I must begin this month’s letter by saying how impressed I was with the spectacle that is Pancake Day at The United Church. As I walked in for my first time at the event my initial impression was … WOW! From the practised production line in the kitchen (which certainly looked orderly even if it was masking chaos), to the wonderful selection of fillings, both sweet and savoury, to the constant line of eager punters queuing for a slice of the action; it was quite a feast to behold. I stayed for over an hour, during which time the queue never subsided, and furthermore, I am told that the usual post-school-run lull which gives a chance for a well needed breather never actually materialised this year. All I can say to everyone involved is … WELL DONE!
A big well done also needs to go to our Young People and their leaders (particularly Jo C) for organising the Fairtrade chocolate fondue that marked the end of Fairtrade Fortnight. I’d never tried gherkins or chilli with chocolate before (not to mention crisps!) and whilst I can’t say I warmed to the former, the combination of chilli and chocolate was a pleasant surprise. Well done to Josie, Mark, Luke, Tom and others who ran the stall and raised almost £170 (minus expenses) towards our mission projects. And if that wasn’t enough, lots of lovely cakes were in plentiful supply at the Cook’s Big Brew event the day before; yet another super occasion kindly put on for us to share in fellowship and raise money for needy causes. With all this food, my diet is looking in greater jeopardy every day! Perhaps some restraint is now needed (at least on my part) when it comes to the consumption of such delicious treats –particularly if I’m going to grant myself a customary cream egg on Easter Sunday!
Thinking about Lent for a moment, I know that the whole Shrove Tuesday/Ash Wednesday thing doesn’t float everyone’s boat, and I hear the cries of those who say that the period of restraint it announces shouldn’t be reserved just for this season. Yet whilst I wholeheartedly agree that penitence and self-examination should be part of the Christian’s character all year round, over the years I’ve become more appreciative of how our ‘diet’ of Christian seasons and liturgies reminds us of the themes so central to our faith story. The theatre, if you will, of playing out these roles invites us to recall their significance and re-invoke the character of them for ourselves. Done well, they help to shape our attitudes and inspire us to continue their practice beyond the season.
The role of filling up on rich foods, like pancakes, is symbolic of preparing ourselves for the Lenten journey; a wilderness trial often hampered by impoverishment and temptation. The cross which adorns a hot bun spiced in memory of the spices used at Jesus’s burial reminds us of that moment of catastrophic loss where hope seemed to give way to despair. The egg, a sign of new life and hollow to symbolise the empty tomb, gives cause for celebration as hope is once again restored. So I encourage you to continue playing out these roles this Lent and Easter, to remember what they really mean, and to shape our lives around them … throughout this period and beyond!