By Camille Loomis
I recently read an article in the Washington Post on how a young lawyer recovered her mental health through sewing.
The pressure of law school and her first years in corporate law deadened her self-worth, until she could barely study for the bar, or complete her work assignments. Instead of spending her evenings and weekends pouring through legal briefs, she found herself selecting fabric, cutting patterns, and stitching pockets. When corporate bureaucracy threatened to consume her altruism, sewing her own clothes rekindled her passion for problem-solving and anchored her in the goodness of a crafted, beautiful world. In other words, the fabric reminded her of her worth and potential. It preached to her.
I believe preaching is an outworking of God’s artistic guidance in the bodies and minds of God’s children – a merciful palette for a stumbling, grasping world. I am inspired by the way the preached word can pierce boundaries between civility and devotion, and cradle its hearer across our self-imposed divisions. Preaching is a continuation of the joy of a good and beautiful world created by a good and beautiful Creator. Because our God is incarnate, I also believe the bodies and minds of the preacher and congregation are actively engaged. Sometimes a sermon doesn’t need to be heard – it needs to be felt.
Preaching does not belong exclusively to the pulpit or church sanctuary. I find that the God communicates as powerfully through musical and visual art as through the spoken word, and preaching can be a celebration of the creative Spirit. Lately, I have invited my sermons into my embroidery projects. Which threads must be sewn, clipped and braided to develop this piece of cloth into a story of God’s work? What unexpected colors might bring a prayer to light? Running my fingers over the fabric of the text, I wonder which stitches speak to wound, repair, and restoration? Which squares of the tapestry are being revealed today?
Channeling Scripture through these embroidery meditations is a long process. Each sampler or piece I create takes dozens (occasionally over a hundred) hours of slow, quiet work. It forces me to be still, to remember that God’s time does not equate to my time, and to remember revelation cannot be wheedled or expedited. It means that I am attentive to the Word’s artistic quality, and meditate on the craftsmanship of its truth. And most importantly, it reminds me that my worth as a human is grounded in God’s purpose – not the rapidity with which I write essays or sermons. Preaching is not about the cleverness of a homiletical turn, but the attunement to God’s voice. Preaching is not a competition between preachers, but is a slow discipline of service.
Release the pen; recover the needle.
Camille Loomis is a 2nd year Master of Divinity candidate at Duke Divinity School. She is a CBF Leadership Scholar and choral singer.