Where can we find God in our lives and how can we serve him? In the spring of 2009 when our church closed the sanctuary for renovations, we needed to consider other places for worship. Our Fellowship Hall was remodeled for Sunday services. We now felt comfortable and assured that God was in our presence as we gathered together on Sunday mornings. But these changes caused us to ask, “Where else do we experience God and live out our faith?”
Members began to talk about other ways that we not only experience God but also can serve God. Many ideas were discussed and groups began to form activities that would serve God and our community. God was being found in other places and one of those places involved the work of Shirley Marriott.
Shirley had been commissioned to design and embroider sets of paraments for the Moravian Theological Seminary. When others saw her work they encouraged her to consider establishing a group to make paraments for Home Moravian Church. Because the work is so labor intensive she was convinced that no one would be interested and was quite surprised when twelve women came forward to sew and embroider paraments for the church.
Soon the group met and as they assessed their varied talents they also discussed their goals. It was quickly decided that they would make a set of paraments for each liturgical season as a gift to Home Moravian Church. These sets would be of different designs and each set would be the designated color for that particular season. But they wanted to do more. How could they service the community?
Everyone agreed that they would like to support Sunnyside Ministries, a ministry in Winston-Salem that offers financial help, food and clothes for those in need. To do this the paraments would be made available for sale to other churches. The fine fabric and thread were ordered, the designs were drawn and the stitchers were ready. Their first goal was to make a white parament and a set of Bible markers as a gift to Home Church for the rededication of the sanctuary in October 2009.
This tedious handiwork takes many hours and a lot of patience but as the women worked together they began to form a close relationship with each other. And this special bond within the group continues to give them a deep sense of satisfaction and service. From the very beginning they have felt God in their presence and His guidance in their work.
Their individual talents have melded into just the right combination needed for their task. The women learned the variety of stitches needed to embroider the intricate details and rich texture of each original design. Professional workshops, study and practice enhanced their skills. Each parament and Bible marker is finished with fringes of hand strung 24K lined gold glass beads sewn onto the fabric.
In the spring of 2010 they realized they needed a way to finance more of their materials. They put their heads together and put their hands to work to produce an amazing gourmet bake sale called “Artful Edibles,” a magnificent array of homemade recipes decorated as only these artists could do. This endeavor was so successful that they were not only able to buy their materials but also to make a sizeable contribution to Sunnyside Ministries.
The group of women stitched on and in 2011 they decided they needed to have another bake sale. This time they added lovefeast napkins to the sale. Once again the sale was a big success and they were able to make another contribution to Sunnyside Ministries. During this time they struggled to find a name for themselves and finally became known as “The Sunnyside Stitchers.”
As the liturgical seasons rolled into 2012 more paraments needed to be completed. Now there was no time for bake sales. “What should we do?” People had been making donations to the project but that was not enough. Just as this problem was being pondered a church called to ask the group to make a presentation about the paraments and Bible markers to their church. Before long one church requested Bible markers and another church two paraments with the Bible markers. Stoles for two pastors were ordered. And there has also been interest in a communion cloth. Sunnyside Stitchers found themselves expanding their designs to accommodate different uses of their work for churches and supporting Sunnyside Ministries.
Roberta Petitt is a member of Home Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. Photos by Ross Gobble.
From the December 2012 Moravian Magazine