For some, Fat Tuesday brings to mind Mardi Gras beads and king cake, celebration and indulgence, but for one USMB congregation it includes BBQ, fellowship and intentional focus in preparation for Lent.
Axiom Church of Peoria, Arizona, hosted its second annual Fat Tuesday BBQ Feb. 21 at the Peoria City Park for its congregation and community.
Traditionally, Fat Tuesday—“Mardi Gras” in French—is a day of enjoyment before Lent. Lent is a season of self-discipline beginning Ash Wednesday and ending the Saturday before Easter, excluding Sundays. Lent symbolizes Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness through prayer and fasting as people reflect on the impact of Easter.
Axiom’s Fat Tuesday BBQ offers a way for people to celebrate and fellowship before the Lenten season and lead into the Easter celebration with eyes and hearts wide open.
Lead Pastor Gavin Linderman says the Fat Tuesday BBQ is a special time of holy merriment for the congregation to grow as a sacred-knit church body in fellowship and to encourage each other in fasting during Lent.
During the celebration, Linderman offers a toast, encouraging the congregation to enter the Lenten season focused on God’s sacrifice and presence.
“There is a massive misconception that Fat Tuesday is a day to get drunk and purge,” Linderman says. “That is not the reason for us, though, but a reason to be together and to articulate the gospel. It’s evident in the Gospels that Jesus attended parties, and he brought people together and loved on others because he’s so relational and wants you to know him, and we want to mimic that in our Fat Tuesday celebration.”
In 2022, the congregation celebrated with a BBQ meal, family games of tug-of-war and areas for kids to play and adults to visit—all elements Axiom brought to this year’s celebration along with a hog roast and toast.
Lent may not be a popular practice among USMB churches, Linderman says, but Axiom observes the traditional Lenten practice of fasting while also offering an Ash Wednesday service, a midweek guided prayer hour and intentional accountability.
In 2023, the Axiom congregation is using the space created by fasting to meet regularly to pray for events and each other. Ultimately, the congregation seeks to use Lent as a time to remove distractions and regain focus on Jesus’ gift of salvation believers have because of his sacrifice.
“When it comes to tradition, there is a lot of suspicion that it’s (Fat Tuesday) embedded in old religion, but I think we live in a world deeply in need of rooted practices that have proven to bear fruit to make more fruit,” Linderman says. “Our emphasis is the people, not the practice, but I think just like crops have ‘in’ and ‘out’ seasons, we need seasons of growth and also of denial of self that make you rely on God, show you things that you are embedded in and all the things that may be keeping you from the most important thing.”
Caitlyn Decker is a 2021 graduate of Northwestern Oklahoma State University, having majored in agriculture with a minor in mass communications. Beginning in high school, Decker has written for local newspapers, small businesses, the university campus newspaper and public relations office as well as freelancing. She and her husband, Caleb, live on a farm near New Hopedale Mennonite Church, Meno, Oklahoma, where they are members. They also serve as youth group sponsors.