Associate Pastor’s Paragraph–April 19, 2018
My history with Food Service Ministry at Calvary began in 1972 when Linda and I attended our first Wednesday night supper at Calvary in the “old” Fellowship Hall. The legendary Bea Forte was our Church Hostess and Bea “held fort” in those day with Rose Sparks on cornbread/rolls and a great volunteer staff including Sarah Utterback, Hilda Ecton, Mary Ecton, Harriet McVey and several others.
That night we had chicken croquettes covered with cream sauce and dotted with peas. We also had a congealed salad consisting of pale yellow Jello squares stuffed with shredded vegetables with a glob of mayonnaise on top. The dessert was pineapple upside down cake. The supper and the fellowship were wonderful.
Fast forward a couple of decades and Bea has announced her retirement. Oddly, I’m now on the ministerial staff of the church and it’s my responsibility to find Bea’s replacement. We had several excellent candidates for the position and things were progressing when I got a call from Jim Wombles. Jim said that I might wish to talk to a fellow named Steve Lange who had recently retired “early” from IBM where he coordinated Food Service for the entire operation.
Steve and I met in my office a day or two later. Off and on, we’ve been meeting in that same office for the last twenty-three years. We met again on Wednesday of last week for Steve’s “exit” interview. He is retiring effective the end of April after leading our Food Service Ministry for all that time. Steve Lange has been a very special blessing to me, and more importantly, to our church family. Thanks Steve.
Steve has been the unflappable leader of a ministry that can be quite flappy at times. Over the last twenty-three years we’ve thrown all kinds of new ideas and changes (some shockingly last minute) his way and Steve always responded. Give him twenty-four hours, and he and his staff can pull together a banquet for 200 that is perfect. Thanks Steve.
When we moved to our new Fellowship Hall, Steve called on his experience at IBM to help design our new Kitchen and serving area. We’ve been told by caterers and others who have used our kitchen that the design and the equipment are absolutely first class, comparable to any commercial kitchen in Lexington. Thanks Steve.
Steve Lange has been his absolute best in the planning, preparation, and serving of our annual Family Thanksgiving Feast. We serve a full Thanksgiving Dinner to 600 people in less than 25 minutes. Steve works with his associate Orislava Skoroplyas and a team of volunteers to “pull off” a great event flawlessly, even the year the refrigeration failed and Steve had to go out hunting for turkey for 600 four hours before the feast. Thanks Steve.
The monthly dinner for our Deacons saw an interesting moment for Steve and Food Service several years ago. The person doing the deacon devotion that night, while many were finishing their supper, shared from the Hebrew dietary restrictions the slightly disturbing (you could say gross) reasons for the Hebrew restriction on pork. That night Steve had decided to serve a new entrée, that’s right, big, thick, smoked pork chops. Rusty Purdy had a bite of pork about two inches from his mouth and he slowly put the fork down on his plate and turned a nice shade of green. We laughed for days. Thanks Steve.
Steve Lange has a gift for “fixing things” in the kitchen, but it is not limited to food. Steve fixes people as well. He leads with grace and care. Sarah Utterback was a holdover from Bea Forte’s kitchen to Steve’s kitchen. On occasion, Steve’s unflappability would be vigorously challenged by Sarah’s loving “directness”. My parents used to call my similar directness “bullheadedness”.
Some would have written off Sarah as part of the “old guard”, a wonderful worker but a bit too cantankerous. Steve worked to cultivate a caring relationship with a woman he knew had given much of her life to Calvary Church. After her retirement, as her health began to decline, Steve visited Sarah at her home on Versailles Road every week. Additionally he has brought Orislova, an incredibly hard worker from another culture, to the point that she is fully capable to do what is needed to continue our Food Ministry at a high level. Thanks Steve.
Whether it be our ministerial staff, our support and custodial staff, or any position here at Calvary, I have never participated nor will I participate in the hiring decision of a finer person than Steve Lange. Some might think it a bit odd when the Associate Pastor goes to the Food Service Director for advice and wise counsel. I found it to be a wonderful blessing. Thanks Steve, from the guy you call “Boss” and from your friends at Calvary Baptist, your adopted church family. Godspeed friend.
(Hank Ellington – April 19, 2018)