'The Shroud of Harmony'
When Jesus appears in the Friendly Women's Circle's quilt, Sam Gardner gets a lesson in magnificence.
BY: Philip Gulley
An excerpt from "Home to Harmony," by Philip Gulley. Reprinted with permission from HarperSan Francisco.
In Philip Gulley's Harmony series, the Friendly Women's Circle of the Harmony Quaker meeting is dedicated to "Uplift and Preserve All That Is Magnificent." It also serves as the personal fief of Fern Hampton. This episode, from "Home to Harmony," recounts the genesis and highlight of the women's circle's quilting fundraiser.
So that's what they've done every year since 1974. They meet every Tuesday morning at nine o'clock. They ease down the stairs, hunker down at the quilting frame, and stitch for three solid hours. Every January, February, and March.
Their husbands want to spend the winter in Florida and play golf, but these women wouldn't dream of it. There's work to be done. Quilts to be made. Indians to be shod. How can you think of golf when there are shoeless Indians running around? Now is not the time for play; now is the time for duty; now is the time to uplift and preserve all that is magnificent.
They have it down pat. They assemble at nine, then at ten-thirty, take a fifteen minute break. Fern times them. They drink coffee, way across the room, over by the freezer. Fern won't allow them near the quilt with coffee. Then she makes them wash their hands, then they're right back at it-uplifting and preserving all that is magnificent.
My first year as their pastor was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Friendly Women's Circle quilt sale. It was also Fern's turn to be president again. It being an anniversary year, Fern and the ladies were especially concerned about magnificence.
Way back in October, Fern called the Circle together.
"We want this one to shimmer," Fern told the ladies. "Fifty years from now, we want people to think back on this quilt and quiver. Let's aim for the heavens."
They spent the next three months drawing sketches. No store-bought pattern for this quilt. The Lord Himself would provide the pattern. They set aside a morning to pray over the quilting frame. They laid their hands on it and began to pray. Fern started to shake.
"It's a sign," she told them. "God has great things in store for this quilt. I can feel it."
They began stitching in January. Worked all the way through February and into March. On the last week of March, they came to the basement every day but Sunday.
By that time, Fern had dispensed with the coffee drinking altogether. She told them," Caffeine makes your hands shake. It'll cause crooked stitches. No more coffee."
They finished the last week of March.
That quilt was magnificent. It shimmered. They carried it up from the basement and hung it from the wall at the front of the meeting room, in back of the pulpit. It pulsed with beauty
People walked into worship talking about sciatica and rheumatism and gas mileage, then saw the quilt hanging there and fell quiet, awestruck. Such magnificence.
I could barely bring myself to preach, for fear my common words would detract from such beauty. I cut it short. They weren't paying attention anyway They were fixed on the quilt. We settled into silence, waiting for the Lord to speak. Five minutes passed, then ten.