Sharon Kayser is chair of the Delegate and Visitor Hospitality Committee, responsible for recruiting and coordinating local volunteers during General Synod 2013. But for today, Sunday, June 30, she is the 'Cookie Queen.'
This afternoon, a much-loved Synod tradition returned as cookies – fresh-baked by church members from the Southern California-Nevada Conference – made their debut Sunday afternoon following worship, though a few made an early appearance during the weekend blood drive.
And they’re delicious.
More than 3,000 dozen cookies (more than 36,000 total when you do the math) are expected to be consumed through Tuesday afternoon. They have been arriving in neat plastic shoe-sized boxes and stacked in the Synod volunteer room waiting for distribution (though some were available to blood donors over the weekend).
While many expected cookies at registration and opening plenary, opening worship and on every table in the Long Beach Convention Center, Kayser says the later distribution is a result of discussions among the local arrangements committee and the national office. As previously reported, some thought the time had come to "retire" the cookie tradition, perhaps replacing it with other forms of local hospitality.
During General Synod 27 in 2009, more than 5,000 dozen cookies made their way to Grand Rapids, Mich. General Synod 28 in Tampa in 2011 was deluged by 10,000 dozen cookies. Kayser said that the national office was becoming concerned by this apparent baking escalation ("cookie creep"?); the local committee, not wanting to be tagged with ending the tradition, suggested a later start to help reduce the strain.
Kayser, knowing the tradition of cookies but also aware of some of the logistical challenges in baking and delivering so many baked goods, chose some new approaches instead. "We’re doing cookies differently."
Starting distribution later reduces the number of cookies necessary from local volunteer bakers. Kayser also asked local church bakers to pack cookies into those plastic shoebox-style boxes. This makes for easy packing, shipping and distribution at Synod. Cookies will also stay in the boxes and not be mixed on trays. This is both for ease of distribution (just open the box and pass it around) and sanitary reasons (no one will need to pick to the bottom of the pile for the last snickerdoodle).
Using the plastic boxes also influenced the types of recipes that could easily be used. "We asked for cookies that can keep and cookies that can stack," Kayser said.
Since many folks in California come from other places, delegates and visitors will find lots of familiar cookie recipes, though often with a local twist, such as orange oat chewies and chocolate chip with local nuts. Each box has a label describing the cookie contents and the baker, though a few just have a "?" on the side, requiring an extra leap of faith.
Boxes with cookies that are vegan, sugar free and gluten free are clearly marked, though you may have to ask around to find one of those boxes.
If the cookie tradition continues in Cleveland in 2015, Kayser has some words of advice, such as be flexible, communicate constantly, and manage expectations (just in case there will be no cookies on arrival again).
And if someone gets that box of speculoos and coconut gingerbread cookies, relax. It is a Germanic spiced biscuit-style cookie baked traditionally for the feast of St. Nicholas.