From the Principal's Desk. . .
A year of pandemic living, and my sewing hobby has escalated from face masks to clothing to attempting my first quilt. Like a lot of other pandemic experiences, this has included some research, gathering the right tools and materials and jumping in; learning from my mistakes. Unlike many of my friends in congregational ministry, I am consoled that my learning curve in an unfamiliar medium is not being broadcast every week, or preserved on a YouTube channel.
Although I haven’t attempted a quilt top myself, many other women in my family have – my sister sews vibrant modern quilts for her kids, my mother has made baby quilts while wintering in Arizona – in years when that was possible. The cedar chest at the foot of my bed has quilts from my grandmother and great-grandmother, as well as a beautiful all white quilt handstitched with the images of the three churches of my settlement charge; a going away gift from the congregations.
I have warm memories of sitting with the weekly quilting group, who would fill me in on the news of who was sick and who was celebrating, and who promised that my stitches were acceptable enough that they didn’t need to be discreetly unpicked after I went back to working on the Sunday service. Finished with the formal preparation for ministry, a newly minted graduate of the Centre for Christian Studies, I continued to learn the rhythms and practice of ministry with the women around the quilting frame, one stitch at a time.
We use sewing and fabric arts metaphors and imagery often at CCS (including in the title of this monthly newsletter, “Common Threads”). They speak to me of the inherited traditions and wisdom of women’s diaconal ministry, of the mentorship involved in learning to stitch together layers of cotton and batting or to stitch together a justice coalition or to stitch together a worship liturgy. More than that, the metaphor and action of quilting speaks to me of radical transformation – of taking the risk to begin, to cut apart and re-arrange – to take the concrete and irrevocable steps to bring a new vision into being. We can do this in fabric, in community, in theology and in relationships. There are always risks of failure, the possibility that the end result won’t be quite what we imagined. But so often, the process of transformation brings something unexpectedly more into being.
A year into pandemic living, I hope you too have found new things to try. I wonder what you have picked apart and mended. I wonder what new skills you’ve acquired on the fly in the press of innovation by necessity. I wonder who you are mourning, whose presence lingers in stitches of memory. I wonder what new vision you have sewn together, patchwork piece by piece, working with others in your community.
We have a little more experience and time for planning this spring, and are looking forward to online circles and celebrations in April. I hope you have time to join us for awhile, if not to come for a whole learning circle (still time to enrol for some post-Easter continuing education!) perhaps for one of our Annual Celebration events, which will be online.
Wherever you are this year, it is wonderful to be connected together with you, common threads creating uncommon visions.
Michelle Owens, Principal