The line begins at the bacon. The sausage is there too. My job as batter boy keeps me close to the action, and I usually end up feeling sorry for the sausage. Maybe if it were bacon-wrapped sausage there would be a bit more excitement at the sausage pan. The pancakes are really good, but I wonder sometimes if Pancake Day is actually a pseudonym for Bacon Day. I noticed that sweet Mary Ann Way, the undisputed queen of Pancake Day, spent all of her time with the bacon. Inside sources tell me that she can be quite hawkish about it too. The bacon must be crisp. No floppy bacon.
So the line forms at the bacon, continues along the back wall, flows out of the gym through the big double doors, and down the hallway past the children’s Sunday school classrooms. It makes a ninety-degree right turn at the preschool office, climbs past the elevators, past Jesus and his disciples, and pours into the front lobby. If you’re familiar with the floor plan at FUMC, then you know that’s a serious line. Why would someone wait that long for free pancakes? For sixty-five years, thousands have endured such lines.
I’ve always loved waking to the smell of bacon. When I was a kid, the powerful aroma wafting from my mom’s kitchen would reach my bedroom, trigger the drooling mechanisms in my mouth, and motivate my little legs to run downstairs as quickly as possible. But here’s the thing about my mom and bacon. She carried within her a deep conviction that a person only needed one piece. One piece of bacon per person. Every year, on the last Tuesday in February, Haywood County wakes to the smell of bacon. All-you-can-eat bacon.
Just before 7:00 PM, an alarm began sounding through the ranks. We were out of bacon. My evening job at the pancake grill positioned me perfectly to overhear the conversation between the Pancake Day godfather and his minions: “We’ll get more bacon next year, and maybe we should start cooking it on Monday night.” No one asked my opinion, but I decided to share some wisdom from my childhood days: “What if we simply limit people to three pieces of bacon?” [I decided to go with a high number]. Their expressions let me know that I am still considered a Pancake Day rookie, that any concerns for clogged arteries are suspended on the fourth Tuesday of February, and that ‘all-you-can-eat’ means ‘all-you-can-eat.’
One might argue that the generous smell of bacon is what keeps the people coming, but I know better than that. When someone in our community sees a Pancake Day sign, they know what’s coming—they know what’s at the end of that long line. They encounter a group of people with such love and joy to give, that even when the bacon runs out, they want to stay at the table.
Paul wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth, “Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ.” (2:14-15a)
Thanks be to God that in Waynesville, Pancake Day is a pseudonym for FUMC—the ‘living body of Christ.’