By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
On April 21, nearly 100 women of different Christian faiths gathered in St. Joseph Parish hall in North English, surrounded by 37 types of salad. For the first time at the parish’s annual Salad Lunch and Tea, tea was also on the menu.
Despite the name, tea has never been the focus of the event, now in its sixth year. The luncheon has always been more about giving women in the rural area a chance to get together and socialize, said Vicki Pope, one of the event organizers.
The North English area is filled with small, close-knit communities. Pope said it seemed natural to make the luncheon an inclusive event and to not just invite Catholics. “I think we just thought we’d open it up as a community project, something to share with the community.”
Each year, the sponsoring Altar and Rosary Society (A&R) sends open invitations to the local Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and non-denominational churches, in addition to inviting the Catholic women from St. Mary Parish in nearby Sigourney. Pope admits she was a bit surprised the first year at how many non-Catholics participated. The event remains diverse. “They think it’s really fun,” she observes.
Most of the guests are of retirement age and older. According to Pope, part of the draw is that there is no cost to attend. For persons living on fixed incomes, this is especially helpful. “We decided it wouldn’t hurt us to do something for the community and not charge.”
Generally, A&R can put on the event for $300 or less, Pope said. To keep the event’s budget low, parishioners — including those unable to attend — make the salads, which are served potluck-style. A&R members choose a different theme and corresponding entertainment each year. This year, guests were treated to faith-based comedy from a local clown group, Kingdom Klowns. A&R member Frances Pilkington designed clown-themed cups and made clown hats for centerpieces. Multi-colored table cloths completed the look.
The heart of the event, though, is the camaraderie and opportunity to spend time with friends, new and old. “You never know who’s going to come,” Pope said.