Like most church cookbooks, the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew’s This and That cookbook offers recipes for chicken casseroles and Jell-O salads. But the cookbook also offers the “recipe” for making another of the congregation’s specialties: the Bottle-Cap Christmas Tree.
The tree, installed in front of the United Methodist church’s building on New York’s Upper West Side, is made with old bottle caps and jar lids, and it’s become quite a neighborhood conversation piece.
Church staff members living in the parsonage “see people all the time stopping to look at and touch the tree,” said church member Shirley Struchen. “It does draw attention. People want to see what it is.”
The Bottle-Cap Christmas Tree is the invention of Charlene Floyd, wife of the church’s pastor, the Rev. K Karpen. Ms. Floyd and her family diligently recycle jars and bottles, but “you can’t recycle the caps,” she said. Over the years, she’s collected caps and lids for her two children to play with, sorting them into different shapes, sizes and colors.
The children, now teens, outgrew them, so Ms. Floyd began looking for some other way to use the caps.
In 2010, using discarded hula-hoops, broken umbrella pieces and thousands of lids and caps, the Karpen family devised the first “Bottle-Cap Christmas Tree,” hanging the six-foot structure on poles outside the church.
This year, church members contributed caps and lids, and new trees were constructed and debuted at the citywide Maker’s Faire in late September—winning a blue ribbon and appearing on the front page of the Wall Street Journal’s Metropolis (local) section. The trees also earned a photo and a mention on Martha Stewart’s blog.
For Christmas, the church put up its third annual Bottle-Cap Tree in a whimsical tree-lighting ceremony, accompanied by a kazoo band assembled by the youth, on Dec. 7. (The later date being chosen because “we didn’t want to outshine Rockefeller Center with our tree,” Ms. Struchen joked.)
The trees delight passersby.
“Some children actually get inside of them,” said Ms. Floyd. “The kids couldn’t hurt them if they wanted to.”
She added that the trees have raised awareness about recycling in the congregation.
St. Paul and St. Andrew has always been mission-oriented: providing shelter to homeless women, operating an emergency food bank and delivering meals on wheels, providing homework help and supporting neighborhood arts groups. But now, with many church members volunteering regularly in Far Rockaway or Staten Island to help with post-Sandy cleanup, the message of recycling seems even more urgent, Ms. Struchen said.
“It’s impacted our thinking,” she said. “The tree shows how anything can be re-used and maybe even formed into something that gives joy.”
Ms. Struchen added that the Bottle-Cap Trees inspired her to start assembling the church cookbook—collecting recipes as well as instructions for crafts and knitting, recycling and composting projects. Given the church’s diverse congregation, and its interfaith ministry, the book also features recipes from Africa and the Philippines, as well as traditional Jewish and Muslim dishes.
For more information on the Bottle-Cap Christmas Tree and This and That—More Than a Cookbook, visit www.stpaulandstandrew.org/ministries/women/.
The Rev. Kathy Noble, editor of Interpreter magazine, also contributed to this report.