A Virtual Christmas Tea

Peter Stevenson

Autumn is generally the time when parishes and church organizations do some major fundraising with fall fairs and the like. All this took a major setback in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At St. Augustine’s, our fall fundraising traditionally takes the form of two events for our fall fair: a sit-down cold plate turkey supper, with a myriad of salads and accompanied by the usual stalls of work; and a Christmas Tea, which is an afternoon tea complete with stalls and items on tickets. It was not possible to have a sit-down supper, but the tea had options.

The Fall Fair Committee pitched the idea of a Virtual Christmas Tea which would follow the model of the traditional Christmas Tea. The concept for the virtual tea was that we would provide a food container with the same contents in the same portions as patrons would find on their table at the regular tea. Purchasers of tickets would come to the church at the appointed time and pick up their teas. We would have draws through the tea, like the usual tea, and we would have our traditional Christmas Variety Basket on tickets. 

Sales were done through the parish office. Purchasers would provide their credit card number for the number of teas and basket tickets they desired and we would process the transaction using Square. There was no need for the purchaser to pick up their tea tickets and their basket tickets would be held at the parish office and given to them when they picked up their teas. This kept contact with patrons to a minimum. 

The ingredients for each tea were contained in a windowed pastry box. Included in the box were a Grace, a napkin, sandwiches, cookies, tea buns, Christmas cake, cream and jam for the buns, a piece of chocolate, and a baggie containing tea, coffee, sugar, sweetener, and butter. 

The major effort for this event was in the planning. Production started on the Friday with workstations set up to accommodate social distancing. The workers were outfitted with masks, hats, and gloves so they all looked the same! The fashions of the traditional sit down tea were nowhere to be seen. Saturday was the go day. The items that had to be made fresh were prepared and placed in the boxes ready for pickup. 

At the traditional tea, patrons sit in tables of eight. The eight people put their name in the hat and draw for the centrepiece. With the virtual tea, people were assigned in tables of eight and names drawn for the centrepiece. The winners received their prizes when they picked up their teas. There are draws for prizes throughout the afternoon at the regular tea. This became the virtual part of our tea. We planned to broadcast the drawing of the additional prizes at three o’clock followed by the draw for the Christmas Variety Basket, which for the first time sold out. The draws were conducted with the assistance of Canon Edward Keeping who also offered a prayer and a blessing. Our rector, Father Rudolph Anthony, was unable to attend the event. We ran into some technical difficulties and so the broadcast was a little late being available through our Facebook page. Prizes were either picked up or arrangements were made for delivery. 

Our teas and our event received rave reviews. We thank everyone who assisted with this parish fundraiser. Stay tuned, perhaps we will do it again in the future.

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