In the late 1940s, women from Old St. Andrew’s Parish Church turned the tea room custom into an annual fundraising event. As described on Old St. Andrew’s website, a group of women would spend the day preparing the church for services and have lunch on the church lawn. Because the surrounding area lacked restaurants, they often would share their lunches with tourists who visited the church. The need to raise funds for renovations prompted them to begin selling sandwiches and beverages to visitors.
Since then, the tea room concept has grown to include several Lowcountry churches and numerous patrons. Last year, St. Paul’s Church of Summerville served around 3,600 dine-in guests and filled 930 takeout orders in a two-week period.
St. Paul’s tea room and gift shop coordinator Selina Hathaway said that guests consider it to be an “annual reunion of the town of Summerville.” About 190 church members contributed to last year’s tea room, and the funds generated from the event were poured into 33 local, diocesan and world ministries, says Hathaway.