published Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Cooper: Church variety reflected in quilts

The more the women at Signal Mountain United Methodist Church thought about it, the more they realized how a faith congregation is like a quilt show.

Both are patchworks, one of people of a variety of ages, races and lifestyles and one of material of various shapes, colors and fabrics.

With that in mind, the women in a Bible class at the church have put together "Congregation of Quilts," a free, one-day exhibit of 80 to 100 quilts on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will be on display in the building's entry way and sanctuary. An accompanying sheet will provide background information on each one.

"Quilts are so representative of what you would expect to find in a congregation with a variety of backgrounds and styles," says Ella Howard, a member of the class and wife of the Rev. J.N. Howard, pastor at the church.

The idea began with individual members of the class, which is studying "Women of the Bible" by Ann Spangler and Jean E. Syswerda, and is taught by Karol McCracken, deciding to each create quilt squares representing one of the women in the book.

A potential display of the squares expanded to include those who may want to show quilts with a biblical theme, then to anyone -- members and nonmembers of the church -- who wanted to display their quilts.

"It kind of grew," Howard says.

The exhibit, she says, will include quilts more than 100 years old and ones created with the newest type of machine quilting.

Among the quilts, Howard says, are some with the tree-of-life motif, others with a rose of Sharon design, a few with picture designs, one with all biblical symbols, one made from children's clothes and one made by a woman with the ribbons from the flowers at her husband's funeral.

"There is such a variety," she says. "And there are as many [quilt] stories as there are people."

Howard will be exhibiting four quilts, one created by her great-grandmother with homegrown wool from her Virginia farm used as the batting. That one dates to a period from the 1870s to 1900, she says.

The others Howard will display include a scrap quilt made by her husband's grandmother, a machine quilt wall hanging -- a gift from a member at one of her husband's former churches -- that depicted the area her husband described in his book "Fire on the Mountain." The fourth is a machine quilt wall hanging of a nature scene commissioned by family members for her and her husband's 40th anniversary.

The 12 quilt squares made in conjunction with the study of "Women of the Bible" -- with designs such as a basket theme for Jochebed, the mother of Moses -- will be displayed separately.

Howard says there is nothing for sale in conjunction with the exhibit, which is being coordinated by McCracken and Mayrelou Stamps, and there is no ulterior motive.

"We just want people to come and enjoy it," says. "It's kind of snowballed. It's turned out to be what we think of as exciting."

The church is located at 3419 Taft Highway.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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