Sewing Hope
Brittany Demone

March 11, 2022

Sewing Hope:

Women’s Religious Expression in the Christian Tradition: An Exhibition of Twelve Quilts, by the Grace Presbyterian Quilters

On 29 January 2022 The Chair of Christian Thought Bentall Lecture on Education and Theology was given by Dr Donyelle C. McCray, Yale University, Quilter as Truthteller. This endowed lecture was organized by Dr Carolyn Muessig, Chair of Christian Thought, Department of Classics and Religion and was hosted by the Calgary Public Library. Dr McCray’s talk focused on African American women quilters in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The key figure discussed was a former slave and then landowner and woman of incredible determination and faith. Her name was Harriet Powers. Powers called her quilting sermons in patchwork. Scenes on her quilts unfolded visually to teach a theological lesson about sin and redemption. She spoke through a medium of creative genius, skilled embroidery, and colourful fabric. 

Harriet Powers’ quilts and those made by the twenty-first century Grace Presbyterian Quilters of Calgary resonate with a message that the history of women’s involvement in Christianity may be found in diverse media, not just traditional sources such as texts and spoken words, but in tangible objects like textiles and other forms of material culture. The 12 quilts made by the Grace Presbyterian Quilters featured in this exhibition on 6 March 2022 bear witness to this unsung tradition.  

The exhibition venue was Grace Presbyterian Church, Calgary, Alberta. The curators were: Anna Benko, BSc Honours in Archaeology with a minor in Museum and Heritage Studies, focusing on community and visitor engagement and education programming; Brittany DeMone, a doctoral candidate in Classics and Religion, working on visual culture of ancient Rome; she is also a professional photographer; Faezeh Izadi, a first-year PhD student in Classics and Religion is a comparativist in Abrahamic religions focusing on Effective Altruism and global justice; and Dr Carolyn Muessig, Chair of Christian Thought, Classics and Religion, University of Calgary. Plans are underway for another one-day exhibition of the quilts.  

You can watch Dr. McCray’s Bentall Lecture: Quilter as Truthteller on this Calgary Public Library link.