We come here today to dedicate this quilt—finally. Before we get to
that part, Susan and I want to explain how this quilt got started 14, yes
14, years ago.
The year is 1991. Rev. Bruce Clary was the minister. We
were in the midst of the 20th anniversary year of dedicating this church
building. 1994 would mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of this
parish. And like this year, Easter was early—March 31st.
The Worship Committee wanted to do something special that Easter Sunday
to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the building with the focus of
the service being “What this Church means to Me.” Rather than
just hand out something at the beginning of the service and ask people
to jot down a few words, we wanted something that would require more thought
and preparation especially in light of the theme—“What this
Church Means to Me.”
We wanted something visual. So we came up with the idea of creating a
quilt out of paper. Anyone who wanted would bring in a “quilt square”
with either words or drawings on it depicting some aspect of church life
that was particular meaningful to them. Articles went into the Packet,
forms were sent out so that the square would be approximately the same
size, supplies were provided to anyone who requested them, the project
I had no idea what we would get the squares kept coming and coming and
coming. The Saturday before Easter three of us armed with tape and huge
pieces of easel paper taped to the back wall of the sanctuary started
“quilting the blocks.” It was a sight to behold and it stayed
up for weeks. No one wanted it to go away.
It did disappear over the summer, but not before we were able to salvage
some of the squares.
And so was born the genesis of another idea—a permanent Quilt for
the 250th anniversary of the church in 1994. Several of us got together—Ruth
Hansen, Diane Heberling, Christie DiCastro, Ruby McKay, Lynn Gaylord,
Carol Russell, Linda Winship, Norma Sidebottom, Susan O’Connor-(
and others I’ve unfortunately forgotten)—to plan the quilt.
At the annual meeting in 1992 Ruth Hansen and I distributed instructions
for turning the paper blocks into cloth blocks.
There were two rules: first, that each block be 13” square with
a ½” seam allowance around the design, and second, that the
background be off-white if it was going to show. We needed at least 48
blocks and hoped that by giving everyone the summer to work on them that
the blocks would all be turned in by October 1st.
It was an interesting time. Some people wanted a quilt block but didn’t
feel competent to create it, so they commissioned others to make their
block. Some people submitted several telling us to use whichever one we
liked best (we used them all). Some people moved away and still wanted
their quilt block included. Others died before they could complete their
square. Some painted their blocks. Others did traditional quilting. Some
kept the off-white background. Others completely filled it in.
October 1st came and went and we still didn’t have all the blocks.
Then February and finally in May we called for a final deadline—Mother’s
Day 1993. Well they were all in—almost.
Then the fun began in earnest. Quilting bees in the parlor to cut all
the squares to a consistent size, trying to figure out how to arrange
them, cutting the sashings and assembling the blocks. Jumping over the
blocks on the floor in stocking feet because we didn’t have enough
room to more around in the parlor. We had visions of everyone in the church
taking at least one quilting stitch during coffee hours. George Hansen
made us a quilt frame. All summer we worked on this and in the middle
of the Fall of 1993 we had the top complete and then we encountered a
snag—a HUGE snag, major roadblock—the quilt was too large
to hang anywhere in the church with any kind of protection!
That roadblock stopped everything. We were stymied. We missed the 250th
anniversary completely. We really had no idea how to proceed and so the
quilt languished, carefully wrapped, in what had become my office for
Some of you may not know me. I am Dianne Heberling. I grew up in this
Church from childhood, thriving well in its love and history and spiritual
Before going on I want to invite you to turn around to look at the quilt
at anytime while I'm talking. That is our special attraction of the day.
One of my goals as a former chairperson of the Church during the 90's
was to facilitate the completion of our guilt. I worried that some of
the Church elders who had dreamed up, designed,and even handcrafted squares
would not get to see the quilt finished. Obviously we failed in that mission
and I share celebration with sadness at this dedication. but Church life
was busy and demanding and the project remained stagnant even longer--except--that
we felt certain we had to split the quilt apart.
Enter... Joan O'Hare, an avid and expert quilter who had started attending
church shortly thereafter. We explained our dilemma and Joan volunteered
for a "summer project"--to separate the quilt face into more
manageable pieces--the ones you see today. People came forward with a
few more squares to balance the sides. Susan O'Connor continued to be
a driving force throughout.
Enter...Susan Stewart Racicot who worked for hours with Joan hand quilting
the central banner which depicts the dates of our 250 years celebrated
in 1994 and also the seven Unitarian Universalist Principles:
- Value and dignity of every human personality
- Spiritual growth
- Search for Truth and Meaning
- Democratic Process
- Web of Life
Joan arranged to have the larger pieces professionally quilted and then
completed the project by hand stitching the binding and hanging plackets.
Enter...Brad Russell and Jack Sidebottom who always answer the call for
help. Our quilt gets hung and we're ready for dedication amidst the ooh's
and aah's and tears.
I would also encourage you to check out the quilting to see how each
block's quilting is tailored to the individual design. It's wonderful.
While the story of making his quilt is another example of our fabulous
sharing and caring, the real significance is in the stories of the blocks
themselves. Some represent a multi-generational presence in the Church's
history--like the Forbes Family tree, the O'Hare ancestry which goes way
back, and the four generations of Inness/Bartletts offspring who are presently
active in the church.
Other squares depict activities of the Church--for example, Church fairs,
the infamous Strawberry Festivals of the 50's, 60's and 70's, the 20/40
Club which originally started post WWII 1940's as a social group of Church
couples who were between the ages of 20-40. By the way--the bylaws has
to be changed since the members didn't want to leave when they turned
40 years old.
Significance of the blocks may be obvious as in the christening square
designed by marge Boutillier or subtle like the musical notes entitled
"Harmony Through Music" my Natalie Fee who sang in the choir
and transformed into Natasha when performing in musical reviews sponsored
by the Church. Her husband Stewart Fee made the chalice square in memory
of his mother-in-law Ethel Stevens, also a former Church member. Kathryn
Moore, sister-in-law to Bruce Clary, a former minister, very cleverly
included the numbers of her favorite hymns on her flag and hymn board
design. The Bartletts are "peared" off on their block to commemorate
their 50th wedding anniversary in 1991. They are here today working on
their 64th year of marriage which they can work on a little longer if
they want to beat his parents record of 71 years.
Not only are personal histories represented but the physical churches
are chronicled too. There is a representation of the 1700's first meeting
house, the 1800-1900's replacement church when the famed Good Samaritan
painting was destroyed, to the present church, all presenting as a beacon
for freedom in religion in Stoughton Center, and marked by a historic
stone chosen by the Delgadillo family to be on their family block.
So many stories, so..o..o much spirit of love. As grandma said in the
children story this morning:
"You don't need a quilt to remember for you.
You have all those names and stories inside you.
But a quilt is a good thing to have."