RADFORD — Grace Episcopal Church in Radford will host its free Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner from 5 to 7 p.m. on Feb. 17.
This isn’t a new deal for the church, however. This pancake dinner will mark the 111th time the church has hosted the moveable feast on the eve of Ash Wednesday.
“It’s a tradition of the church to have a party night the night before Lent begins,” said David Rose, the church rector.
And a party night they will have.
Visitors and members of the church alike will be able to eat as many pancakes and sausage patties as their bodies will allow, including endless glasses of milk, coffee, tea and water.
“It’s a good time to celebrate together and eat pancakes until we sleep,” Rose said.
Shrove Tuesday is also known as “Fat Tuesday” since church members often feast prior to a typical fast on Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. Believers often mark Lent by giving up an indulgence during the 40-day period.
“Lent is not about what you give up, but that when you give something up, you think about how difficult it is to change yourself,” Rose said. “But also, you think of those less fortunate that you are. Fasting reminds us that others who don’t eat chocolate, aren’t fasting form it, but rather they can’t afford the delicacy.”
For Rose, it is also a time to actively serve the community.
“We hope that people will take they money they’d typically spend on whatever they give up for Lent, say chocolate, and will give that money to the needy,” Rose said.
Many members of the church have participated in the Shrove Pancake dinner for decades. One such church member, Tony Darden, has served pancakes at the dinner for over 50 years.
“Well it’s been something else. The dinner has been at the church long before I was even thinking about a pancake,” Darden said. “The women of the church did it back then and eventually handed it over to the men some time ago. It’s been a tremendous event for the church as well as members and people in the community.”
Darden organized the dinner for many years before his health forced him to step down.
“Terry Nester took over,” said Helen Darden, Darden’s wife. “Terry has worked really, really hard to pull it all together this year and is due so much credit.”
Bette Wright, another familiar face in the parish, said she has been a pancake dinner attendee since before she can remember.
“I have been at Grace Episcopal Church all my life. I guess I’m what they call a cradle Episcopalian,” Wright said. “From what I’m told, I celebrated my second birthday in their birthday chair.”
According to Wright, the pancake dinner has always been the place to be.
“It’s certainly a spiritual and rewarding experience,” Wright said. “I can remember vaguely one pancake dinner where I have a faint remembrance of the old structure park of the building adjacent to the main sanctuary. I remember to new building put on and that was over 70 years ago.”
Fast forward 70 years and Wright has seen most of the church’s priests and pancake dinners that Grace Episcopal had to offer.
“It’s a very warm and welcoming parish. People can see that at the dinner. I would say that it’s certainly a church that I would never consider not being a part of my life,” Wright said.
The pancake dinner is free to any Radford resident. Donations are welcome and will be used for the 2016 mission trip to Beliz. New to the church this year are handicap-accessible entrances, Rose said.
Grace Episcopal Church is at 210 4th St., Radford. Call 639-3494 for more information.