A press release from the Methodist Church reports that only 17% of people would invite neighbours to share a meal if they had spare food. If anything were a sign that we’ve reduced Shrove Tuesday to Pancake Day, this is it.
All we seem to do on that date (8th March this year) is eat pancakes. It’s another festival where we’ve lost sight of the meaning. Families used to use up spare food and have communal activities (hence even today Mardi Gras) on the day before the sombre fasting of Lent began. Although let us remember that even in Lent the Sundays are still feast days – otherwise you’ll get confused in counting the forty days!
Hence the unwillingness (if it is that) to invite neighbours to a community feast is another tragic loss of our inheritance. It is both a sign of the loss of a Christian value, and a loss of community.
So all praise for the way the Methodist Relief and Development Fund wants to reclaim Shrove Tuesday as not only a community feast, but one that promotes Fair Trade. Their Fair Feast project, endorsed by celebrity chef Gary Rhodes, who has supplied a recipé for pancakes with wild mushroom sauce, is well worth looking at. You can even dovetail Bible study in with a local Mardi Gras event.
How are you going to celebrate Pancake Day Shrove Tuesday this year?
My six-year-old son Mark has an ambition in life. At one stage, he wanted to be a famous author. At other times, he has quite fancied being a professional footballer, helping Tottenham Hotspur thrash Arsenal.
But his abiding ambition is even more noble. He wants ‘to save Africa’. In his simple analysis, he wants to open supermarkets across Africa, so that people can buy enough food to live. When faced with the question, “Where will they get the money?” he has a simple reply: “I’ll build money shops as well.”
Sorted. Now take over 10 and 11 Downing Street, Mark. You can do it.
I thought I’d encourage his thinking about world issues. You can’t start them too young when they already care about the poor, can you? So Mark and I set about this afternoon going around the websites of various Christian relief and development agencies, in search of suitable resources to stimulate his interest.
We gathered only slightly more than zilch.
World Vision, nothing. Christian Aid, zero. Methodist Relief and Development Fund, nada. Compassion, you can sponsor a child but I couldn’t find anything for children who are interested in their projects. Nil points.
Only TEAR Fund had anything, and it wasn’t much. It took some devious searching to find a page of ‘children’s resources’, and it hadn’t been updated since 23rd June. All of these organisations had plenty for teenagers. Apparently, you only care when you get into the church youth group.
So come on, Christian relief and development charities, where is your material to inspire primary age children? Mark and Rebekah’s school supports a charity working in Uganda, Chilli Children. Is it that you have resources but they are buried under centuries of rubble on your sites? Or don’t you think six-year-olds know that Jesus cares about the poor?
Maybe someone reading this can point me to what I’ve missed, because Mark and I would dearly like to find some good Christian educational material for primary-age children. It must be there, but where is it?
UPDATE: following a conversation on Facebook, I have now been made aware that the Methodist Relief and Development Fund (possibly the smallest of the agencies I mentioned, except for Chilli Children) has a sister site, World AIMS. I found this site earlier, but was put off by the specific reference to Methodist schools (many of which are fee-paying). However, if you click on ‘Resources’, you can find various items of educational material, classified according to Key Stage. (For non-Brits reading this, the Key Stages are used in the British education system, and roughly correspond as follows: KS1 is ages 5 to 7; KS2, ages 7 to 11; KS3, ages 11 to 14; KS4, ages 14 to 16.) It could be easier to find, and the name of the website put me off the scent.
It’s the last Sunday before Lent. (Yes, I know it’s Valentine’s Day and I haven’t forgotten my lovely wife, but that’s not what I’m writing about here.) I thought I’d recommend a couple of Lent resources.
First off, a collaboration that would have been unthinkable some years ago. The Methodist Relief and Development Fund and the Evangelical Alliance have combined to provide Bible study notes and weekly videos. You can download notes for ‘What does the Bible say about power?‘ from the MRDF site; videos will be posted weekly from the 17th at the EA site. The EA are using this to link social justice with the Biblefresh initiative. Years ago, official Methodism wouldn’t even have talked with the EA; what a wonderful sign of changed moods.
What are you doing for Lent?