Church members put on heavenly dinners

Victoria Malmer
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 08, 2004 - Strange things are happening in the fellowship hall of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in downtown Lake Worth.

There's music, but not the kind with organs and choirs. There's food, but not Communion wine and wafers, and not your common potluck. There's revelry. In church?

What's happening is a series of themed dinners with three goals: to raise money, meet possible new church members, and have fun.

There have been French, German, Greek and Italian dinners so far. They are planned down to the tiniest detail: centerpieces, authentic menus, with liqueurs and cigars afterward in the garden.

The driving force behind these dinners is the team of Tommy Greene and Patrick McKenna, both church members. Greene, a Florida native, is a pharmacist in Boca Raton and the former owner of Greene's Pharmacy on Clematis Street in downtown West Palm Beach. He sings in the choir, leads an evening prayer group and serves on the landscape committee and the vestry. He lives in Lake Worth's College Park with his two dogs, Tubby Sue, a pug, and Sprite, a Boston terrier.

St. Andrew's "is such a beautiful church, with beautiful stained-glass windows," he said. "The first time I visited, I felt at home. It is a wonderful, loving, open congregation."

McKenna, 50, works for Home Depot and also lives in College Park. He runs the church kitchen with quiet authority and precision. He oversees up to 24 volunteers, including waiters, waitresses, cooks and runners, all church members. "There's no chaos," he said. "People are tremendously kind. Everyone wants each dinner to go perfect, from appetizer through cigars."

Having 24 volunteers is pretty impressive considering the church has only 84 members.

"Everyone just pitches in," McKenna said. "Everyone comes in the day before to polish silver, fold napkins, whatever needs to be done to make the dinner a success."

The dinners have attracted as many as 117 people paying $20 apiece.

"They have been delightful dinners," said Greene. "We ask all our members to bring their friends. We try hard to make everyone feel at home. We hope some of them will make St. Andrew's their church."

The next dinner is Jan. 22. It will be a gourmet celebration of the church's 91st anniversary. Costing $50 per person, it will begin with shrimp cocktail, progress to beef tenderloin and asparagus, and conclude with a dessert made by church member and renowned cook Margot Emery. After dinner, there will be brandy, cordials and cigars served outside for those who wish to partake.

There will be music and raffles for a cash prize, and a gourmet gift basket.

After dinner, McKenna gets to relax. "I change clothes and run the cigar and brandy bar outside in the garden. That's when I get to enjoy everyone and relax."

For tickets to the Jan. 22 dinner, call Clifford Taylor at 582-6126. They are considering a St. Patrick's Day Irish dinner in March. For information on future dinners, call the church office at 582-6609.

What do you like best about your work on the dinners?

Greene: "The number of people who help and are excited about our church."

McKenna: "The camaraderie of being with everyone at the church, and making money for the church."

For what would you like to be remembered?

Greene: "As a child of God's who was loved and was able to return love."

McKenna: "Being a good person, kind to everyone and thoughtful."

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