A Mennonite and Church of the Brethren Congregation

Care Quilt

The Arts of Love:

 The story of the Shalom Community Church care quilt: “Interwoven

“My dear friends, let us love one another, because the source of love is God.  Everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.”  I John 4:7

“Let the love of Christian community show itself in mutual affection.” Romans 12:10

            This is the story of how Shalom Community Church (SCC) redefined its ministry of care.  Our Nurture Committee (NC) asked the question, “How do we celebrate and support all people in our church community?”

History

            Recognizing that we used a rather narrow profile of celebration-worthy moments, we set about finding a model that offered care to one another whenever it was timely and desired.  This led us away from secular notions of occasions for empathy.  It invited members to share the moments they yearned for care.  It led to a language of blessing.  It led to a quilt and a collection of art pieces that are the symbols of care.  This is the story of how we deploy art in the practice of congregational care.  It is the story of “The Arts of Love.”

 

carequilt

            To lead the congregation’s engagement with the task, the NC developed a Grounding Principle.  A “Grounding Principle” is a carefully crafted statement that shapes and anchors our decision-making process.  The Grounding Principle stated:

            “We want to symbolically show our care for our congregants as we walk through life together.  We want to show our support and joy in ways that are inclusive—specifically by presenting a person with a symbol that reflects the love and support of God and this congregation.”

            The decision-making process provides four steps, or stages, for the process.  These are not necessarily sequential; we double back; we do more than one at a time.  They are:

  1. Preparing: bringing hearts and minds to bear on the issue.
  2. Shedding:  recognizing and naming those things we would need to give up.
  3. Waiting:  giving time to allow for assessment and for confidence about where we were headed.
  4. Exploring: identifying and developing new ideas.

            Over a period of months a series of business meetings, a survey of participants at SCC, and worship themes led us through the four steps of decision-making.  As we explored, several things emerged.  The Grounding Principle seemed to be working! 

  1. We wanted a new tradition to develop.
  2. We wanted it to be inclusive.
  3. We wanted to use symbols.
  4. We wanted it to be visible as we gathered.

            The Nurture Committee elected to call a Task Force to carry the project forward.  They invited people with an eye for art, a hand for craft, and the interest, time and impulse to pursue the project.

The Task Force (TF) met more or less monthly from February through August, 2012.  It settled on the concept of a “lending library,” or a “gallery.”  It set about acquiring a group of symbols, or art pieces, that could be placed with members who asked for care—the “books” in the library; and a quilt—the “card file” of the library’s holdings and borrowers.  The quilt would be displayed routinely in worship, and within its design would be a mechanism indicating that items were “on loan’, reminding the congregation that members were being held in care.Shawl

            The TF found that its members represented a variety of ideas and complimentary interests that enabled it to move forward on many fronts.  Patti worked on the quilt and a prayer shawl; Katie worked on several of the symbol ideas including those that would involve children’s art submissions; Nelson worked on some fund-raising, and on contacting and developing pieces by young adult artists from SCC.  Paul kept us attentive to making it workable for the pastor and congregation.  Susan shepherded our meetings and tracked our decisions with good minutes.

Statement

Together the TF wrote (and rewrote) the following Statement to describe, place and maintain this new piece of congregational life.

Shalom Community Church seeks to share moments of achievement, transition or sorrow experienced by its participants.  We encourage one another to share these moments, and to be attentive and responsive to one another as we do.  Avenues of sharing include the weekly worship sharing time, conversation with the pastor, and person-to-person sharing.  Response can take many forms, including prayer, blessing, and anointing.

One of the ways we provide for community response is by maintaining a gallery or ‘lending library’ of symbols; one of these symbols may be chosen and placed with an individual or household at especially significant times.  The symbol serves as an expression of celebration, or recognition, or consolation by the congregation to the receiving person or household.  Giving and return of the symbol may take place in our worship gathering, with opportunity for words of blessing and sharing, or in another environment and manner that feels comfortable to the recipient.

Vase

The Nurture Committee maintains the gallery.  Individuals are welcome to approach the Nurture Committee with a request.  

The congregation maintains its awareness of care with the quilt displayed in worship each week.  The care quilt indicates the pieces that are with someone and those that are available for sharing.  As the ‘card file’ of our ‘lending library,’ it reminds us of who is in our care, and indicates current concerns to those who have been absent.

Inaugural Worship Service

To inaugurate this new form of ministry, the TF planned and led a worship service in September, 2012.  The Statement formed the outline of the ‘message’ of worship.  As we gathered to worship we gave voice to this Call to Worship:

Here, in this place, we gather:

confident in the love of God;

inspired by the life of Jesus;

warmed by the presence of the Spirit.

We are created in the image of God,

vessels of imagination and energy.

We are comforted by the heart of Jesus,

who knows our sorrows and cares.Picture

We are accompanied by the Spirit,

as we walk the path of life.

Here, in this place, we share with one another:

moments of achievement,

times of sorrow,

and paths of transition.

We commit ourselves

to be attentive,

to be responsive,

to celebrate,

to recognize,

to console,

as we are shown and taught by Christ.

 

quiltinservice 

            Worship included a display of the art pieces so far acquired.  To foster the children’s understanding, Katie led the children’s time with a story, “The Quiltmaker’s Gift,” and a song, “Love Grows One by One.”  Commentary from committee members described the purpose and mechanisms for the ‘library’.  (The commentaries are listed below in the Appendix.)   Our pastor gave a blessing of this new ministry of care.  Several members on the congregation described their experiences as the first borrowers of symbols.

Among the comments and responses shared during worship were these:

            “For someone like me, from a Catholic experience rich in symbols, this fills a gap.”

            “For a group of verbal individuals, the incorporation of art and symbol adds to the vocabulary of worship and community life.”

            “I would like to borrow a symbol.”

                        Blessing of the Quilt

May God bless the work of this quilt.

            To enable us to care for each other and experience God’s care for us.

May God bless the ministry of this quilt,

            To help us be attentive and response to significant events in our lives.

            To help us to pray and bear each other’s burdens,

            To help us to share each other’s achievements

            To encourage us to bless the space between.

May the Spirit in this quilt move us from good words to action,

May the Spirit of this quilt move us thru human care to divine encounter.

May this quilt be Iconic, to draw others into the circle of God’s care.

Application

The quilt,“Interwoven” hangs each Sunday in worship along with another quilt, “Intersections.”  The pieces in our collection include a mobile, a shawl, a painting, a ceramic vase, an oil lamp, a flash drive, a wooden Jesus, and a grain bag.  These are “The Arts of Love.”

Appendix

            The Task Force consisted of Susan Hunsberger from the Nurture Committee, Paul Versluis, pastor, and appointed members: Katie Chappell-Lakin, Patti Sprunger, and Nelson Shantz. 

The September, 2012, worship service included commentary by members of the Task Force that elaborated on the four paragraphs of the Statement describing the ministry.  Together with a song and story for the children led by Katie Chappell-Lakin, the commentaries introduced and described to the congregation the mechanisms and purpose of the care ministry. These commentaries also provide on-going guidance to the Nurture Committee as new members of that committee maintain the care ministry.  The commentaries are listed below, paired with the Statement paragraphs they describe.Mug

Shalom Community Church seeks to share moments of achievement, transition or sorrow experienced by its participants.  We encourage one another to share these moments, and to be attentive and responsive to one another as we do.  Avenues of sharing include the weekly worship sharing time, conversation with the pastor, and person-to-person sharing.  Response can take many forms, including prayer, blessing, and anointing.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2

“[May] the members have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”  I Corinthians 12:25.26

Being a friend means having people who care for you with whom you can share moments of achievement, transition or sorrow.  When you do something well, there is the satisfaction of the accomplishment, and then there is the satisfaction of sharing the good news with friends.    Sharing moments of achievement is a way to show our care for one another.

Being a friend, a family means having people who care for you with whom you can share your journey of transition and change.  You mark milestones and celebrate passages together.   Sharing moments of transition is a way we show we care for each other.

Being a friend, a family, a community means having people who care for you with whom you can share moments of sorrow.  Sharing the burden of pain and grief is a way we show we care for each other.

Healthy communities find ways to encourage participants to share these moments together, to be attentive and responsive to each other’s concerns, to embody and express care.  Being a Christian community, we believe that when we care for another, that we are also embodying God’s care. 

The Care Quilt is one way we hope to be responsible and practice caring for one another.  Different communities have different ways of doing this.  A few weeks ago, John Powell preached and gave an alter call.  In some communities, the alter call is a primary way practicing care.  A few weeks ago, I spoke and offered people to come forward for the laying on of hands, ‘May God use these hands to heal you of the hands that injured you.”  In both cases congregants are ‘standing in the need of prayer.  The care quilt is a way to show ‘we are standing in the need of prayer’, another way to practice prayer and blessing, a way for us to give thanksgiving.  May this quilt help us to care for each other and experience God’s care for us. 

                                                                                    -Paul Versluis                         

***

One of the ways we provide for community response is by maintaining a gallery or ‘lending library’ of symbols; one of these symbols may be chosen and placed with an individual or household at especially significant times.  The symbol serves as an expression of celebration, or recognition, or consolation by the congregation to the receiving person or household.  Giving and return of the symbol may take place in our worship gathering, with opportunity for words of blessing and sharing, or in another environment and manner that feels comfortable to the recipient.grainbag

“As a task force, we visualize this ‘care ministry’ as a new part of how Shalom goes about being a caring community.  Generally, we learn of important moments as we speak of them here together or in other settings.  These symbols are available as “expressions of celebration, or recognition, or consolation” to be made in by the congregation to individuals or households.

“These are some examples of how our task force has envisioned we might use the library:

“On the career path:

making a career change;

applying for a new job;

moving into retirement.

“Doing something appealing but a little daunting for the first time:

planting a first garden;

taking singing lessons.

“Household transitions:

selling a house after living in it for many years,

      then down-sizing, or moving to a care facility;

living alone after living with others or another;

incorporating a person needing care into one’s household.

“Children’s moments:

learning to ride a bike after having a difficult time of it;

beginning childcare or school, or transitioning to middle school

     or high school;

the loss or departure of a good friend.

“The symbol library is open for our use!”

                                                                                    -Nelson Shantz

***

The Nurture Committee maintains the gallery.  Individuals are welcome to approach the Nurture Committee with a request.

I’m going to talk about the logistics of this ministry: the who, what, where, when, and how.

Who – anyone from the congregation is welcome to approach the nurture committee to request and receive a care symbol.

What – the care symbols that we have today are displayed – more are being made (a sculpture and a mug).  New care symbols will most likely be created and some may be retired.   This process will become clear as this ministry takes shape in our lives. The care symbols may also be used when preparing the altar and worship space for the Sunday service.Quilt Flash Drive

Where – when a person requests a care symbol they can receive it in the church service or in the privacy of another space.  They can share what is happening in their life publically or privately with the pastor.

When – Generally the nurture committee would be made aware of the request for a care symbol before the service so that the symbol can be place in the worship space. It may happen that a care symbol is requested during the service or during the week outside of the Sunday morning worship. 

How – The request may be made in person, by phone, or e-mail.  When the request is made there will be a conversation about how the person wants to receive a care symbol.  Paul will generally be the one to give the symbol along with a spoken blessing. 

Our intention of this ministry is to open up the idea of what we celebrate and support in our lives with each other.  We recognize that each person’s path is different – each will have their own moments of achievement, transition and sorrow. We know that God shows God’s love for each of us at every point of our lives. By encouraging ourselves to share, celebrate, and support each of our unique joys, transitions, and sorrows we hope that God’s love is felt and our care is reflected in what we say and do.

                                                                                    -Susan Hunsberger

***

The congregation maintains its awareness of care with the quilt displayed in worship each week.  The care quilt indicates the pieces that are with someone and those that are available for sharing.  As the ‘card file’ of our ‘lending library,’ it reminds us of who is in our care, and indicates current concerns to those who have been absent.

 “The congregation maintains its awareness of care with the wall hanging displayed in worship each week.  The Care Quilt indicates the pieces that are with someone and those that are available for sharing.  As the ‘card file’ of our ‘lending library,’ it reminds us of who is in our care, and indicates current concerns to those who have been absent.”

One of the ideas that the Task Force worked with was developing a way to let the congregation know when a symbol was given out.  Was there a way to visually let people know that prayer and support was requested?  Several ideas were discussed and it was decided to explore the option of a quilted wall hanging that would be created by the community.  This quilt would have sections that would be able to be removed as people received a symbol from the congregation indicating a transition in their lives and then replaced when the symbol was returned.

sad jesusKris Shenk was contacted to see if she would be willing to design such a quilt for us to complete.  Kris designed the current wall hanging/quilt that is in our sanctuary. 

Through this process we learned that what we have been calling “The Quilt” actually has a name – it was named “Intersections.”

She very graciously agreed to do this and came up with two different designs for us to choose from. 

This is what Kris wrote about the design that we chose:

“The design features a central woven design, incorporating all of the colors and pulling the eye from the center out to the borders. The over-under nature of something woven gives an object strength. In the same way, you as a church family are woven together. You hold each other and give each other strength. You also begin in the center as a church body and then extend out into the world, strengthened to do the work of God by the inter-connectedness of your lives. I like the idea that the wall hanging will something you interact with--removing the mini quilt symbols as reminders of things going on in your lives and giving you specific circumstances and people to pray for. The blocks are various sizes for the sake of visual interest, not to indicate more or less importance of any of the symbols. “

Based on what Kris has said, we like to call our quilt “Interwoven,” to go along with the first quilt, “Intersections.”

In reality, though, this is our “Care Quilt.”  As symbols from our library are used, a mini quilt will be removed and placed in a pocket on the back of the quilt.  The removal of a mini quilt will expose a black square in the quilt – while still a part of the pattern of the whole quilt – a change none the less.  When the symbol is returned, the mini quilt will be returned to the front of the quilt.

The hope is that this quilt will serve as a visual reminder to us of the achievements, transitions or sorrows that people from our congregation are experiencing and we will pray and support them.

And the community came together to work on this quilt.  Our youth have contributed time and effort (and in some cases, blood), as well as men and women from our congregation.  This is a community effort.

In closing, just as this quilt is not quite complete, neither is the Care Ministry.  Broad outlines have been developed, but from here on in, it is up to all of us to make it our own.

                                                                                    -Patti Sprunger