April showers bring more than May flowers — they also bring the annual May Luncheon and Bake Sale at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The tradition dates back 150 years at the historic church on College Street in downtown Columbus. The congregation, en masse, is getting ready to welcome the community.
Chicken salad — and barbecue, too — are the stars of this event formerly known as the Eight O’ May Luncheon. But the bake sale is much-anticipated, too. Lindsay Clemons and Rose Crowe are two of many church members who will contribute goodies.
The aroma of cherry pie filled the Clemons kitchen Sunday afternoon. Lindsay Clemons and her eldest son, 6-year-old Hutch, were engaged in a practice run for the pies Clemons will make for the sale. Being an assistant district attorney, wife to Josh Clemons and mom to three young boys “doesn’t leave a lot of time to be Julia Child,” she smiled. But the annual Episcopal Church Women (ECW) fundraiser is something she is determined to make time for.
Clemons’ grandmother, Polly Dunn, was the first female member of the Vestry at St. Paul’s. It has also been the church home of her parents, Martha Kirkley and the late Jim Kirkley.
“I was baptized and married in that church,” Lindsay said. “St. Paul’s has been a big part of our family. It’s one of the things we love most about living in Columbus — our church family.”
Through the years, Clemons has assisted with the luncheon in multiple capacities. A committee exists for every task, from cooking chicken to boiling eggs.
“That first year I was asked to chop celery, and I think my arms are still sore from that,” she laughed.
Congregation member Rose Crowe has her own clear memories as well.
“I remember that first time — they needed a waitress and asked me to help. But nobody told me not to wear high heels!” said the cook who volunteers at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle as a Pink Lady and serves as a lay Eucharistic minister.
Crowe has learned all the ropes since her first luncheon in about 1991. This year, she will bake loaves of fresh white bread for the bake sale and will work the “tea room,” where beverages are organized. The girls she directs in the Junior Daughters of the King group at the church will help beforehand. They range from second grade up to about age 13. “They are thrilled to help set up glasses in the room; they look forward to it,” said Crowe, whose husband, Doug, has been known to makes jellies for the bake sale.
The luncheon transforms the church Parish Hall into a landscape of linen-draped tables and spring flowers.
“It’s elegant; the church is gorgeous,” remarked Crowe.
Kelly Brown is president of the Episcopal Church Women at St. Paul’s and chairs this year’s event. About 150 volunteers work on the luncheon that expects to serve up to 800 or more plates for dine-in guests and takeout. (Takeout orders, especially popular with business and medical offices around town, have greatly increased in recent years.)
The luncheon is an Episcopal Church Women fundraiser, but a number of men work on it, too, including Tom Wolford and his barbecue cooking team.
“We couldn’t do it without the men — setting up, cooking, working the kitchen and takeout line, boxing up food, being busboys and helping clean up when it’s over … ” Brown said. “I think what amazes me every year is that there are so many church members involved in this project. Everybody has their job and knows what to do; it just flows. It’s just the neatest thing when the church comes together for something like this that has such far-reaching effects.”
The luncheon and bake sale benefit ECW ministries. In recent years, those have included the Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity and HEARTS After School Tutoring program. A portion of the funds have also supported medical missions in Honduras, prison ministries and world relief missions.
A century and a half since its origins, St. Paul’s May Luncheon still brings the community together, still links past, present and future.
“It’s not the same luncheon that it was when my mother first was going, but you can respect the traditions of the past even as they are evolving and progressing,” remarked Clemons. It will be, she hopes, just as important when her children are grown, so new generations can continue to be part of it.
The May Luncheon is open to the community. Dine-in hours May 8 are 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the church at 318 College St. Takeout orders (which must be placed in advance) may be picked up between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The bake sale is 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., but could sell out earlier.
Chicken salad or barbecue plates are $10 each. Chicken salad meals also include deviled eggs, chips, pickles, crackers and dessert. Barbecue plates also include potato salad, deviled eggs, chips, pickles, roll and dessert. Dine-in meals include beverages.
The church office will begin accepting takeout orders Wednesday, May 6 at 9 a.m. by phone (662-328-6673), email ([email protected]), or fax (662-328-6384). Include name, number and type of plates, time of pickup and contact phone number.
Takeout orders should be placed by 10 a.m. on May 8. Takeout patrons may park in the church’s rear parking lot, where signs will direct them to the pickup window.