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Why Do We Bless, or Dedicate, Quilts?

In the LWR Quilters Group on Facebook – a place of 750 (and counting) dedicated Quilters and Kit-makers from across the US gather online – we’ve been having an interesting discussion. What’s the difference between a quilt “blessing” and a quilt “dedication?” And why do congregations do them before sending Quilts and Kits to LWR?

It’s a timely discussion. In the fall and the spring, folks across the country hold in-gatherings to collect Quilts and Kits and send them to LWR’s warehouses. For the last several weeks the page has been love-bombed by many, many pictures of Quilts and Kits laid out on pews, around altars and on communion rails. It’s fun to see all the beautiful patterns and fabrics, colorful bags and towels, all lovingly assembled by so many dedicated hands.

In the midst of the photos came a thoughtful question about why we do this. Why do we take the time to fold and present the Quilts? To stack Kits in pyramids? To add minutes to our services to talk about these gifts of fabric and thread, these gathered and bundled everyday items?

Quilts draped across the chancel of Grace Lutheran Church.
These Quilts, made at Grace Lutheran Church in State College, Pa., decorate the chancel with brightness and warmth.

We remember that God is with us

Some call it a blessing. Some a dedication. Some call it something completely different! But at the core, the goal is the same: to give thanks to God, and to lift up our neighbors near and far — whose hands have and will touch the gifts of LWR Quilts and Kits — in prayer.

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In the end, our prayers don’t act like Scotchguard®, providing a magical barrier that keeps the Quilts and Kits safe. God doesn’t just show up at the moment the litany is read or prayer spoken. We are in relationship with a God with whom we live and breathe, who is with us in each moment of every day.

God is there as we remember to check for coupons for batting, in our creativity as we lay out fabric squares cut from donated cloth, as we shop the sales for school supplies and hunt online for the best towels at the best price. God is in our conversation as we work together, side by side, called to be part of something that is bigger than we are.

And God is at the warehouse. On the container ship. In the port. With the family in a refugee camp, or the child living in an orphanage, or the parents struggling to feed their children.

A Quilt drapled on the pulpit at Peace Lutheran Church in Corona, California.
Peace Lutheran Church in Corona, CA, prayed over 41 Quilts during their blessing in fall 2014. The quilters decorated the whole sanctuary – down to the pulpit and lectern – with Quilts!

We take time to give thanks

Several years ago, I went on a trip to monitor the distribution of Personal Care Kits in Haiti, a year after the terrible earthquake there. I was accompanied by Dave Coker, Executive Director of Nebraska Lutheran Outdoor Ministries (NLOM). We were there to follow up on a huge donation of Personal Care Kits – 32,000 to be exact – that NLOM campers assembled during their time at summer camp. As we wrapped up our trip, Dave said something that stays with me to this day. “When we were preparing for this trip, I think I had in my head that we would bring Jesus to Haiti. What I didn’t realize is that we would really meet him here.”

What does it do, in the end, to set aside time to bless, dedicate, pray over these Quilts and Kits?

It gives us an opportunity to express our thanks to God: thanks for generous donations of fabric and supplies, thanks for the people willing to give time and talent to put those things together into something useful, thanks for the truckers and ship crews who transport the finished Quilts and Kits across the country and around the world, thanks for partners on the other side of the ocean who take care to ensure that people get what they need, thanks for the hands that hold and cherish and use these gifts all over the world.

Jane Morries giving a children's sermon, surrounded by Quilts draping the pews.
Jane Morris Brown from St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Ithaca, OH, offers a children’s sermon on the day of the fall 2014 Quilt & Kit Blessing. The congregation completed 50 Personal Care Kits, 72 School Kits, 51 Quilts, and 25 Fabric Kits.

Celebrating God’s Gifts

This time of prayer is also a beautiful expression of the community of faith, acknowledging gifts and opening our hearts together to love our neighbors in the next pew and on the next continent, to remember them in their struggles and widen our family circle.

In this time, we can be intentional about celebrating with one another and with God, giver of all good gifts. Who better to celebrate these gifts of life and hope and healing? Gifts God calls us to give for the sake of the world, this world, a world God so loved and loves and will always love.

Whatever you call this holy ritual, it calls us to something bigger than ourselves, reminding us that we are part of God’s kingdom, bursting forth like so many bright Quilts into the world.

2 thoughts on “Why Do We Bless, or Dedicate, Quilts?

  1. Good thoughts Melanie, thanks! It never occurred to me to ask the question. I’ve always seen the quilt blessing as a way for the entire congregation to participate in the sharing of the time, talents and resources that go into preparing the quilts.

    1. Thank you, Elisha! The question really hadn’t occurred to me, either, so it was interesting to think about and explore 🙂 I love the community part of Quilt blessings, too.

      Hope you and Steve are doing well!

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