Making the Quilt
Making the Quilt
by Debby Rake
Those who have been coming to Westside for a couple of years or more will remember that Dianne Nixon, the Building and Grounds committee, and many more willing hands, did an incredible job of transforming it from daycare site to spacious and welcoming church. It was magical. When it was almost finished, Dianne asked me to make a quilted wall hanging, nine feet long and 6 feet wide, for the foyer. Sure, I said. Be glad to, I said. And then thought oh, my gosh, what have I gotten myself into this time.
Coming up with a theme was the first challenge. I wanted it to be meaningful, to express some of what keeps me coming back to Westside. My first thought was a tree of life, but that felt incomplete. Then I thought I might try to illustrate the seven principles, but they are too abstract. Finally, I decided on the six sources of the UU faith. After a great deal of dithering and much consultation with google images, I came up with elements that would illustrate our sources. I didn’t try to develop one for each source, but let the ideas overlap and shift.
The first source refers to a transcending sense of wonder, found in all religions. I decided that the large tree would represent nature, which often inspires such feelings. The everlasting renewal of life in its amazing variety of forms strikes us with awe. So does the night sky, portrayed in the quilt’s background.
Secondly, the sources list the inspiring words and deeds of prophetic people. This was a bit of a stumper. How do you make a picture of a great deed? I finally decided on a book, where words of wisdom from many sources are recorded.
The third source is the wisdom of the world’s religions. Many UUs find the teachings of the Buddha, for instance, to be inspiring. I made a wheel shape to refer to the Buddhist wheel of life. It also represents meditation while walking a circular path. Finally, I asked the children in our CRE program to add their handprints to the wheel, because I wanted to include them as a vital part of our journey here.
Jewish and Christian teachings call us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I added a Star of David, and then looked for Christian images. I could have used a cross, but I really liked the three overlapping circles, representing the trinity. The more I looked at that symbol, the more I saw a lovely representation of inclusion and diversity.
We also have learned from Humanist teachings, which remind us of the value of science and reason. The Humanist symbol looks to me like a person, either reaching upward or dancing. Or maybe both.
Finally, we learn from the spiritual teachings of earth-based religions, which remind us that we are both a part of nature and its caretaker. The quilt’s tree has not only leaves but roots, curling into the earth.
The last image that I included is the chalice, symbol of our faith. I deliberately placed it off-center within its circling frame. The Universalist symbol, before we merged, was an off-center cross within a circle. The extra space indicated that there is always room, and everyone is welcome.
Designing and constructing this quilt was a labor of love for me in every sense. I am thrilled that I got the opportunity to do it. I am never going to make anything this big again.