Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
The Episcopal Church »  |  The Diocese of Virginia

Pancakes and Ashes: The Beginning of Lent at St. John's 2013

Lent, the 40 days of penitence and fasting ahead of the celebration of Easter, was ushered in at St. John's with a Pancake Supper on Shrove Tuesday (February 12) and the ashes of penitence on Ash Wednesday (February 13), the first day of Lent.

The Pancake Supper, at which over 40 parishioners and their Glencarlyn neighbors celebrated their own version of Mardi Gras, is a long tradition at St. John's.  This year marked what may become a new tradition as well:  Ashes to Go, an outreach effort offering Lenten ashes to the general public out in the "marketplace."   Keep scrolling down for lots of photos and to find out more.

Pancake Supper

Thanks to parishioner and head decorator Kay Wells, those attending the Pancake Supper were surrounded by the green, gold and purple colors of Mardi Gras--in decorations, tablecloths, plates, and beads at each place setting.  The kids, in particular, liked the beads.  Below, on the left, is Jones, grandson of long-time parishioner Eileen Tallent, and his mother Sharon.  On the right is junior parishioner Michael Cavey..














 In keeping with the tradition at St. John's, the Men's Fellowship organized the Pancake Supper, recruiting members from their own ranks as well as other parishioners to flip pancakes, cook up the ham, spoon out the applesauce, and wait tables.  Below Jeff Wallace (left) dishes out the pancakes while John Petrich (right) waits tables.


The custom of eating pancakes on Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday originated as a way to use up eggs, milk, sugar, butter and other fats on the day before Ash Wednesday, when the fasting of Lent begins.  For us at St. John's, the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper has become a happy, leisurely party where family and friends gather, eat, chat--and, in the case of the Del Hunt (left) and Marshall Adair (middle) below, clown it up a little (while Don Hess concentrates on his pancakes).


Ashes to Go

This year, in addition to its usual noon and evening Ash Wednesday services at the church, St. John's offered Ashes to Go to morning and evening commuters at Ballston Metro station.  The Reverend Ann Barker, St. John's rector, and parishioner Roger Ludwig formed the Ashes to Go team for the morning commute.  Ann and parishioner Bill Pritchard formed the evening team.

They used a quiet approach to distributing the ashes.  Roger and Bill held signs explaining that Lenten ashes were being offered.  When approached, Ann made the sign of the cross with the ashes on the petitioner's forehead and repeated:  "Remember that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return."  That was it.

For a brief time during the evening commute, the rector from Cristo Rey, the Reverend Catherine Campbell, distributed Lenten meditation booklets.

"I was unsure at first that this was a good idea," Bill Pritchard commented, "but as people stepped forward to receive the ashes, they would close their eyes and for that short moment you could sense they had a feeling of peace right in the middle of the flow of commuters."

Ashes to Go was started in 2007 in St. Louis, Missouri, by ministers who were part of an ecumenical Bible study group that included members from the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, American Baptist, and Mennonite traditions.  By 2012 more than 80 churches in 21 states were offering Ashes to Go.  For more information on Ashes to Go, please go to ashestogo.org.