“We did it all together — not for ourselves, but for the glory of God.”
— Sualice Armstrong of the 1996 Needlepoint Project
Some people stitch as a therapeutic hobby — an age-old version of the latest coloring book craze. Others stitch as a means to an end — to patch a ripped coat or hem a new skirt. Sualice Armstrong and Diann Stadler “will stitch for God.” When the 50 participants of the 1996 Needlepoint Project joined hearts and hands for God, together they made an everlasting mark on our church.
It all began almost 20 years ago when Diann and fellow stitcher Janie Harper had the same idea on the same day — to incorporate needlepoint into our Sanctuary. Janie and Diann put their heads together with Dr. Wayne Day, the senior minister at the time, and brought in Dorothy Rhea who was a trustee. “Dorothy loves this church beyond words,” Diann says. “She gave the project her blessing and became the liaison between this dedicated group and the church.” Dr. Day and the Board of Trustees gave the official stamp of approval to create needlepoint kneeling cushions for the altar rail. From there, it took a lot of planning and teamwork to bring this project to life. More than 3 million stitches later, our church was blessed with 16 one-of-a-kind kneeling cushions in the Sanctuary. Every stitch was for the glory of God — and left a legacy that will tie our church together for generations to come.
As Diann thinks back on the day the Needlepoint Committee first met in the Sanctuary to brainstorm the appropriate lineup of disciples for the kneelers, she recalls that they all seemed to have different ideas in mind. Then, she says she remembers looking up at the disciples above the choir loft and thinking that somebody 140 some-odd years ago decided this must be a good lineup. The group agreed, so they decided to go with it. “We mirrored the stone for the cushions and the wood for the chairs, and we tried really hard to pull in the colors from the stained glass windows to be consistent,” Diann recalls. “There is a story to the way the kneelers lined up.” That’s why years later, especially in the beginning, calls would come in from ladies who were here every Sunday and noticed if the kneelers were out of line.
Sualice says she remembers when she walked into Diann’s needlepoint shop and was asked to join the project. One thing that stands out to Sualice is how the symbols on each cushion seemed to have a connection with their stitchers. For Sualice, it was the kneeler she stitched with the two loaves of bread and cross on it. Since her husband, Ray, is known for always feeding people, she says it reminded her of him. Sualice was not the only person who found special meaning in this project, and she says they all worked together to make it happen. To this day, Diann and Sualice still have their “Will Stitch for God” shirts that they wore while working on the needlepoint project. As Sualice puts it, “We did it all together — not for ourselves, but for the glory of God.”
Each kneeler is handcrafted with symbols of our Christian faith that stand for much more than meets the eye. Even before the time of Christ, symbolism played an important part in the life of the church. And before the written word, symbols were used to preserve the parables and scriptures so they could be passed down from one generation to the next. Diann points out that, with the proper care and appreciation, the kneelers could be here for more than 100 years — way after their time. “I think it leaves a wonderful legacy,” Sualice adds. “Our future generations who belong to the church will see that and say, ‘Gee, my family left this.’”
Dr. Mike Marshall, Associate Pastor of Leadership Development, says one of the distinctive things about our church is that we have all kinds of ways for youth, children, and adults to connect. “This sets us apart for specific purposes in a building filled with those spots,” he explains. “What different people have done is really enhance all of these spaces as an incredible gift to the church.”
Just as all of the symbols on the Sanctuary kneelers connect with one another to tell a bigger story, the dedication of each individual kneeler tells yet another story of the people who live on in our memories. “The kneelers are a way of reconnecting with the legacy of our church and the things that tie us together because each one tells its own story,” Mike adds. “Beneath each kneeler is the name of a person or family whose spirit continues here.”
Mike says he has had the chance to serve for so long that he has gotten to know the people and history of our church very well and, as Hebrews 12:1 says, be “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” As he puts it, these unseen people reinforce that. “We are surrounded by the people who came before us — and their legacies.”
Join us at the front of the Sanctuary after the 11:00 am traditional worship service on Sunday, May 1, for a tour of the building which will feature not only these Sanctuary kneelers — but all of the art and history that means so much to our church family.
Between the 16 Sanctuary kneelers, the bride and groom kneelers, 7 bishops’ chairs, 8 Chapel kneelers, one more kneeler in the Children’s Wing for Academy, and the altar cloth and bookmarks that were added later, there are a lot of stories behind the stitches. While the kneelers represent the disciples and communion, four of the bishops’ chairs are connected with the gospels. See below for the history behind the millions of stitches that went into the Sanctuary pieces. Click here to download a PDF of this list as a special keepsake.
(from left to right, facing the pulpit)
The Menorah — symbolizes our Old Testament heritage. The seven-branched lampstand represents the tree of life, the tree of knowledge, and the presence of Israel’s unseen God.
The Tablets — represent the Ten Commandments.
Stitched by Lynn G. Harris and Suzy Lockwood Rayermann — top, Susie Lockwood Rayermann — front, Susan and William Longsworth — back
Dedication: In loving memory of Dorothy Menninger Gould and Samuel Jules Gould. Dedicated and stitched by their daughter, Lynn Coonley Harris.
Christmas Rose (Rose of Sharon) — stands for the nativity of our Lord.
IHS — the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek.
Stitched by Susan Hyden Reid, assisted by Irene Keller Hyden
Dedication: In memory of Irene and Fritz Keller and Pay Hyden. A gift from Irene Keller Hyden.
A Winged Man (Matthew) — represents Matthew’s tracing the human lineage of Jesus.
A Winged Lion (Mark) — represents Mark’s reference to John the Baptist, as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”
Stitched by Maurene Mastenbrook — top, Tanya Mahoney — front, Sandy Bramlet — back
Dedication: In honor of Jo Throckmorton.
The Chalice — a reminder of the cup that our Lord blessed and took at the Last Supper.
The Lantern — portrays Christ’s betrayal and capture. According to John 18:13, the Roman Soldiers who went into the Garden of Gethsemane to capture Jesus carried lanterns to light the way.
Stitched by Sara Jane Smith Davis — top, Jan Peveler Edmonds — front, LuAnn Ferguson — back
Dedication: In loving memory of my mother, Orville Filgo Smith, honoring my daughter, Kathryn Smith Davis.
The Crossed Keys (Peter) — keys refer to Matthew 16:19, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”
The Shells (James the Greater) — represents the pilgrimage of St. James to Spain where tradition says he founded the Christian Church.
Stitched by Lois Matus — top and front, Janie Manning Harper — back
Dedication: In memory of George R. Brown, gift of Eulema Brown.
The Snake with Chalice (John) — tradition holds that early writers say the priest of Diana attempted to poison John, but the apostle made the sign of the cross over the chalice and the poison escaped in the form of a serpent.
The Cross in the form of an X (Andrew) — tradition says that St. Andrew was bound to a cross rather than nailed to prolong his suffering.
Stitched by Patsy Meyer Thompson — top, Ellen Hopkins Rogers — front, Terri Stanford — back
Dedication: In loving memory of Monda-Marie and John R. Thompson, gift of Patsy and Randy Thompson.
Two loaves of bread and cross (Philip) — symbolize Philip’s missionary journeys among the barbarians in upper Asia and Phrygia. The loaves of bread suggest his remarks when Jesus fed the five thousand, “How are we to buy bread so that these people may eat?” John 6:5
Knives (Bartholomew) — the Flaying Knives are a symbol of his martyrdom.
Stitched by Sualice Armstrong — top, Mary Ann Epps — front, Marta Day — back
Dedication: In honor of my husband, Raymond Lewis Armstrong, dedicated and stitched by Sualice Peterson Armstrong.
The Hand of God — represents the Father. In the early days of Christian art, Christians hesitated to depict the countenance of God so they frequently used a hand issuing from a cloud that would hide the awe-inspiring glory and majesty of God.
The Lamb of God — represents the Son in the Holy Trinity.
Stitched by Ann Underwood Pace
Dedication: In memory of Joan Hendrix Pace, gift of Ann and Joe Pace.
The Dove — represent the Holy Spirit. The Gospels of Mark and Luke refer to the Holy Spirit descending “like a dove” on Jesus at his baptism.
The Maltese Cross on Silver — represents John the Baptist. It is the shield of the “Knights of the Hospitaller” order who headquartered in a hospital in Jerusalem dedicated to John the Baptist.
Stitched by Ann Underwood Pace
Dedication: In memory of Elizabeth Provine Underwood, gift of Ann and Joe Pace.
The Carpenter’s Square (Thomas) — builder of a church in India.
The Saw (James the Less) — tradition says that his body was sawn asunder after a terrible martyrdom.
Stitched by Johnette Sitton — top, Catherine Edwards — front, Marianne Wells — back
Dedication: In loving memory of Beatrice Holmes, Elizabeth Borden, and Susie Launius, dedicated and stitched by their daughter and sister, Johnette Sitton.
Bags (Matthew) — three purses refer to his original calling as a tax collector.
Boat (Jude) — signifies his travel by ship and the carpenter’s square, his widespread building activity.
Stitched by Linda Westerfield Rutledge — top, Susan B. Kneten — front, Renea Smith — back
Dedication: In memory of Sallie Alberta Murphy — Matthew 6:16, Francis Keating, Betty Westerfield and families.
The Fish on a book (Simon) — indicates Simon’s success in fishing for men through the Gospel.
The Yellow Shield (Judas Iscariot) — the treasurer in the group of 12 disciples. He is shown by a bland shield of dirty yellow, the symbol of his sin-marred life.
Stitched by Susan Olcott — top, Joy Donovan Brandon — front, Good Neighbors Class Members — back
Dedication: Good Neighbors Sunday School Class, Chartered June 2, 1991.
Continuation of the Passions
The Crowing Cock — represents Peter’s denial of his Lord as told in Matthew 26:75, Mark 14:72, and Luke 22:60.
The Crown of Thorns — reminds us of our Lord’s passion, his torture and crucifixion.
Stitched by Roberta Hervey Crawford and Susan McGuffey Faires
Dedication: In honor of Robert W. Hervey, L.S. McGuffey, E. Stanley Crawford, and Gene R. Faires families.
Continuation of the Gospels
The Winged Ox (Luke) — the beginning of Luke’s Gospel describes the sacrifice of Zechariah and later emphasizes the sacrificial death of the Savior.
The Eagle (John) — the spirit of John’s Gospel is like an eagle soaring to the throne of grace.
Stitched by Jane H. Jones — top, Virginia Rouer — front, Diann Tavender Stadler — back
Dedication: The Stadler family.
The Easter Lily — symbolizes the resurrection.
The Cross and the Crown — is repeated 11 times in the stained glass windows. The cross reminds us of Christ’s death, and the crown the Christian’s reward of life after death.
Stitched by Jimmie Ruth Griffith — top, Linda Billman — front, Marjorie Childress Delatour — back
Dedication: To honor my children, Laura, Gary, Pauline, and grandson Lee Griffith. Dedicated and stitched by Jimmie Ruth Griffith.
The Star of David — sometimes called the Creator’s star. The six points recall the six days of creation.
The Serpent — coiled about the trunk of a tree with the apple as the object of temptation represents Satan.
Stitched by Betty Wells — top, Melinda McCluer Miller — front, Margaret White — back
Dedication: In honor of Betty Fields Wells from her children, Dona, Jim, Martha, Christi, and their families.
The bride’s kneeler has a central figure, Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. They stand for Jesus Christ, who is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. The violet is a symbol of humility. The iris is the symbol for Mary and the columbine represents the Holy Spirit.
Stitched by Janie Manning Harper — top, Lois Matus — front, Mary Burdette Floyd — back
Dedication: For the brides by Dr. and Mrs. James D. Harper, Mr. and Mrs. James A. Harper and our brides, Caroline, Anne and Margaret.
The central figure in the groom’s kneeler is Chi Rho, signifying the joining of man and woman in unending union with the presence of Christ. The Chi Rho is the oldest monogram for Christ. The X and P are the first two letters of the Greek word for Christ. The strawberry is the emblem of the righteous man whose fruits are good works. The plum is a sign of fidelity. The pomegranate is a symbol of eternity and fertility because of its many seeds, and it also stands for the power of new life.
Stitched by Diann Tavender Stadler — top, Johnette Sitton — front, Terry Stanford — back
Dedication: For the grooms by Mr. and Mrs. J. Chris Stadler II and our grooms, Christian and Graham
Dr. Wayne Day, Janie Harper, Dr. William Longsworth, Dorothy Rhea, Ellen Rogers, and Diann Stadler comprised the steering committee for the needlepoint project.
Special thanks to the stitchers who helped others:
Suzy Lockwood Rayermann
Needlepoint Project Participants
Joy Donovan Brandon
Mary Ann Epps
Good Neighbors Class
Jimmie Ruth Griffith
Lynn G. Harris
Suzy Lockwood Rayermann
Susan Hyden Reid
Mary Jo Springer
Mrs. Earl W. Stadler