* Maybe you didn't know this. But in fact, Celebrity Blogging was the first gig Meredith and I ever did together.
We met last year in the comments section on our Episcopal priest friend Tim Schenck's blog Clergy Family Confidential, which was hosting Lent Madness, an idea of Tim's to create a "tournament" of saints who compete against one another during Lent. Both Meredith and I got perhaps a little noisy in the comments** and next thing you know, Tim asked us both become Celebrity Bloggers to write for the Final Four in Lent Madness. I'm pretty sure the whole "Celebrity Blogger" title was supposed to wow us so much that we wouldn't realize we were taking a bunch of work off Tim's hands as Holy Week loomed nearer and nearer.
This year, Lent Madness has moved to its own website, hosted by Forward Movement. Meredith and I have been joined by six other Celebrity Bloggers, each of whom is writing for four of the thirty-two saints. As the first round nears its end, she and I will be facing one another in the opening match of the Saintly Sixteen second round -- she's writing for Mary Magdalene and I'm writing for Joan of Arc. I'm pretty nervous about that one.***
So, Lent Madness is fun. It's getting a lot of publicity. We even got an article in the Washington Post! But what church social media types want to take notice of is this: Lent Madness is generating the kind of interest and discussion that we all want to see among people of faith.
Currently, there are around 10,000 people visiting the website each day, reading about the two saints in the daily match-up, and 2,000 of them are voting for their favorite saint every day during Lent. Each post generates 75 to 100 comments. Most comments are thoughtful and many really add to the discussion. Even more conversation happens on the Lent Madness Facebook page (more than 1500 fans like it!). You can follow @LentMadness on Twitter and the hashtag #LentMadness.
The online community that is developing is fantastic. There are families playing together, reading the saints' biographies around the breakfast table and deciding for whom to vote every morning. Oh, how that gladdens my heart!
And just as Meredith's and my friendship moved into real life (and Meredith has the tiara to prove it), Lent Madness is also creating community in real life. Because of the game format, youth groups and college ministries and parishes are gathering to play Lent Madness as a devotional activity. People are discussing saints and why certain ones mean something to them and what it all has to do with their lives today.
This, friends, is church social media at work.
Notes from Meredith:
* Not that we would ever dare characterize ourselves this way. We're far too modest.
** Stunningly difficult to imagine...noisy? In comments? Anywhere? Us?
*** Me too, because we're both writing about amazing women of extraordinary faith.