Heritage at heart of St. Stephen's British Garden Party on May 4

Scratch the surface of the altar at St. Stephen's Traditional Episcopal Church in Timonium and see the English underpinnings that have led the church to host a British Garden Party and Fete each year.

Steeped in classical Anglican tradition, St. Stephen's is often referred to as St. Stephen's Anglican Church.

"It' a very interesting parish," said the Rev. Guy Hawtin, rector of the church located at 11856 Mays Chapel Road. "We use the gold standard of Anglican literature, the Book of Common Prayer, which was published by the Church of England in 1662, and we welcome input from a lot of people. And by happenstance we came across people who wanted to sing the great church music from the Renaissance."

In addition, a number of those who attend Mass at St. Stephen's boast British ancestry or emigrated from Great Britain, including Hawtin, who was born in Danbury Palace, in Essex, England, but only after it had been converted into a wartime maternity home for evacuees, he said.

He has been at St. Stephen's 25 of the 35 years he has been in the the States, he said. "In our tradition, it's not unusual to stay a long time if they like you. But if they don't, they kick us out fast."

Twelve years ago, after the parish had built quite a following for its annual Cookie Walk sale during Advent, some members were looking for something to stage later in the year, he said.

They saw the way the Italians and Greeks celebrate their ethnicity with festivals and decided to follow suit. "Why don't we have our own ethnic festival?" they said. "We're British."

The choice of celebration  became obvious, he said. "The Greeks had their Olympic games, the  Romans had orgies — and the British had vicarage garden parties."

Ergo, the annual garden party and fete.

If it's a gift to the community, the parish members enjoy giving it.

"It's been a ball coordinating it," Dick Huffman, who with his wife Priscilla, is co-chairing this year's event, slated Saturday, May 4, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"In some organizations you have to work hard to get volunteers, but in this church time is freely and joyfully given," Priscilla Huffman said.

"People have been very generous with their time," Dick Huffman said. "If you need something done, someone will do it. We have fun doing the church's work. Of course we may sip a glass of wine afterward. We're not Puritans."

The party and fete will be held rain or shine, though everyone is hoping for good weather.

"They have asked me to pray for sunshine," Hawtin said. "I'll do what I can, but I have told them I'm in sales, not delivery."

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