Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Vicar's Craft Corner - The Story of a Stole

One of the many lovely things about ordination and the last few weeks and months (besides the fact that being ordained is BRILLIANT!) has been the wealth of crafting opportunities that have emerged. This time it hasn't been me doing the crafting but rather those who are infinitely more skilled than me but who have made me some truly beautiful things to mark the special occasion of the start of my Vicar-ing life.

The first of these was my stole. For those of you not into your church lingo a stole is the long scarf that a Vicar wears around their neck during services. The ordination stole is particularly special and so often people have something symbolic on it, what they hope for in this next phase or something that has been meaningful for them in their faith. My moment of inspiration for the design of mine came when I was in what remains as my favourite church that I have ever been in, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

The inside of the Cathedral is extraordinary and nothing like what you would expect from the outside. I wonder if its design, being so inspired by the natural world, resonates particularly with those of a scientific persuasion as another scientist friend of mine thoroughly loved it too. But for me the sweeping pillars, like a great white forest, and the light pouring through vast rainbow coloured windows was awe inspiring. I felt completely at home there and like some deep reality of my faith, and who I experience God to be, was being reflected back at me in that great majestic building.

Around the altar are four of those great forest like pillars topped with four symbols - an Ox, a Man, a Lion and an Eagle. The symbols are an ancient depiction of the four gospels, Luke, Matthew, Mark and John. They have also been understood as representations of the character of Jesus seen through the eyes of each gospel writer.
The four symbols at the top of the pillars around the altar

For Luke Jesus is the sturdy Ox on whom we can lay all of our burdens, for Matthew he is the Teacher bringing us new, transformative knowledge of God, for Mark he is the bounding Lion full of energy and power in his interactions with people and for John he is the soaring Eagle, taking us to new spiritual heights.

As soon as saw them I knew that they were perfect for my stole. Not only were they in this amazing building that totally resonated with me but also I couldn't think of anything more apt than to have these images of Jesus on the first stole I would ever wear. He is and was what inspired this whole thing after all. He is the source of all my confidence, all my faith.

I was very lucky that the Mum of a good friend of mine also happened to be a supremely skilled embroiderer who helps to restore beautiful old church garb for the cathedral at which I was being ordained. With her skill, some help from her friend with the design and that moment of inspiration we came up with this beautiful stole that I wore for my ordination on the 4th of July.

The detail is just extraordinarily beautiful.
The Ox for St Luke, which also happens to be the church I ended up being place at!
You can imagine my surprise and delight, then, when my sister in law presented me with an ordination gift that she had made for me also inspired by the Sagrada Familia. This stunning crocheted blanket took her two and a half months to make and is inspired by the gorgeous rainbow light of the Cathedral. I am completely in love with it and will treasure it for a long, long time.

And all this makes me so thankful for skilled people who bring such beautiful and inspiring things into being. What an amazing gift that really is.


  1. Absolutely love Gaudi's works, my favourite one is Guell Park. But these are great interpreations of his work! That crochet blank is lovely, what great gift! :)

    1. Thank you! Ah yes, I love Guell Park too. Barcelona is such a brilliant city isn't it!