Mad about the saints!

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by James Deaton

As Holy Week approached, many Michiganders were concerned how a certain team from Ann Arbor would fare in a certain college basketball tournament. Here at Grace, our minds were set on higher things, heavenly realms, as we waited on pins and needles to see who would win Lent Madness.

This online discipline—er, competition—started on February 15 with thirty-two saints of the church, in the style of March Madness, and now we’re down to one. The winner of this year’s worldwide competition, the recipient of the coveted Golden Halo, is Anna Alexander.

Deaconess Anna Alexander

According to the Lent Madness website, 7,579 people from all over the world voted in the final round. Anna beat Maria Skobtsova, 62 to 38 percent. Her path to winning the Golden Halo was paved by earlier victories against Peter Claver, Edith Cavell, Eglantyne Jebb, and Richard Hooker.

Anna Alexander was the first African American deaconess of the Episcopal Church. She was a teacher and minister in southern Georgia in the decades following the Civil War. She founded Good Shepherd Church in rural Glynn County’s Pennick community, where she taught children to read from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Her persistent faith and commitment to the Christian formation of black communities ensured that voices from marginalized parishes were heard through the Diocese of Georgia. You can watch a documentary about her life’s story at deaconessalexander.georgiaepiscopal.org.

Anna joins the celestial ranks of previous Golden Halo winners: C. S. Lewis (2011), Mary Magdalene (2012), Francis of Assisi (2015), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (2016), and last year’s winner, Florence Nightingale (2017).

Here at Grace, several of us tried to see if we could guess the winner of each round of saintly competition.

As commissioner of Grace’s Lent Madness competition, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Ellen Schrader, who came from the middle of the pack to pull ahead for the win in the final round. Ellen was one of two individuals here at Grace who picked Anna Alexander to win. Our dear friend Sue Bennett, who ended up in third place, was the other person. Elizabeth Black, who was near the top for the duration of the tournament, was the runner-up. Check out the whiteboard next to the Lent Madness bracket in the parish hall to see the full list of participants.

Elizabeth Black

Ellen Schrader

To honor our winners and as an opportunity to gather for food and fun, the entire parish is invited to the Lent Madness Championship Party on Saturday, April 21, at 6 pm following worship. Even if you didn’t participate in Lent Madness, you are welcome to join us. Please bring a favorite party snack (salty or sweet), and we’ll provide pizza and drinks. There will be games for all ages, as we learn a bit about the saints of the church, including the saints of Grace!

To ensure we have enough pizza, RSVP on the easel in the commons. I hope you’ll come for this fun time together as a parish family.

I’d like to end with a prayer from A Great Cloud of Witnesses, an Episcopal liturgical resource published in 2016. This hefty book provides an additional calendar of optional commemorations of saints, broadening the “official” list to include a variety of women and men who have inspired others.

This prayer is for the commemoration of Anna Alexander:

O God, you called Anna Alexander as a deaconess in your Church and sent her as teacher and evangelist to the people of Georgia: Grant us the humility to go wherever you send and the wisdom to teach the word of Christ to whomever we meet, that all may come to the enlightenment which you intend for your people; through Jesus Christ, our Teacher and Savior. Amen.

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