A multigenerational tradition

Presbyterian Church of the Moriches hosts its 24th annual afternoon tea


At the Presbyterian Church of the Moriches’ afternoon tea on Saturday, May 7, Richard Horton’s scones were among the hottest discussion topics.

“I typically don’t eat scones, but these are the best; I love the flavor of them,” Dawn Viggiano, one of the church’s deacons, said. “It’s not like a traditional scone; sometimes you get a baking-soda flavor like an Irish soda bread, kinda dry, but these are nice and moist. Dick makes the best.”

The church’s 24th annual afternoon tea raised funds for its general fund and served as an outreach endeavor to the greater Moriches community. Admission to the Victorian-style event included a selection of seven different teas, scones with the cream and preservative fixings, and an array of eats stacked on traditional tea towers.

The church’s session and other members and volunteers pitched in to prepare and bake all the food, including Horton, who toiled over his scones in the church kitchen.

“What makes a good scone?,” Horton said. “Love and care, don’t be afraid to put sugar and raisins in it, pat it and love it, and put it in the oven.”

Other members prepared the various finger sandwiches. Chicken salad with cherries on honey wheat, ham salad on wheat, cucumber atop pumpernickel and cream cheese-smeared date nut bread lined the tea towers’ bottom tiers. Fresh-baked pastries and cookies adorned the top.

As for all the fine china fit for a proper tea, the churchgoers and tea attendees themselves have pitched in over the past two decades.

“Over the years, it’s been given to us by friends who’ve attended the tea and members of our church,” Nancy Horton, a church session member, said. “I can recall who gave us much of it, so it’s a good memory when I unpack. I can remember friends who aren’t here anymore.”

Among those friends fondly remembered is Blanche Laskee, a longtime Center Moriches resident who routinely attended the annual tea. Although she has passed, several members of her family attended this year’s gathering.

“We’ve been coming here every year since I was little; I’m 30 years old now,” Caroline Gilmartin said. “We always used to come here with my Great Aunt Blanche. This is our first year without her; she passed away in July. She was 95 years old.”

“I think she liked the event because she saw a lot of her old friends that she went to Center Moriches High School with and would keep in touch with them at this one event each year,” Danielle McHeffey, Laskee’s niece through marriage and Caroline Gilmartin’s mother, said. “She was the one that got us started going to this over 20 years ago.”

The family tradition may continue for another generation. Caroline Gilmartin and her husband, Zack, brought their two children, Hudson and Charlotte, to this year’s afternoon tea to expose them to the anachronistic experience.

“It’s unique that you get to go to a tea party,” Caroline Gilmartin said. “They have real tea, finger sandwiches and scones; you don’t typically get to go to a tea party.”

For some attendees, the tea party is a can’t-miss event, regardless of how far they must travel. Such is the case for Diane Yarris, a member of the church for 32 years who now resides upstate in Carmel. She and her husband drove two and a half hours to make the event.

“It’s a trip I love to make to support the church and see everybody,” Yarris said. “After 32 years, you make friendships here, you don’t lose them.”

Yarris noted the event is open to the entire community and is defined by its welcoming atmosphere.

“Not everybody that comes is a member of the church, there are strangers,” Yarris said. “But they make you feel like you are a family; they’ve known you for years and they treat you really good.”


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