The English minister and hymn-writer Charles Wesley edged Harriet Bedell, 20th-century missionary and justice advocate, to win the coveted Golden Halo in this year’s Lent Madness.
Throughout the season of Lent thousands of voters have cast their ballots for their favorite saints through this engaging online devotional tool designed to help people learn about saints. There have been upsets and thrilling, come-from-behind victories as the field has been whittled down from 32 starters, to the Saintly Sixteen, the Elate Eight, the Faithful Four, and eventually the two finalists.
Charles Wesley is the author of such popular hymns as “Hark! The herald angels sing,” “ Love Divine, all Loves Excelling,” and “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing!” On Easter Day, millions of Christians will sing one of his most famous hymns, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today!” Along with his brother John, Wesley was a principal leader in the 19th-century Methodist revival within the Church of England, which ultimately led to the founding of the Methodist Church.
Previous winners of the Golden Halo were Francis Perkins (2013), Mary Magdalene (2012), C.S. Lewis (2011), and George Herbert (2010).
The “celebrity blogger” who promoted the cause of Charles Wesley, the Rev. David Sibley, priest-in-charge of St. John’s Episcopal Church (Fort Hamilton) in Brooklyn, said, “I couldn’t be more thrilled to see that participants in Lent Madness became just as attached to Charles Wesley as I did, and voted for him to receive this year’s Golden Halo. All Christians can be inspired by Wesley’s determination that the love of Jesus Christ is something to be shared and heard by everyone — whoever and wherever they are.”
Musing on this year’s winner, Lent Madness creator, the Rev. Tim Schenck, Rector of the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts, said, “One of the things I love about Lent Madness is watching people learn about some truly inspiring figures. Whether it’s going deeper with well-beloved saints or discovering more obscure ones, it’s a great way to prepare for Easter — which is really what Lent is all about.”
In seeking a fun, engaging way for people to learn about the men and women comprising the church’s calendar of saints, Schenck came up with this unique Lenten devotion. Combining his love of sports with his passion for the lives of the saints, Lent Madness was born on his blog “Clergy Family Confidential.”
Starting in 2012, Schenck partnered with Forward Movement, a publisher and spiritual vitality catalyst in the Episcopal Church. The Rev. Scott Gunn, executive director of Forward Movement, said, “Well over 100,000 people took part in Lent Madness this year, forming a massive online community in which we all learned a bit more about how God works in the lives of people struggling much as we do. Lent Madness is not only fun, but it teaches us there is hope for us, too.”
Forward Movement has worked since 1935 to bring vitality and spiritual health to the church and its people. Based in Cincinnati, Forward Movement is widely known for Forward Day by Day. Lent Madness is one of many ways that Forward Movement hopes to encourage spiritual growth throughout our whole lives. Forward Movement is a ministry of the Episcopal Church.