It’s warming to read of the precision in Sandy Lowery’s work. As a memorial to her brother Norm, who died in 2011 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after eight years, Lowery decided to create a set of vestments for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Albany, New York.
In creating the Rose Set of vestments and altar linens for St. Paul’s as a memorial to my brother I aimed to achieve a design that complements the pattern of windows [within St. Paul’s, modeled on Coventry Cathedral]. It was also necessary to create a bold, colorful pattern that could be seen from the rear of St. Paul’s large sanctuary.
In the Anglican tradition, the color rose symbolizes early light and the sun (Son), soon to come, but whose end is near. Rose-colored vestments and altar linens may be used on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, and Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. I included the Lenten colors of violet (symbolic of kingship) and pink (joy) and other traditional Advent colors of pink, blue and violet (repentance and fasting).
The set’s vestments consist of a chasuble and matching stole to be worn by the priest and a dalmatic for the deacon, also with a matching stole. The altar linens include an antependium, or frontal, chalice veil and burse for each of the altars in the sanctuary and the chapel. There are pulpit and lectern falls for the sanctuary. The rose fabric is Winchester damask, and the other colored fabrics are Dupioni silk. The vestments and frontals are lined with buttercream palencia.
The love dropped into every stitch is obvious and, when you stop to add it all up, overwhelming.
Vestments were more than once made to be the focus of controversy as part of a larger question of emerging Anglican identity – the particular fixation of “vestitarian” and “edification” crises. Now, of course, our identity crisis is about something else (though there does always seem to be something brewing) and most of us would feel mostly small if we ever went to the mat again over a chasuble.
So take pride. You can see from Ms. Lowery’s writing some of what comes from raw inspiration – a chance to heal while creating something beautiful; increasing in knowledge of the lore of faith; and sharing what you know with others.
In other words, be the liturgical church you already are, and start thinking of liturgy as unapologetic mission.