Beginning in 1985, I served the Episcopal Diocese of Albany for twelve years as the Diocesan Altar Guild Directress. As it is the prerogative of the diocesan Bishop to oversee the ministry of the Diocesan Altar Guild, the Bishop established our ministry: To reclaim and re-establish the crafts of vestment construction and linen construction within the Diocese of Albany. I did this by offering classes, all materials and support. This project was very well received and we soon had Sewing Groups that met every month established in each of our seven deaneries. I did quite a lot of driving during those years!
Perhaps you don’t understand that, by 1985 the crafts of linen and vestment construction for our churches had been lost. How that happened is a long – and interesting – story that I’ll not go into here. Suffice it to say, when I started out, I had no patterns, no instructions, no nice person to guide me. It was my ministry to reclaim all that information. That’s continued to be my ministry all these years.
At first I carried out this ministry within the context of our diocese. And then, following the publishing of my book, Sewing Church Linens, the ministry became national. While I (somehow!) did not anticipate this consequence at the time I wrote the book, the experience has been a very great blessing.
Although I am retired as the Diocesan Directress, I have continued the ministry here – on line beginning in 1997. I’ve chosen to continue this ministry for a couple of reasons: First, because the people with whom I work are such a joy.
The second reason I’ve continued this ministry is that I believe in good stewardship. I believe that giving of our time and talent is as important as the giving of our treasure. I believe that the ministry of the Church is to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. I believe that our Church could perform this ministry more effectively if we would spend less money purchasing expensive, ready-made linens and vestments that we could just as well make ourselves. I believe that almost every parish has people who are competent sewers, who are perfectly capable of making handsome linens and vestments – if only they had access to proper, reasonably priced materials, instructions and patterns. I believe that these people would gladly give of their time and their talent – if only they had a bit of guidance and support. I believe my ministry is to these people; to provide materials, instructions and patterns and to give guidance and support. I am an outstanding problem solver!
I believed this when I began this ministry in 1985. I believed it in 1997 when I opened this web site. I believe it today in 2013 as I celebrate my 74th birthday and my 28th year of this graceful and grace-filled ministry.
I have come to believe that I can tell whether the Holy Spirit is involved in an endeavor by how badly the person is matched with the task the Holy Spirit has given them.
But! The Holy Spirit constantly proves us wrong! You send me pictures of the things you’re doing and they are wonderful!That certainly is true in my case. While, thanks to my Mother, I have some facility working with fabrics, by inclination and training, I am a zoo veterinarian. In my opinion, the Holy Spirit could not have made a worse decision than to set me this ministry. The longer I work with you lovely people, the more I find this to be true of you also – or, you think it is. I have one customer who calls me and says: “I said ‘Yes’ again!”
The Holy Spirit proves me wrong too. In spite of my ineptitude, Church Linens is a success. And, we need to talk about that. ‘Success’ means two things to me: First, that more and more people are discovering that they’re perfectly capable of constructing beautiful linens and vestments at reasonable prices for their parishes – and having a very good time doing it! Second, ‘success’ means that you’ve over run my ability to run this business by myself.
I felt this happening last year. I didn’t understand it until I did the books last January. As a for instance: In March, I filled 68 orders. While that doesn’t sound like very many orders, each of those orders was preceded by at least two discussions by phone or email – 200 contacts. And, March was not a very large month.
I’m spending all my time filling orders. I need time to keep this website up to date. I need time to edit the information I’ve already written to include the additional information you give me all the time. I need time to write information not yet covered (I have no booklet on frontals, for instance). I’m getting a lot of pressure to do teaching CDs on both linens and vestments. And (mea culpa, mea culpa!), I am a gardener! I MUST spend time in my garden!
Church Linens has become so successful that I cannot do it all by myself. I need help.
Thank you, Holy Spirit! It so happens that my daughter, Kelly, will be coming in to Church Linens with me. Kelly is a joyful Christian with a good background in liturgics. She fits right in.
Another reason I need help is that we’ve broadened the scope of Church Linens to include a wonderful young woman named Sue Newman. Sue is a consummate seamstress and a wizard machine embroideress. You’ll see examples of her work all through this website.
So, there you are! We’ve been doing this together for 16 years and, to my great joy, Church Linens has proven itself a success on many fronts. This bears out my absolute belief that the Holy Spirit wants this done!
In Christ’s Love,
We are not human beings going through a temporary spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings going through a temporary human experience.