“I must do my bit!”
“Where are we going with this?”
“Mine’s not good enough.”
“I hope no one sees the back of it!”
These are just a few of the comments gathered during the creation of this particularcommemoration to mark the centenary year of the end of The Great War (1914-1918).
To record the steps taken to create this poppy drape is a relatively straightforward task.Pieces of red fabric and the template of a simple poppy outline were made available through the Cathedral shop. Poppies were produced by men and women, adults and children, each one individually designed and stitched in memory of a family member. A small and varied group of volunteer stitchers then met weekly for a couple of hours over a six week period. There was never a grand plan to produce an Altar Frontal; along with the leaves and the design, this is what emerged by bringing together the community, the poppies and the contents of the ‘sewing stash’ found at the back of a cupboard in the Cathedral’s vestry.
But what about the voices of the stitchers? The voices of those whose stories have been deeply, prayerfully and lovingly stitched into each poppy? Or perhaps the unheard voices of those for whom there is no poppy, those who fall between the gaps or whose stories are known only to God?
I wonder, what do you see and hear and feel as you reflect now on this commemoration?
• Perhaps you notice the diversity among the poppies, each one unique but made in one image; individuals, one alongside another, yet members together of the same family. We might recognise this sense of Imago Dei found in humankind, each person uniquely created in the image of God.
• “Mine’s not good enough”, some said. Yet each is valued and has its place. The drape would not be all that it has become if even one of these poppies had been excluded, lost or left behind.
• In the spirit of ‘make-do and mend’, perhaps you see a tatty, roughly woven, slightly saggy old dust sheet pulled from the back of the cupboard. Though tired, shabby and worn, it perhaps unexpectedly now finds its resting place on the altar. Here we see the promised hope for humankind, for we too are each a work in progress. By God’s grace we give thanks that we might become all that God has created us to be — transformation taking place in tiny increments as we choose to follow Christ into glory ‘one stitch’ at atime.
• Maybe you see how this utility cloth might readily be torn into strips: the wrappings for a body, the bandaging for a wound… the swaddling for a baby.
• Frayed edges are a reflection of unravelled lives. “Let us fray!” remarked a stitcher… by contrast, “let us pray” is the cry of the people of God as we hear the echoes of theprayerful laments found in the Psalms. ‘Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 4:6-7 NRSV)
• The slightly scruffy underside of the stitching and the ribbon ties that secure the drape in place remain visible. And purposely so. For nothing that we might try to hide away is invisible from the one who has searched us and who knows us, from God who created our inmost being (Psalm 139). We bring to this place all that is imperfect, all that is broken and all that we might find shameful in the certain hope of acceptance, the possibility of repentance, the promise of forgiveness and the opportunity to find reconciliation, healing and wholeness.