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Tidings from Bethlehem February 2024

Dear friends in Christ,

Last month, I traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana for training about the 2024 ELCA Youth

Gathering and the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza Conference. I learned so much about the Youth Gathering and am so excited for our congregation to be a part of it! In 6 months, 8 of our youth will get to experience this beautiful city and its people, culture, food, and history as well as attend amazing worship events and faith formation activities with tens of thousands of their fellow Lutherans. Please be on the lookout for how you can support our youth attending the Gathering this July.

While I was in New Orleans in January, the city was buzzing. First, with confusion about the

cold weather. Like the weather in Pittsburgh, New Orleans also had low temperatures. Second, with excitement for the start of Mardi Gras! In New Orleans, Carnival season begins after Epiphany and ends the day before Ash Wednesday, Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras in French. Decorations were plentiful. People already could be seen in purple, green, and gold costumes. There was one of the earliest parades on the schedule and costumed marchers and viewers could be seen headed to the route. There were king cakes for sale almost everywhere. Mardi Gras, whether it is for weeks or days, is the celebration period before the season of Lent. Lent brings the theme of repentance and the call to Lenten disciplines: fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. Fat Tuesday is also called Shrove Tuesday. Shrove comes from the word shrive meaning to confess one’s sins and be absolved. If participating in the discipline of fasting, Fat Tuesday is the literal tradition of “burning the fat,” eating rich, fatty foods before abstaining from them throughout Lent. In these few weeks we have before Ash Wednesday on February 14, I invite you to celebrate. Look for the abundance in your life, the sweet, rich moments you are blessed with. Perhaps you can plan a Mardi Gras celebration with family or friends. Take this Mardi Gras as a time of preparation. Think about how you’d like to engage with the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

A prayer for Mardi Gras:

This day is for feasting: for eating, not wasting, for chewing and tasting all that God makes!

This day is for singing: our ears will be ringing, with songs we are bringing to God - full of praise! Sing a song of praise! Bring eggs for the baking, add flour to the making and stir up the cake in a bowl nice and big! Add milk to the bowl then stir with your soul, and cook ‘til it’s whole - and eat all you can! Eat! Tomorrow’s for praying, for silently saying to God that you’re laying your life down in love. To wait on God’s giving God’s food for your living, God’s grace, all forgiving, as Easter comes near.




Pastor Ellen

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