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I’ve traveled to some amazing places as part of my religion reporting career.

Rome. Buenos Aires. Tokyo. Grace Episcopal Church’s annual pancake supper.

OK, I know what you’re thinking. One of those is not like the other.

A pancake supper in Madison, Wisconsin, is not exactly a tourist attraction. But thanks to the delicious food and hilarious entertainment, my trip to it last week was nearly as memorable as my more extravagant voyages.

The supper took place on Mardi Gras, which is also known as Shrove Tuesday. Churches often hold community dinners on that day to commemorate the ancient tradition of using up all your eggs, milk and butter before the start of Lent.

But Grace Episcopal Church takes the celebration a step further.

In addition to serving pancakes, they organize pancake races, which supposedly reenact a woman’s chaotic journey to church in the 15th century. Participants don a head scarf and an apron and then run back and forth across the church’s fellowship hall while flipping a pancake in a frying pan.

I went to the event with my husband and two kids to observe the madness but ended up joining in. My 9-month-old and I took part in the infants and toddlers division, and we had a lot of fun on our path to second place. (Check out the video evidence.)

The race was a delightful reminder of why I got into religion reporting in the first place. I love learning about churches’ unique traditions — and then describing them to all of my friends.


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Term of the week: SIKU

SIKU is a unique social media app serving Indigenous communities in the far north (think Alaska and Greenland). Instead of posting pictures of their kids or their latest Wordle score, users share updates on the weather, glaciers and wildlife in hopes of collectively staying ahead of environmental changes.

“The app operates in multiple languages, such as Inuktitut, Cree, Innu and Greenlandic, and includes maps with traditional place names. Since early 2024, over 25,000 people from at least 120 communities have made more than 75,000 posts on SIKU,” Hakai magazine reports.

The name of the app, SIKU, comes from the Inuktitut word for “sea ice,” the article noted.


What I’m reading ...

Last week, scaffolding came down from around the very top of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which is still in the process of being restored after an April 2019 fire. The cathedral’s new spire looks much the same as the old one, except the golden rooster that makes up part of the design now has flaming wings like a phoenix, according to The Washington Post.

As part of its unique mission, the first commercial lunar lander, called the Peregrine 1, was meant to bring the remains of dozens of people to the surface of the moon — and then leave them there. The lander didn’t make it, but the mission is still prompting a debate about the religious significance of sending human remains to space, as two scholars recently noted in The Conversation.

For Catholics in Nicaragua, life has been consumed by fear. Government officials there are cracking down on the faith group due to their belief that religious leaders are encouraging social unrest, according to The Associated Press.


Odds and ends

I love Jane Austen novels and really appreciate the religious season of Lent, but until last week, I was unaware that a book exists that celebrates both of those interests. “A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 40 Days With Jane Austen” is a Jane Austen-themed devotional that guides readers through Lent’s 40 days. I am reading it now and will report back!