by Colin Bannerman
The great episcopal pancake bake-off
Shrove Tuesday Pancake Night brings the parishes of Christ Church St Laurence and St James King Street together each year to raise funds for St Laurence House.
Located in the Eastern suburbs, St Laurence House provides accommodation and support to homeless and 'at risk' young people who, for various reasons, are unable to live with their families. Many have suffered deprivation, neglect, abuse of some kind or mental illness. Some are at risk of substance abuse and anti-social patterns of behaviour. They come from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
The aim of St Laurence House is to equip these teenagers with the personal, social and living skills which they have often failed to develop because of their particular histories. They are enabled to build trusting relationships once more, to realise their potential and to make plans for their own future.
The State Government funds about 70 per cent of the cost; the remainder has to be met by fund-raising. This year St Laurence House needs to raise at least $80,000.
This year the event was hosted by Christ Church St Laurence in its parish hall. About 90 people attended. A highlight of the evening was a friendly pancake-making contest between Bishop Michael Stead (South Sydney Region) and Bishop Robert Forsyth, his predecessor. It was billed as an historic event—and perhaps it was; a quick search of the internet revealed no evidence of other episcopal dignitaries attempting to feed their flocks in this manner.
Each was given a quantity of batter and invited to make three pancakes, to be judged by a couple of volunteers from the audience. In the beginning there was some doubt whether the task was to produce pancakes or crepes. At the end, the distinction seemed unimportant: they were thin pancakes. Or perhaps thick crepes. What was more important was the colour. Someone young with a known sense of mischief had hidden food dye in the mix so that when the batter was stirred it miraculously changed colour to Episcopal purple. Or was it Lenten violet?
Bishop Michael claimed that, while he did not cook much, he was known at home as the 'crepe king' and brought his own griddle to prove it. His wife, Felicity, had promised that it would stand him in good stead. Bishop Robert is known to have practised at home (and to have ruined at least one good pan doing so).
The competition was spirited, at least on one side. Bishop Robert's research had found that French crepes used to be made with a splash of brandy, at least some of which was expected to find its way into the pan. He thought this was a way to make pancakes great again.
Spirited, but not hurried. Fr Andrew Sempell, a veteran competitor watching from the sidelines, found the experience a lot like watching a cricket match. His arch-rival, Fr Daniel Dries, agreed that it was a little slow, but impressive for the Bishops' prayerful, contemplative approach to their mission.
What the judges lacked in culinary knowledge they made up in application to the finished product. They concluded that Bishop Michael was, by a thin scrape, the better friar. (Yes, enough puns were tossed up to give anyone the crepes.) The people had their say when the remains were offered around: most thought the bishops had better stick to sermons.