Rhonda Richardson works the crowd during a dessert auction at Murrah’s Chapel Baptist Church to raise donations for the congregation’s Relay for Life team. Angie Basson, left, serves as bid spotter. Photo by: Courtesy Photo
April 8, 2009
It''s an unlikely place for a bidding war, but the action in the church fellowship hall has everyone riveted. Back and forth the spotter''s attention flies, following competition spurred on by a shrewd auctioneer. The dollar amount increases; delighted gasps rise from the crowd.
"$40, I got $40! Who''ll give me $45?" calls Choir Director Rhonda Richardson to the 50 or so people in the room. It may seem pricey for a lemon bundt cake, but the cause is charitable and the generosity of the Murrah''s Chapel membership is infectious.
Next on the block is a chocolate almond silk pie. "Come on, ya''ll scared of the preacher?" goads Richardson good-naturedly, urging contenders to up the bid of Interim Pastor Larry Turner, a self-professed "chocolate freak."
Before it''s over, about 16 sumptuous sweets including a coconut creme dessert, strawberry cheesecake, muscadine pie and red velvet cake, all donated by members, fall under the gavel to the tune of more than $400 and a surplus of laughter.
And the good times weren''t over. A hilarious woman-less beauty review followed, with five brave men parading through the throng with open purses to be filled with dollar bills for Relay for Life. In all, the church raised $819 on the fifth Sunday of March for the Murrah''s Chapel Baptist Church team taking part in the American Cancer Society fundraiser at Magnolia Bowl April 24.
"We seem to lean toward the fun side of worship," said church and team member Angie Basson, who served as spotter for the auction. "We always have a dinner and singing on the fifth Sunday of any month; they''re always laid back and fun. We just love to laugh and cut up, and we don''t have a problem with doing it at church."
One week later, Murrah''s Chapel -- the little white "lighthouse the hill" 11 miles out Highway 69 South -- held a second event, a barbecue plate dinner that added an additional $800 to the Relay team''s contribution. It all goes to show a small, devoted congregation can make a big difference.
The preacher bakes
Turner himself made two large desserts for the auction. For his strawberry scramble cake, he crumbles angel food cake ("... it doesn''t get as soggy as pound cake") in a pan, covering it with thawed or fresh strawberries followed by a layer of Cool Whip. "And then you do all three layers again," he instructs. He topped his auction dessert with thinly-sliced strawberries arranged as a cross.
The pastor''s coconut creme cake begins with yellow cake (box mix is fine for convenience).
"When you take it out of the oven, stick holes in it with a sharp-pointed knife while the cake''s still hot. It''s gotta be hot. Spread Eagle brand condensed milk on it, and wait ''til it cools to add Cool Whip and then coconut."
Murrah''s Chapel is no stranger to fun fundraisers because the close-knit membership is "usually involved in something church or community related," explained Basson.
Debbie Hunt, who contributed the hotly-contested lemon bundt cake, is thrilled with the success of the benefit auction.
"We all are affected in one way or the other from cancer," she shared. "My family has lost a grandmother, uncle and a brother from cancer, and my father is still healing from having surgery on his leg for soft tissue sarcoma."
Hunt describes the Murrah''s Chapel faithful as a mix of "young" older adults, with energetic "betweens" and vivacious young adults, teens and children. "We are one big, happy family praying for a cure. I am so blessed to be part of this group."
An easy fellowship permeated the dessert auction, surfacing in the jovial ribbing of a friend to one of the bidders: "I''m behind you, buddy, don''t let ''er get it!" Or when 60-plus-year-member Linda Richardson won the banana pudding and promptly donated it back, to be auctioned off again. Or as all the lucky winners shared their desserts with everyone else when the bidding ended.
"We''re just a group of people that loves the Lord," offered Music Coordinator Lisa Wright. Her husband, Tracy, was a hit in the manly beauty review, and the couple sang during the "Fifth Sunday Singing" following the revelry.
Lisa, Tracy and a few others lingered in the small sanctuary at the end of the day. Brother Turner, seated on a pew, his hands resting atop a handsome walking cane, perhaps summed it up best with his personal benediction on the food and fellowship:
"Ya''ll just blessed my soul."
Lemon Bundt cake
One box lemon cake mix (as a shortcut)
One small box lemon pudding mix
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup oil
For the lemon glacé:
One box confectioners'' sugar
1 teaspoon lemon flavoring
One stick butter
One can crushed pineapple
1 cup sugar
2 cups blueberries (drained, if using canned blueberries)
One box, yellow cake mix
pineapple on top of the butter.
Source: From the kitchen of Debbie Hunt''s grandmother, Frances O''Bryant
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.