Q&A with the Rev. Tim Schenck

You may know the Rev. Tim Schenck as one half of the Supreme Executive Committee— he’s the creator of the wildly popular online devotion Lent Madness. In addition to filming Monday Madness videos and creating saintly brackets, Tim is also the rector of the Church of Bethesda by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida, and the author of books full of humor and faith. His latest release, Devotions for People who Don’t Do Devotions, is available now from Forward Movement.

Get to know Tim a little better – and explore his unconventional devotional book!

Where did the idea for this book come from?

The whole concept for this book, and the title in particular, is rooted in my own frustration with so many devotional books out there. There are times for contemplation and spiritual navel gazing, but I also think we need to engage our faith on a practical, real life level. I find that’s often missing in the devotional industrial complex.

As I write in the Introduction, “Maybe it’s the saccharine sweet, holier-than-thou tone of most of the devotionals I’ve browsed in the Religion & Spirituality section at Barnes & Noble. Okay, most of those were put out by Joel Osteen, Inc. But still, there’s a Ned Flanders-esque vibe to many spiritual books that leaves you wondering if the people who write them even inhabit the same planet. And surely that’s not helpful for those of us seeking the divine presence in the midst of our daily lives.”

What is your hope for this book?

Ultimately, I hope that people will buy it. Just kidding. I hope that people will relate to the personal stories I share, and that they’ll see themselves and their own experiences in what I write. Like any good sermon illustration, you should be able to find something relatable that touches something deep in your own soul — not that the book is preachy or anything…

But I also really hope people engage the book in groups. There are reflection questions following each devotion and I’d love to hear that people are building community by reading the book together. Loneliness is such a spiritual burden and here’s an accessible, fun opportunity to gather and go deeper with one another.

You’re well-known to many of our readers as one of the faces behind Lent Madness, our Lenten bracket challenge featuring various saints. How is writing devotional books like this one similar to – or different from – working on Lent Madness?

Well, I like to think that I bring a bit of that Lent Madness humor to my writing. With Lent Madness, and in my own ministry in general, I always seek to take my faith, but not myself, too seriously. You can speak deep spiritual truths without being grim.

Also, there’s less voting involved!

Where do you typically write?

Coffee shops! I do all my sermon writing, book writing, pretty much any kind of writing with the accompaniment of a good cup of single-origin black coffee. I hear there are other ways to write, but I haven’t come across them.

What was the most enjoyable part of writing?

Hitting send on the manuscript email to the editor! Sort of kidding. But writing is hard, often gut-wrenching work, that you put your whole being into. I love to write, but it’s never an easy process. This is my fifth book, and after each one, I swear I’ll never write another one. Which I stick with…until I get another dose of inspiration.

But the most enjoyable part of writing this particular book, was reflecting back on situations and encounters and experiences from my life and viewing them anew through a spiritual lens. It’s always a fruitful exercise.

Do you have a favorite prayer?

That’s like asking a preacher if they have a favorite Bible verse. Or a coffee snob if they have a favorite coffee. But I’ll have to go with one from Compline that I pray most nights, one that I’ve concluded every vestry meeting I’ve led over the past 20+ years:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page 134)

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