Shrove Tuesday continues despite pandemic
By Lindsay Peyton
The pandemic put a stop to the annual pancake dinner for Shrove Tuesday at Holly Springs UMC in Martin’s Mill. And the congregation greatly missed the tradition. “It has been a grievance during COVID that we weren’t able to do it,” Rev. Erin Muckleroy said. But with a little creativity, the pastor found a creative way to forge ahead – and to share an important message. “It’s a way of letting everyone know that they’re still loved by the church and also a way to invite them back,” Muckleroy explained.
The pastor credits brainstorming sessions with her husband, the Rev. Adam Muckleroy at FUMC Canton, as well as her church’s women’s yoga group for inspiring the idea. The challenge was developing innovative ways to celebrate Lent, while still respecting members’ boundaries.
“And most of their boundaries are very tight,” Muckleroy explained. Many members continue to meet in the church parking lot on Sundays and tune in their FM dials. Muckleroy brings communion to them in their cars. She loads up on hand sanitizer and wears a mask.
Covid restrictions with food prep
Having a gathering or outreach event was simply not feasible. “Most of our volunteer base did not feel comfortable prepping food or being at an event,” Muckleroy said.
Then, the pastor had a eureka moment – pancake mix. She realized that church members who would want to avoid gathering in a large group might still feel comfortable going to a neighbor and giving them a bag of mix to start the Lent season.
Muckleroy shared her idea. “Everyone liked it,” she said. “It’s something they can do.”
Church members are asked to buy pouches of Brookshire Brothers’ pancake mix and drop them off at the sanctuary. The yoga group will then meet a week before Shrove Tuesday and divvy the donations into cellophane bags. A pancake recipe will be attached, as well as a message, “Our church loves you.” There will also be a listing of upcoming worship opportunities at the church.
Then, during Sunday worship on Feb. 27, members can pick up the bags, which are ready to be distribute. “We’ll say, please grab a bag, go out to the community and invite your neighbors to church,” Muckleroy said. “This is purposeful evangelism.”
Inviting others to church can be difficult, she added. “But it’s not awkward at all to say, ‘I thought you might like some pancakes,’” she continued. “It’s an easy thing to do. It’s simply scattering the seeds and seeing what takes root.”
It’s also a way to build community and promote fellowship. Even if the town is not joining for pancakes at the church on Shrove Tuesday, this way, many residents can still enjoy them at home. “In a way, we’ll all be eating a meal together,” Muckleroy explained.
Her hope is that when neighbors and friends receive the packets from Holly Springs UMC that they will feel loved. “I want them to know that the church is still there, the church is still praying for them and that they are seen,” Muckleroy said.
And that’s the most important aspect, she added. The pancake dinner was a tradition, a way to engage members and reach others in the community.
“This is our way to feel like that’s not lost, that COVID didn’t kill our identity as a church,” Muckleroy said. “This is a simple way, but it is also very meaningful. That’s our prayer and our intention.”
Pancake dinner continues at FUMC Lindale
A pancake dinner for Shrove Tuesday has also been a long-time tradition at FUMC Lindale. Because the event is held in the gym, with ample room for social distancing, the event was able to continue last year despite the pandemic.
Rev. Michael Peschke said the United Methodist Men host the event each year. “They are busy planning it right now,” the pastor added.
The church gathers Tuesday evening for pancakes, bacon, sausage and orange juice. The cost to attend is a pay-what-you-can donation. “If you can do it, great, and if not, no worries,” Peschke said.
The funds are used for a back-to-school breakfast for Lindale ISD faculty and administrators. Peschke explained that the pancake dinner is both a fundraiser and an opportunity for fellowship.
“We’re big about gathering for meals at our church,” he said. Each Wednesday, members gather for a congregation-wide meal. A staff member cooks, and volunteers serve dinner. Then, youth go to activities and adults meet for classes. FUMC Lindale also hosts an annual lunch for new members and church leadership.
Peschke said that starting Lent with the Shrove Tuesday dinner is a meaningful way to kick off the Lent season. “There’s something important about having a meal together – with a missional focus,” he said. “It leads us into worship the next day for Ash Wednesday.”
This year, continued challenges are heavy on the pastor’s mind. “We’re still so full of anxiety and as a society, so fractured,” he said. “My hope is coming together, having a meal, is one way to break down that divisiveness.”
And as people examine their past year and look for a way to adjust, Peschke urges all to move toward hope. “We can turn to Christ to find healing,” he said.