By Mary Ann Weber
Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day, is a fun day for our congregation. We gather in the evening to eat pancakes and listen to poetry. And because it’s the day before Lent begins we also acknowledge our need for confession. All of these things are prelude to the highlight—pancake races!
Pancake races are a tradition in some countries and the oldest one began in 1445 in Olney in the United Kingdom. It’s believed to have begun when a woman who was engrossed in trying to use up fat (traditionally forbidden in households during Lent) making pancakes, when she realized she was late for a service at her parish church. She grabbed what she was doing and ran down the street to the church. Today the race continues and women run in traditional housewife attire holding frying pans with pancakes. In the U.S.,
there is a big pancake race in Liberal, Kansas, and they were good enough to share photos for this blog post from their races so you can get the idea.*
Our church in Indiana modifies the race by including everyone regardless of age or gender, as long as they are dressed in traditional homemaker clothes including a long skirt, apron, and a head scarf. Women, men, boys, and girls look forward to getting their outfits together and running around the church with a frying pan and pancake. They need to flip the pancake during their run.
Shrove Tuesday, which has turned into Fat Tuesday for many, is a day of excess and fun. It is in stark contrast to the Lent season.
Lent is a time to reflect on Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice. Christians experience renewal and are transformed through acts of prayer and confession. Some people follow the practice of sacrificing something during this season so they give up special treats or foods. I’ve known quite a few who have given up chocolate for Lent, and those who have made efforts to ride a bike instead of drive their car. Still others add something to their lives during Lent, usually in the form of a spiritual practice to aide in prayer or confession. For example, a young man in our congregation studied Lent texts and then wrote a hymn each week. We sang the songs and benefited from his thoughtful, wonderful compositions.
Lent gives way to Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. This is an eventful time in the church calendar year. Leader magazine (http://www.leaderonline.org/) offers resources for planning worship services throughout Lent. The resources invite us to encounter God as we reflect on things that we have witnessed. The worship resources, as with Lent, all lead up to Easter Sunday, when we share what we have witnessed through Jesus’ empty tomb.
May we all experience God’s love and grace as we observe the events during this time of the year.
Mary Ann Weber
Managing Editor for Curriculum
*In Liberal, Kansas, the winner (center, below) receives, among other prizes, a small hymnal from St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Olney, England where the tradition began. One hymn that is always sung during the Shrove Tuesday service in Liberal is “Amazing Grace,” penned by John Newton when he was the curate of the church in Olney between 1765-1780. The Olney Hymns were first published in February 1779, and are the combined work of Newton (1725–1807) and his poet friend, William Cowper (1731–1800). We thought this footnote was appropriate as the publisher of a long and rich tradition of Mennonite hymnals.