- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Roof-raising gospel is characteristic of Southern churches. Roof resurrection and re-purposing may be a whole other category.

That’s a project wrapping up now in time for next week’s 175th anniversary celebration of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral, where parishioners cleaned and treated old slate roof tiles, and fashioned them into memento cheese boards.

St. Andrew’s was established as a mission station in 1839. The Parish of St. Andrew established when the Domestic Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church in New York supplied a young clergyman, hymnals and prayer books. There were eight communicants.

The church celebrates its 175th anniversary Oct. 25-26 with visiting former clergy, music, a stained glass tour, picnic lunch, special service and more.

The first inkling of the cheese board idea surfaced at a spring parish party with a Paris theme, and its own cheese display. Mary Alice Browning mentioned the old slate roof tiles in the church basement, that they might make a good future fundraiser, “and it just sort of developed from there,” anniversary celebration co-chairman Susan Hill said.

Then Hill and her husband, Bill, traveled to France in early summer.

“Several times, we were served cheese, just on a slab,” she said, “and all that kind of clicked in my mind.”

They didn’t start this with a clean slate, much less dozens of them. “They were very dusty, and a little sooty, I should say.”

And these were historic slate tiles, all right. They’d already fulfilled their duties up top, and were stashed down below just waiting to be pressed into service again.

“Our nave was built in 1902, and then of course, the other buildings were added,” Ouida Drinkwater, senior warden, said. “We have slate tiles throughout and from time to time we have to replace them,” from Hurricane Katrina damage to expansions. She recalled one parishioner’s horror that the old tiles were going to be pitched and the argument for salvation instead. They’d been in the basement since.

A quick Google search found directions for rehabbing, “and everybody had an opinion about how clean they should be,” Drinkwater said. The consensus: very.

Emily Dossett, who led the project, said 15 to 20 people worked on various parts, putting elbow grease into action in the church courtyard, with buckets of cleaning solutions, soap and water, brushes and hoses, mineral oil and more elbow grease to get them to the food service point.

“It started with scrubbing them with two different kinds of disinfectant and cleaner, and rinsing them, drying them and doing it again the next day,” said Susan McNease, who was part of the cheese board brigade. “So they’re very … sterile. They’re germ-free.”

“We washed and washed and washed,” Rita Royals said.

Looking over the dozens of boards, oiled to a deep charcoal gray gleam, “I’m shocked at the way they turned out,” she said, smiling. “They’re wonderful.”

They’re multi-purpose, too, and could be used as a flat tray for sushi or appetizers, or as a chalkboard. “And they already have holes,” Sharon Rhoden pointed to where the roofing nails once went.

The camaraderie of the project reminded the women of the old St. Andrew’s Bazaar, a fall fundraiser that brought all ages of parishioners together in preparation. “It was fun,” Rhoden said. “I want one. I guess I’ll have to be first in line.”

The cheese boards will be sold for $25 on the 175th anniversary weekend, as well as anniversary coffee mugs and the parish cookbook, “All Things Good.” They’ve got 74 finished tiles, “but we’ve got hundreds more we can do, still in the basement,” Drinkwater said. “We just need more elbow grease.”

The finished boards got pads, a piece of chalk tied on with twine and the label, “God’s Natural Cheese Board.”

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, https://www.clarionledger.com


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