The season of Lent is a gently shifting lens at Saint Michael’s. As the Director of Christian Education, the swell in ministry events begins for me as Shrove Tuesday approaches. The flurry of emails appears on my computer dashboard. Decisions are made and communications roll out to the fellowship and formation committees, along with the parish newsletter.
Since reopening after the pandemic, our Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper became Pancake Shrove Sunday Brunch. This switch from an evening gathering to an after-worship event brought with it increased attendance. The pancakes, eggs, and sausages are served buffet style with fun sprinkles, chocolate chips, and whipped cream offered as an added flair for children. We dined at tables decorated with Mardi Gras accessories contributed by our Junior Warden—purple masks, yellow bead necklaces, purple and gold confetti, and chocolate coins wrapped in purple foil.
After everyone has had their fill, we have the pancake races. This year Father Shane, our new rector, joined the fun! The winner takes home a prize box filled with hot wheels, Play Doh, watercolors, and other toys. Following the races, we hear the story of “The Pancake Man” accompanied by a felt board full of characters. Beth, a former kindergarten teacher, created each flannel person with the face of someone in our parish community. The children watch with amusement as the familiar faces try to win the pancake’s approval. In good humor, the evasive pancake is finally eaten by a rabbit. This is an annual favorite, and I was honored to fill in for Beth when she couldn’t make it this year, echoing the singsong nature of the Gingerbread Man. “Run, Run, Run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Pancake Man!”
On Sundays during Lent children ages 3 years to 4th grade learn about the season through Godly Play. Children join adults in worship following the Lord’s Prayer, and at the end of the service Father Shane invites them to share what they learned in Sunday School. The Godly Play curriculum shares the Faces of Easter and Jesus in the Wilderness with the use of the desert box. Our lead Godly Play teacher Anne places the Faces of Easter on the parish hall bulletin board for all to see.
Following Sunday worship last week, a 2nd grader asked if he could have more red juice like the kind that he had in church. I invited him to help himself to the cranberry juice in the church refrigerator, but he said he would instead pour some of the apple juice already on the counter. I then realized it wasn’t just about drinking “red juice” with his fellowship hour snacks, but instead a desire for the special wine in the chalice. There was so much going on at the Fellowship Hour that I didn’t think to engage him in a theological discussion! What is it about the wine in the chalice that makes it so special? In the days ahead, Father Shane scheduled an Instructed Eucharist with children shadowing him throughout the service.
Our Youth Group’s Lenten journey is that of taking on ministry. Each week they assemble lunch bags for the homeless which will go to a food distribution center the following day. I share Lent Madness with them and we read up on the Saints in the holy bracket. We reflect on the labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral and the labyrinth located on our parish grounds. Each year, all youth and adults receive the Lent poster created by the Reverend Jay Sidebotham and published by Forward Movement. Mine is posted on my office door where I color the Lenten journey squares purple each day.
We host adult Lenten programming on Wednesday nights. Soup and salad are served at 6:00 PM, followed by our “Moment for Mission” at 6:30 in which we learn about a local nonprofit. This Lent we are supporting and showcasing MOMS Orange County, a nonprofit that offers maternal and child healthcare and education. Next, we watch an episode of the Wondrium production The Historical Jesus, then individuals might share a story about their own faith. At our first Lenten Supper this year, a young adult member named Brooke shared her experience of attending college during the pandemic. It began with her being called home in March 2020 as she was attending college overseas and concluded with a virtual college graduation. As she spoke, Brooke wove the importance of trusting Jesus in her unexpected journey; it was heart-felt and very moving.
The joy, challenge, and mindful journey of the Lenten season has its twists and turns at Saint Michael’s. What Lenten thoughts or surprises do you experience in your church?
[Image Credit: Faces of Easter used with permission from Godly Play Foundation]