Outreach Wall Hanging
In late 1997, Ruth Warner sent letters to members of Central Christian Church she thought might be interested in joining a small group for artists and craftspeople. Other small groups were active at Central during the 1990s, including a writers’ group and a poetry group. Naming themselves the “Creator’s Group”, the members of this new small group included Virginia Browning, Dottie Ferrel, Phyllis Rohlf, Pat Stathas, JoAnn Walla, Ruth Warner, and Velma Williams.
When they began to meet, the group discussed projects they were interested in doing. Recalling that a textile of the Bluegrass landscape hung in the Radison Hotel in Lexington, the group made a trip to the hotel in February of 1998 to view it. Afterward, a suggestion was made by one of the group to create a wall hanging highlighting the outreach ministry of Central Christian Church. The Property Committee of Central gave its approval in March of 1998 for a large wall hanging produced by the Creator’s Group to be hung in the church.
The biblical inspiration for the creation of the Outreach Wall Hanging was Matthew 25: 34-40:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Life Application Bible, NIV, 1988.
Taking the lead, Ruth Warner photographed church property, including the sanctuary and Watkins Building, St. James Place, a Habitat for Humanity house, and children participating in vacation bible school. She also scoured magazines such as Heifer International and World Neighbors, and viewed world landscapes for ideas and pictures. Following this, she sketched simple landscapes and decided on appropriate textiles and materials to use. Many materials had texture and were intended to be touched and felt, especially by children, as this was to be an interactive work of art. In addition to purchasing materials, Ruth bought fabric glues, a fabric stiffener named ‘Wonder Under’, and plastic and tissue paper which would all be used by each of the contributing artists. Enlarged images served as patterns for the structures, people, animals and landscapes that made up the wall hanging.
As these preparations progressed, the ladies selected the scenes they wanted to do and the materials to create them. The first panels of the 20 x 5-foot tapestry were cut by Ruth on April 17, 1998. Each of the five panels was 4 x 5-feet in size. When finished, the tapestry would be a little larger than 20 x 5-feet due to the addition of borders. After the individual scenes were completed by the other artists, Ruth ironed Wonder Under on the back of each scene, removed the paper backing, placed each scene with its sticky back in its apropriate place on a panel, and ironed the scene or figure onto the fabric. For some of the pieces, faces had to be hand-painted and hair had to be applied. After this part of the process, Ruth machine-stitched all figures and scenes onto the panels of the tapestry using a ‘feather stitch’. Lastly, she made the borders and tabs to hang the tapestry, using drapery weights along the bottom edge. The names of all the ladies who contributed to this artistic project were inscribed on the back of the wall hanging on the lower left-hand corner.
This artistic project, with an historic and outreach theme, took about six years to complete. There were long periods, however, when no work was done, and during these six years, some members moved away (Velma, JoAnn, and Phyllis) and one member died (Dottie). In the end, the work was completed by Ruth Warner and Pat Stathas. After its dedication on February 6, 2005 during the 11 am Worship Service, the wall hanging was temporarily displayed on a long section of the church hallway. When renovations to the church began in 2006, the wall hanging was rolled up and stored in Ruth Warner’s basement.
Today, the wall hanging is proudly displayed in an expanded hallway that includes special lighting. The Outreach Wall Hanging is one of the most attractive pieces of decorative art in Central Christian Church, illustrating ways to serve people locally, nationally, and internationally. Inspired by love, volunteers continue to reach out to help peole around the world who are in need of adequate food, decent homes, clean water, available healthcare, clothing, education, and work.
Detailed notes and information provided by Ruth Warner January 28, 2005 and April 9, 2016.
Summary of notes and information, and photos, provided by Jeanette Knowles, April 15, 2016.