Bishop John C. Bauerschmidt makes a pilgrimage to the center of the universe, the kitchen at St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

When the Bishop comes. It’s momentous. It’s a big, big day. It requires weeks of preparation on the part of the Women of St. Paul’s. We go into battle mode and our  arsenal is vast: cucumber sandwiches, pimento cheese, deviled eggs, lemon cupcakes and chicken salad, white meat only naturally. And that’s just for starters.

Of course, the Bishop is not coming to eat. He’s coming to preach, to confirm new members and to baptize babies. As far as food goes, he’d probably be just as happy eating some 7-layer Mexican dip and a few Cheetos. But that’s not how we roll at St. Paul’s. Not. At. All.

Presentation is everything

A few weeks before the Gala Reception – and it’s always called the Gala Reception for reasons I’m unclear about – the word goes out to the Women of St. Paul’s. Each and every year, the food chairman is immediately worried that we will not have enough food. Could you make a few more egg salad sandwiches? How about adding some brownies? Each and every year, we could feed Congress with what ends up on the immaculately decorated tables. It’s a point of pride. We make beautiful food because this is what we do.

Wanda (we made her pose like this) with her floral masterpiece

This is how the day goes. The reception is at 1 p.m. (actually, it was supposed to start at noon but, ahem, the Bishop slightly runs over the normal duration of a sermon). The women have been hard at work since 9 a.m. The massive floral centerpiece has been in place since last night in the middle of the series of tables put together to resemble a cross. How ecclesiastical of us. The centerpiece is the size of a child’s wading pool. Wanda Woolen, who has been elected Chairwoman of Everything for Life, just threw it together using flowers from her garden. Really now. If I did the centerpiece from my garden it would consist of crabgrass and dandelion leaves.

Mini ham biscuits with floral flourishes

Platters start to arrive around 10 a.m. We appreciate the contribution of each and every woman and time associated with assembling 75 cucumber sandwiches or 80 lemon cupcakes. However, some of the presentation is not quite…uh…up to standards. I won’t go into details here. Let’s just say that Leslie Frasier, the presentation architect of the women’s group, has come armed with clusters of grapes, ivy leaves, hydrangeas and other decorative flourishes to assure that the Bishop, who won’t notice, notices. Cheetos. The man just wanted some Cheetos.

Leslie (yes, I made her pose for this, too) adds a final touch to a plate

Actually, I did some reconnaissance of the Bishop’s plate as I was leading him to the kitchen for a photo opportunity with the women who make it all happen. Three shrimp tails. A dab of cocktail sauce. That was it.  Unlike some of us (me), who roamed the buffet tables like a starving hyena, pausing momentarily to appreciate the neatly arranged sprigs of parsley intertwined around the chicken salad phyllo cups.

At the end of the reception, we are well pleased with ourselves, even though we are led as Christians to practice humility. We can be humble in the real world. We’re allowed just a wee bit of self-satisfaction within the confines of Otey Hall. We are fools for God. Fools for the God who appreciates a well-executed deviled egg plate.

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