In 2023, the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission of the Episcopal Church in Delaware began the Justice Quilt Project.
Each parish was invited to create a small quilt to represent a message of justice and hope to Becoming Beloved Community.
The Beloved Community begins within the heart of each human being with the vision of God’s universal love, hope and charity. The call is for all human beings, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, language or culture to love and respect the dignity of every human being. We are also called to care for all creatures and plants that make up the ecosystem on this planet called earth. We are to have unity without uniformity, disagreements without injury to the body or the soul by word or deed; righteous governance; reconciliation, restorative justice and peace.
Quilts have long held a special place in marginalized communities during times of crisis. They signal safety and hope and point to injustice with cries for help or displays of defiance and resistance in the face of unjust policies and systems.
Quilts have also kept body and soul together in the face of extreme poverty, the ultimate injustice. History has shown that conductors in the Underground Railroad Conductors used special quilt blocks to indicate safe housed. Families of those felled by the AIDS epidemic used quilts to call out their pain.
Quilters in Gee’s Bend, Alabama — a severely marginalized and impoverished community — kept their families warm with strikingly artful quilts made of scraps. These quilts, a form of resistance and hope, now grace museums and, finally, bring in monies to these remarkable artists to take care of their families.
The Women’s March of 2017 also yielded quilts depicting their pain.
Today, the Racial Justice and Reconciliation Commission focuses on a message of hope that, together and with hard work, we can Become a Beloved Community.
Finally, our church is especially thankful to Adele Meredith, whose nimble hands and quick mind are primarily responsible for making this quilt square a reality.
Symbolism of the Justice and Reconciliation Quilt Square
by Adele Meredith
In July of 2023 I was approached by Pat Hampton to create a 16″x16″ quilt square that would be included in a diocesan Justice and Reconciliation display for the November 2023 Diocesan Convention to be held at Clayton Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware.
As I mused and prayed about what this piece should look like, I began to look at the history of Wilmington and how enslaved people had to navigate their way to Philadelphia to obtain their emancipation. What became obvious to me were the challenges and dangers of crossing the Christina and Brandywine Rivers.
The Christina River is a tidal river meaning that the water levels change with the incoming and outgoing tides. Not only does the river change level but the currents also change as well as the shoreline. What can appear to be a shallow river’s edge can in fact be an area of mud so deep as to prevent a person from walking to the opposite shore. The Brandywine River is not as deeply affected by the changing tides, however in places it is filled with rocks that make crossing dangerous as the river descends to the level of the Delaware River where it finds its terminus. Much of this shoreline in both rivers was covered with vegetation which provided cover for the escaping enslaved people.
I also took inspiration from the passage from Amos 5.24: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” which is found on the signage outside the front doors of SsAM. With all these references to rivers I knew I had to include one in our square.
Another obvious symbol in the square is the abstract figures of two people, reconciling to one another. I used the colors black, red, white, and yellow to represent the descendants of people from the continents of Africa, North and South America, Europe, and Asia. The figures are appliqued in place with threads representing the colors of the rainbow. At the base of the figures is a “loaf of bread” (my daughter joking calls it “the holy russet”) signifying One Bread, One Body.
The “river” seemed to be another appropriate place to represent those communities of God’s people who even today live on the “fringes” of conventional society. They, too, are in much need of justice and reconciliation, the LGBTQ+ community and those with disabilities. Their symbols are included in this River of Justice.
I chose to stitch over selected flowers and leaves on the print to accent the importance of the environment in our lives together. I believe that we need to not only be reconciled to one another but we must also be reconciled to the environment to live a peace-filled and sustainable existence.
Around the edge of the square, between the river and its shoreline and the borders is a line of stitching that is various shades of color from yellow to dark brown in a style of quilting known as “Stitch in the Ditch.” This is used to help hold the quilt together, front to back as well as around the edges.
The border colors are white for peace and red for the Holy Spirit which surrounds and holds the whole piece together.
Accompanying the quilt is SsAM’s message of what it means to be a Beloved Community. Many thanks to Pat Hampton and Danny Schweers for their eloquent but concise statement of SsAM’s beliefs. (The entry was limited to 100 words!)
I very much enjoyed working on this piece and am humbled to have been chosen to create it. I am so very indebted to those who gave me their input and help: Saundra Johnson, Patricia Hampton, the Reverend Canon Lloyd Casson, and Lydia Schur (the supplier of needed marking chalk).
In God’s Peace,
Adele Meredith, September 23, 2023