Burlington Ward’s First Brunswick Stew!

The First Brunswick Stew While I Was Bishop

I believe it was the first winter that I was Bishop that we had a Brunswick Stew.

I inquired as to whom among the ward members had a really good recipe for that kind of stew. Mozelle Aldridge’s name came up because her husband helped with the “Coon’s Club” stew out at Union Ridge. He was not a member. I talked with her and she was willing to spearhead the Brunswick Stew project by using the Coon Club’s recipe and to be the final say in what would be put in the pot at certain times and when the stew would be pronounced “done”. And we were going to make 600 quarts. That nearly blew the minds of the ward members. Nevertheless!

We worked out how much of each kind of food would be needed, how many pots to hold how much food for “stewing”, how many containers and the whole amount of “needs”. In this process, we tried to involve every member in the ward – young and old. Some said that we would never sell that much stew. One member of long standing said that, “We would have stew stored in half the freezers in the ward (or in Alamance County)” I think he said. Sister Pauline Webster was second in command of the food preparation. Now to cook that much stew, there is a lot food required and a lot of preparation. We got donation of food from the ward members. We got help from the priesthood in getting the wood to heat the pots and to borrow the number of pots we needed, load them on trucks and set them for “stewing” at the ward site. I think the ward members began to see the possibilities in the project. Never had the Burlington Ward reached so far in a big project like this.

On the appointed day, we started about 4 AM with the preparations. We had plenty of help by the members. For me, the Bishop, it was thrilling. I had the ward working together without squabbling or contending or “grouping”. And did we make stew! Some said it was the best tasting stew they had ever tasted – and it was. We had the right people in the right places doing the right things for it to be so. The members had presold tickets but people kept driving in from off the street and buying quarts of stew and once having tasted it, back they would come for more. As a result, we were unable to fill all the orders of the presold tickets. One of my counselors phoned me and said he had no stew for his orders and I could tell he was frustrated. I said to him, “Now, that is the kind of failure that I love. We make stew and people cannot wait to buy it. Next time, we will do better!” or words to that effect. And we did better in that particular effort.

With the success of that first Brunswick Stew project, our ward members began to think more positively about what we could accomplish. The fractious membersbegan to realize that to be fractious in hopes of “gaining” something was fruitless. I, as Bishop, simply paid no attention to them. And in that “department” things got better really fast. I was grateful to the Lord for His help. Without His guidance through me, that project on that scale could not have happened with the harmony it did. Another sister needs to be named as a great help. Sister Johnson was the Relief Society president and she did nearly an heroic job. When I gave her instructions or talked with her about what we were aiming for, she seemed to get the direction I wanted. Seldom did I have to repeat the direction and details.

While I am mentioning Sister Johnson, I will explain to you how the Lord called her through me as Bishop. As a newly sustained bishop, I knew I needed a good Relief Society president. I could see a face in my mind but I did not know the members and so could not put a name to the face. And then, I think it was one Sunday, I saw the sister with that face. I inquired as to her name and I was told, “That is Sister Johnson”. I now knew the name of the person that the Lord wanted in that calling. And she served wonderfully the whole time I was Bishop. She “lifted” the sisters, many of them, to another level of cooperation in the work of the Lord. She is in a nursing home now. She has earned a great reward. I think she has earned her exaltation.

Please share your thoughts!

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