By RACHEL COLEMAN
Leader & Times
Pancake Day runners and spectators found their way to the sunny sanctuary of First United Methodist Church Tuesday, seeking a spot to rest after the rigors of a morning spent racing and cheering. The traditional Shriving Service filled the church, a sight that cheered officiant Jack Jacobs.
“It’s good to see so many people here at the church,” he said as the service opened. With a formal structure, the Shrove Tuesday service focused on repentance and forgiveness. Nine local pastors, members of the Liberal Ministerial Alliance, took part in the program. Bibleway Church of God in Christ Laurence Johnson presented the sermon, joking with the audience that he’d do his best to keep the message short. The service closed with a performance by the Youth Pipe & Drum Band bagpipe musicians from McPherson.
The Shriving Service is at the heart of International Pancake Day observances, as it was the reason for the original “pancake run” in Olney, England. Legend has it that a church woman, hearing the bells ring for the traditional Shrove Tuesday service, rushed out the door of her home, skillet in hand. She’d been frying pancakes in the last bit of fat from her kitchen stores, an attempt to use up the forbidden ingredient before the beginning of Lent and its fasting.
Today, the Shrove Tuesday service provides a quiet moment amid the hustle and bustle of a busy, Transatlantic holiday. After the final prayer, attendees and racers turned their attention to the video conference with peers in Olney. The British Pancake Day people had wrapped up the day’s events and met for a dinner before the video conference.
“We’re a bit worried,” joked Olney chair Tony Lamming, “because your preacher said he’s normally just warming up after 15 minutes.”
The jovial tone continued, as Jacob claimed “the Lord was shining on us today” with sunny weather and melting snow just in time for the race. Even so, as Liberal winner Summer Parsons and Olney champ Devon Byrne compared times, it was clear the Lord’s blessing did not extend to a Liberal win in the international race tally. Byrne beat Parsons’ time by nearly 10 seconds, with a record-setting 55.61 seconds around the cobblestone course.
“You got us this year,” Parsons conceded. Then she added, since it was Byrne’s third year to run and win, “you can’t go again next year — but I can.”
Second-place Liberal racer Destyni Lucero also exchanged barbs with Byrne. Lucero is normally a long-distance runner, she said, and if Byrne wanted to match up again,
“Two miles. Let’s go. It’s on,” she said.
Olney’s representatives to the Liberal festivities, Tony and Viv Evans, took a turn at the microphone.
“We’ve found Liberal fantastic,” said Tony to his neighbors in Olney. He paused a long moment, then added, “in fact, we’ve decided to stay here. They’re looking after us so well.”
Viv, who typically helps organized the British festivities, admitted that she’d felt a wee bit of anxiety about how things back home had progressed.
“I did wake up once in the night and worry a bit,” she said, “but then I went back to sleep.”
Former Pancake Day chairs Mark Strange and Gary Classen chatted briefly with friends in Olney before the video call wrapped up.
“We humbly confess our defeat,” Jacob said, “and our desire to make sure that never happens again.”
Lamming suggested a solution to the ongoing rivalry between the two communities. Since Byrne, the “secret weapon” of Olney, can no longer run “because of archaic rules,” Lamming said. “I’m going to propose that we change the subtle advantage you have, in that you can find out the time of our winner before your race begins. I’m going to propose that we change the rotation of the earth to fix that.”
Rooms on both sides of the Atlantic erupted in laughter at the suggestion. With the International Race score 36 wins for Liberal, 28 for Olney, Lamming added, “just watch it.”