Sunday, September 1, 2019

2019.09.01 Stealth Quilt In the Sacristy

On Monday July 1, a time when no one in his/her right mind is in church, including God some would say, a beautiful quilt, hung in the sacristy of St John’s Episcopal Church, Charlestown, suddenly appeared. A photo of the quilt and an explanatory e-note, reminding me that the placement of this creation had been my idea, arrived soon.  Here's the installed quilt.
I nearly forgot I’d cooked up this scheme with professional artist, quilter, and parishioner, Kathleen McCormick. She had agreed some time ago to create a quilt from one of her designs I loved. It was to adorn the barren wall in the newly completed sacristy. And then the quilt just appeared—a quiet annunciation of God’s beauty. My God, it’s more beautiful than I imagined it would be!

Co-incidentally I received a blog post, from Fashionista, of all things, about the “knitting monk,” Brother Aidan Owen of the Order of the Holy Cross in West Park New York. Aidan has taken up knitting as a spiritual practice and has developed his craft through the internet, falling with other enthusiasts into what he calls “the black hole of knitting online.”  With help from the “slow fashion” movement’s emphasis on treating people and the planet with care, Brother Aidan found confluence: “I had my Christian spirituality, I had the ecological stuff, and then I had creativity and making things. And it all came together in knitting because you're literally clothing yourself with stuff from the earth."

The confluence of fabric arts and spirituality is familiar to Kathleen McCormick as well. She sent me some “quilty” notes:  “I grew up near the Amish in Reading Pennsylvania, started sewing when I was young, and made many of my clothes during high school and college. I always went to see the quilts that the Amish made but not until after graduate school, did I find time, a store, and nearby classes. Due in part to the celebration of the bicentennial in the mid 70s quilting was revived; books, classes and new quilts were appearing, and with it my own vocation. Handpiecing and handquilting was where I started and what I loved. The handwork made me feel as though I was a piece of the quilt—the joining of the front, the batting in the center, and the backing.”

Now that Kathleen designs quilt patterns on her own, often for family and friends or, let’s say, for a church sacristy, the creative process is even more intense. “I am putting myself into the quilt—all my particular thoughts and prayers.” [Brother Aidan does the same as he knits—each stitch a kind of prayer.]  “Original design work has helped me to grow both as a quilter and an artist, something that I never thought I’d call myself. In finding something that speaks to me, I find myself having to be honest about what I love about quilting and what my style is—traditional with a modern twist.”  

Does this not sound like Creator God creating a “quilty” world, sewing the divine soul itself into every unique patch and stitch of life? I think so. Just as God Creator never stops creating, sewing divinity into every new soul, and rejoicing in the unfolding wonders, Kathleen creates new patterns and designs from the beginning to the end. “My vision is to instill joy in the process and help quilters who need some help finding a great technique or the inspiration to finish a project or try something new. I have taught quilting for many years and love sharing my quilting knowledge.”

Kathleen now is an ambassador for Island Batik, a fabric company which sends fabric and monthly challenges.  While on  Peaks Island in Maine where she and her husband Jonathan will soon retire, she responds to each monthly challenge with new quilts and designs. Jonathan “edits” her stitches with praise and hung the sacristy quilt with pride. This quilt is one of Kathleen’s favorite designs that she made for an ambassador challenge. It, just like all evolving life, has many variations. “I fell in love with the design at first sight,” she told me. It is part of a series of Super Nova quilts, born during an online class on the intricacies of quilt design. “Its center is a traditional sort of star, but the extra rays are different from many other stars I have seen. The design spoke to me. I tried it in many different colors, but the hot yellow/orange/reds kept inspiring me.”

The sacristy quilt is Super Nova # 2. Its beauty is undeniable as is the obvious labor behind Kathleen’s artistry and craft. Spiritually, it suggests the cosmos in all its glory and reminds me that Divinity reigns far beyond narrow religious confines. As a Christian, I see here the glory of Resurrection, and frankly, the wild rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.

I thought this quilt should hang in the sacristy, because there it shines on the unsung labors of the many who serve on the Altar Guild, making sure behind the scenes that preparations for Holy Eucharist are done well and with meditative respect. The quilt also reflects a portion of the parish mission statement: Hear the Spirit. See God’s Beauty. Act in love. 

Thank you, Kathleen. I think your quilts are your “McMemoir.”
Kathleen can be reached at:  Her blog is :