Donna Serpico, like many members of a certain age at Grace Church, learned about hospitality from Maxine Christopher. And while she tells a good story about Maxine’s precise instructions for placing the Grace china coffee cup on the Grace china saucer, Donna says that beautiful table settings were not really the point. Maxine was telling her not to be careless, because she knew that caring about the details was how you let people know that you cared about them.
“Never was she one way for one person and another way for someone else,” said Donna. Whoever came to her table at a Grace dinner was someone special, whether a long-time member, someone from the neighborhood here for the annual Women’s Sale, or a guest from Uptown at the Christmas luncheon.
“The example of fellowship and welcome was there for me 30 years ago and made me feel a part of this church,” says Donna. Maxine, mother of Grace members Jay and Scott Christopher, died in 2007, but she and many other Grace cooks, hostesses, and hosts, left their mark. “Those people who came before us made those traditions for us to celebrate,” according to Donna. She celebrates by cooking with friends for everything from Church-School picnics to the elegant Harmony gala.
Monthly Cornerstone lunches are a long-standing part of this tradition in Grace hospitality. One Wednesday a month, the older adults who gather for fellowship and Bible study on Wednesday mornings stay for a brief worship service and a luncheon served by the Cornerstone cooks. These lunches began in the early 1990s with the establishment of the adult daytime Cornerstone Bible study group. The name Cornerstone referred to the age of the retirees who gathered on Wednesday mornings — folks who had been alive when the Grace Church cornerstone was laid in 1929.
Having been born in 1929 or earlier is no longer a requirement for attending the Cornerstone Bible study, or for coming to Cornerstone lunches. In fact, anyone and everyone is welcome at the Bible study, which is led by the pastors and focused on the lessons for the upcoming Sunday. Luncheons are served once a month, usually on the third Wednesday. Come for worship at 11:30 and then enjoy a great meal and good company. (While Bible study certainly is a good thing, Donna promises that no one will look askance if you come only for worship and lunch.)
Back in the day, Cornerstone cooks fed 40 to 50 people at these Wednesday lunches. Attendance has dwindled as the diners have aged, but the cooks are as enthusiastic as ever. Getting together to plan and prepare these meals is important fellowship time for them, too. Deep and lasting friendships grow as they fuss over food, share recipes, search for needed ingredients, and solve the inevitable problems. This year they’ve set themselves the challenge of preparing menus from “a trip around the world.” They even go on field trips—eating out, of course, but also doing things like getting their knives sharpened.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, the cooks are planning memorable meals for Wednesday, November 14, and December 12 (not the usual third Wednesdays because of the holidays). If you’re free during the day, please come for lunch. You’re invited!