Carol Howard Merritt, 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; Maria Virginia serves as our resident Celebrity Chef; and Sr. Diana Doncaster joins the team as 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, Distinguished Celebrity Blogger is a returning Celebrity Blogger because…well, let’s be honest, who WOULDN’T want this gig? She serves as the rector of St. Michael the Archangel Episcopal Church in Lexington, Kentucky. She blogs at www.revlauriebrock.com, and her new book, Horses Speak of God, is available in April of this year. 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 @revlaurieinlex. 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 really living into the Lenten thing this year. She starts Lent as the Assistant Rector of St. Paul’s, Kansas City, MO and Diocesan Network Coordinator for Youth, and ends it as the Rector of St. John’s, Ithaca, New York. Previously, she has lived and worked in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Arizona, and that 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. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, playing with yarn, throwing jellybeans at politicians she disagrees with on TV, and cheering on KC-based sportsball teams.
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.
The Rev. Amber Belldene is a romance writer and the alter ego of a book-loving Episcopal priest. 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 sexy Hot Under the Coller Series features Episcopal priest heroines finding love and learning to be inspiring church leaders. She loves cocktails, 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.
Anna Fitch Courie Anna Fitch Courie is an army wife, nurse, layperson, and the author of “Christ Walk: A 40 Day Spiritual Fitness Program” (Church Publishing, Inc., 2015); “Christ Walk Kids” (Church Publishing, 2016); “Sally the Comet” (CreateSpace, 2015); “Sally and the Constellations” (CreateSpace, 2017), and “The Adventures of Cancer Girl and God” (Church Publishing, 2018). Anna finds her calling where health and spirituality intersect. Anna is a registered nurse by training and has been working in the health care field for the past twenty years. More recently, she has been a 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. In her spare time, she fights cancer, consults in public health, and runs Christ Walk, retreats, writes books, and blogs for “50 Days of Fabulous” 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 Assistant Professor of Religion at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. A student of early Christianities, David knows a lot about saints—they anathematized 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 owning his three kids Ian, Ela, and Dylan at Sorry.
The Rev. Marcus Halley is an Episcopal priest and rector of Saint Paul’s Church on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A native North Carolinian, Marcus previously served as Pastor for Young Adults and Families at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri in the Diocese of West Missouri. He is a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University (Charlotte, NC), the Interdenominational Theological Center (Atlanta, GA), and the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee, TN.) Prior to ordination as an Episcopal priest, Fr. Marcus served as a pastoral resident at Emory University Hospital – Midtown in Atlanta, Georgia. This is his first year as a Celebrity Blogger.
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.
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 sixth 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 over ten years of content. You can follow Adam on Facebook or Twitter @RevAdamThomas.
Maria Virginia, Lent Madness Celebrity Chef, shares saintly recipes on our Facebook and Twitter pages on the weekends during Lent to help stave off the inevitable Lent Madness Withdrawal. She’s a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wilmington, NC where she serves on the Wilmington Faiths Against Gun Violence Team. Maria invites you to journey with her as she blogs about God, awakenings, saints, angels, recovery, and food at Saints and Recipes. Maria’s four-year spiritual journey of recovery from codependency and escape from psychological abuse is complete. She works now on maintaining quality calibration of her reality. She’s an intuitive empath, retired stay-at-home mom with a boy and a girl in college, and creator of the Bohemian Writers Coffee Club. Maria is writing a book about her connections to the Saints. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
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.