Jim Bishop: Great Getting’ Up Mornin’ . . . for ScrappleFest VI

It once again proved a tasteful occasion, at least in the eyes – and palates – of those Bishop relatives present.

The time had arrived for the long-anticipated ScrappleFest VI, a celebration of food, family, camaraderie and faith.

Male Bishop first cousins, descendants of the late Walter S. and Priscilla B. (“Nana”) Bishop of Harmony Hill Farm, Doylestown, Pa., gather the first Saturday of March every year to consume scrapple, and other comfort comestibles. At least, that’s the excuse for assembling.

Previous occasions were held around the dining room tables of cousins hosting the event. This year, to literally provide more elbow room – we Bishops do spread out while eating, a bit like the apostles in the DaVinci Last Supper painting – the event took place in the spacious fellowship hall of the Blooming Glen (PA) Mennonite Church.

Fearing that this grand family ritual and even the family name might fade, like the Shakers religious sect, the tables were extended this year to include second cousins. The youngest ScrappleFest aficionado present was Wesley Joseph Bishop, 4 months, son of Stephen Bishop and grandson of brother Bob Bishop of Doylestown.

Scrapple, a regional American food, is made from pork scraps and trimmings mixed with buckwheat flour and spices and shaped into a loaf which is sliced – thin or thicker, depending on personal preference – and either fried or baked. Our group opts for the “more healthful” baked approach.

Mom served scrapple to our family as an evening meal, often with eggs; some prefer it as breakfast fare. It is different than pon haus, which is mushier and generally thickened with corn meal. Those who turn up their corporate noses at the sound of scrapple just don’t know what good eating is – or, they are more health-conscious than this bunch.

Again this year, the proceedings opened with a group Chapstick® check, for reasons generally unknown.

My brother Michael Bishop of Blooming Glen – dubbed “Rev. Mikey” by his siblings – again prepared a musical invocation for the group to sing in a capella, four-part disharmony as they prepared to feast on scrapple, again again by corporate sponsor Bob Moyer, owner of Blooming Glen Pork Products. The tasteful tune makes its world debut here, sung to the tune of #89 in the Mennonite-Brethren hymnal, “For the beauty of the earth”):

In year six, the table spreads,
Rank on rank, more souls are fed.
Branching wide the Bergey tree,
From its roots come you and me.

Refrain: Lord of all our sacred rest
We sing now of ScrappleFest.

God is here, our heavn-ly host,
Scrapple is the poor man’s roast.
Some say bake and some say fry,
Fellowship, our natural high.

(Refrain)

For the beauty of these hours,
Seven sweets and seven sours.
These great God to thee we owe,
Cholesterol, our only foe.

In my laughter we have found
Love of life and holy ground.
Love unites our varied lives,
Like wet-bottom shoo-fly pie,.

Praise the Father, praise the Son,
Praise the Spirit, three in one,
And forgive our foolish ways.
Bless us all our earthly days.

(Refrain –from singing twice).

Once again, debate arose on the “proper” topping for scrapple. I provided genuine Highland County maple syrup, someone else brought Rosenberger’s cottage cheese and Bauman’s apple butter – it has to be these brands; the proprietors are fourth cousins – and a bottle of ketchup was nowhere found on the serving table. That would be sacrilege. Controversy also continued on the merits of wet- versus dry-bottom shoofly pie. Both were on the menu.

Guest speaker was none other than Loren Swartzendruber, president of Eastern Mennonite University. A gifted storyteller, Loren enthralled the group with hilarious yet substantive tales from his days as a youngster growing up in rural Iowa, as a college student, a fresh-out-of-seminary young pastor and more recently as leader of Hesston (Kan.) College and now EMU.

Loren could even claim a graft on the Bishop family tree – wife Pat Swartzendruber – yes, he could go by Loren Swartzendruber-Swartzendruber – is a second cousin to the Bishop clan. Pat’s grandfather, the late Oliver Bergey, was a brother to our grandmother Priscilla Bergey Bishop.

“The average tenure for a college president these days is 6.5 years,” Loren noted. “With 18 years between two institutions, I’m in rather rare territory,” he said, adding that “my pastoral experience has proven quite helpful in this leadership role. I’m also impressed by the difference that our alumni are making around the world.”

The noteworthy get-together closed with a period of a capella singing from the Brethren-Mennonite Hymnal: A Worship Book, led by Mike Bishop.

Before leaving the church, I walked across the road to the Blooming Glen cemetery and the grave of my parents, J. Vernon and Ann D. Bishop. I had a brief, intimate conversation with these dear departed souls and left the site with renewed gratitude for the inheritance they bestowed on us – intangible but priceless gifts of boundless love, laughter and spiritual values.

As the group departed, one participant was overheard saying, “I feel privileged to be a part of this family.”

That’s saying a ScrappleFest mouthful.

Column by Jim Bishop. Jim can be reached at bishopj@emu.edu.


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