Last Spring, our Divinity School hosted its first annual “Stole Ceremony”: we made liturgical stoles from fabric donated by the community and gave the stoles to graduates who could not be ordained in their home traditions—despite their obvious calls to ministry—because of their sexual orientation, sexual identity, or gender expression. We also gave stoles to folks whose ordination might one day be in jeopardy because they publicly advocated for LGBTQI* equality in the church.
We are continuing the tradition this year.
* LGBTQI, for those unfamiliar with the acronym, stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex
Yesterday was the first day we gathered to make stoles. Throughout the semester, we will gather weekly to craft and create; to get out of our analytical minds for a few hours and work instead with our hands.
Too often, I’ve found, people just don’t think they are capable of being creative. Somewhere in their lives, they have told themselves, “I’m just not a creative person,” and have continued to tell themselves that for years and years. We do it with all sorts of things–I’m not athletic, or I’m not good at math, or I’m no “good” at relationships… whatever the agreements we make with ourselves, they stop us from ever trying. This is part of the reason why we are crafting stoles weekly: to show people that they already are creative, and that their creativity can be put to extraordinary causes.
But first things first. We were astounded by the amount of fabric remaining from last year—though we made around 10 stoles, we had boxes and boxes of fabric remaining. We had to sort, if nothing else so that people could see the options at their disposal.
Clearly, we had an embarrassment of riches.
The first step in the process was getting pieces of fabric in the right order. We asked folks to select some fabrics that caught their eye, and to cut out pieces with pre-made guides (all pieces needed to be 7 inches wide, to allow for seams… after all, we can always make them thinner if someone requires a thinner stole). Then, just put them into an order that they find captivating. That’s all. If you can put together a shirt and pair of pants to wear in the morning, you are creative.
Once someone had their stole pieces cut out, they would stack them in the order they wanted them sewn. At this point, I would sew the pieces together. Last year’s stole-making showed us that too many folks think they are not capable of making a stole just because they never learned to sew. Not the case! On this, our first day, we took the pressure off: you give us the fabrics, we’ll put them together.
To be sure, not everyone there that afternoon was uncomfortable behind a sewing machine. Some were even anxious to start sewing, and we happily obliged; who are we, after all, to tell creativity “no”?
How wonderful it is, to get out of one’s head and to work instead with one’s hands.
In the future, we will have multiple machines set up. This will allow more folks to be able to sew, and will offer other folks the opportunity to learn and become comfortable working with a machine.
In the end, we started to see some stoles come together! All we have at this moment are stole fronts; we will select backing fabrics after we have a few fronts assembled. This is one side of the front of one stole. We will put backs on these, and have different stoles on display for students and faculty to see throughout the semester. It is good to see that your colleagues are creative—perhaps you will be inspired!
At the end of the night, we had five stoles ready to be sewn in some way. Three were waiting for backs, two were just pieces needing to be sewn into fronts. We also had two stoles still-in-process; they have been saved to begin working again next week.