Pause For Thought by Ray Dadswell: What will you give up for Lent?

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Forget the chocolate, jam and maple syrup. There’s nothing better, I think, than plain pancakes with sugar and lemon juice. Any time in the year will do.

But what is behind the tradition, after Christmas and before Easter, followed by churches all over the world?

Pancake Day, also known as Shrove Tuesday, is the day before Ash Wednesday, when the seven-week period of Lent begins. Lent is a time of giving up, so pancakes are prepared and eaten on Shrove Tuesday because they contain forbidden ingredients like fat, butter and eggs.

Confession of sins, in the hope of forgiveness, must be a part of the proceedings.

I contacted a few friends to ask what they intend to abstain from, if anything. Most said, because Easter is early year, they had not given it much thought. The general opinion was that to do something different was ultimately more productive. Read through the whole of the New Testament was one suggestion; another was to dig someone else’s garden. Couldn’t be more diverse! One local congregation has decided that all its members should speak to somebody (or somebodies, I guess) about Jesus, and record the outcome of such conversations; meanwhile, the leadership will gather together for sustained prayer for the nation, the town and the church.

All interesting, but much more appropriate for our consideration are the words of 1 John 1, 9: ‘If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ Clear enough that our own efforts will not bring us into relationship with Jesus Christ, but he is the one who has opened the way for us to enter heaven ...

NOW THE SNOW has melted, it isn’t too early to be thinking about a spring holiday, is it? Here is news of something a little unusual, and maybe worth investigating.

‘ROME: in the steps of Peter and Paul.’ 16th – 20th May 2013.

Thornleigh Travel, based near Lancaster, and with more than a decade of experience, are looking after the arrangements, and introduce the long-weekend break in their brochure.

‘Known as the Eternal City, Rome has attracted visitors for over 2,000 years. It is one of the most magnificent and romantic cities in the world, with an attractive mix of grandiose sights and bustling city life. No other city, not even Athens, Istanbul, London or New York, has as many world-class sites and, in addition to the Roman heritage, there are medieval neighbourhoods, well-designed squares, colourful markets and, of course, the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica.’

The tour will be led by Chris Eve, who has an Eastbourne connection. He has a passion for history and travel, we are told, and has been visiting Rome for over thirty years, where he has also studied on short courses at the Anglican Centre in the capital. He is currently taking a correspondence course in genealogy, having previously trained in psychology, sociology, librarianship and English local history.

Full details of the holiday, including costs, accommodation and itinerary, can be found at www.thornleigh-travel.co.uk

BELATED GREETINGS to the Chinese community in Eastbourne. Gong xi fa cai – congratulations, may you be prosperous.