Ecclesiastical embroidery

Commissions for the Anglican Church of Australia

Holy Covenant, Jamison ACT

Frontals capture the changing fabric of church life

Local textile artist Ruth Hingston has made several sets of the embroidered cloths that decorate Holy Covenant at diverse times of the year. These altar, pulpit and lectern coverings are contemporary and vibrant, reflecting our identity as an inclusive and engaged community.

Pathway Lent and Advent

Walking the steps on the Christian path

Ruth’s purple set is the latest in our collection. Her striking design features a pathway of 40 silver stones, shining against a dark background.

The focus is on the spiritual journeys we make in the leadup to Christmas and Easter. While the mood varies with the season, both Advent and Lent are periods of waiting. They allow us to reflect and grow in faith as we anticipate the religious calendar’s most important events.

Lent is a solemn time of introspection, Ruth says. I was thinking about walking a path, step by step. It’s a serious search.

She points out that the steps on the pathway are not always even and smooth. Instead, they can be rough or slippery.

You may have taken a step and you didn’t even know it, she adds.

On a symbolic level, this suggests how sometimes it feels like we don’t always know where we’re going. But Ruth strives not to be too prescriptive and her subject matter is open to more than one interpretation.

There’s room for the congregation to bring their own life experience and imagination to the work, she says. Viewers may relate to different things in it.

Crossing between inner and outer worlds

For the purple set, Ruth has drawn on images that connect with the pebbled labyrinth on the other side of the church’s glass windows. This movement between interior and exterior spaces enhances the sense of flow between the building’s architecture and its surrounds.

The links between setting and materials run deep. The Daniels family gifted the frontals in memory of their parents, Beryl and Jack. Ruth was pleased to hear that Jack Daniels had been a stonemason. She was further delighted to learn that Beryl had loved patchwork.

Ruth has called on the craft’s techniques, incorporating little leaves, flowers and ladybirds into her scenes. Textural detail comes from crystals she picked up at op shops as well as sequins, beads and sparkling buttons. They catch people’s attention and provide something for them to contemplate.

I chose this deep violet velveteen because the light is absorbed into the fabric, Ruth explains. To relieve the darkness, she used silver materials to outline the pathway that snakes through the trio of hangings. The metallic sheen contrasts with the sombre colours of Advent and Lent.

Getting the design right was not straightforward. Ruth knew it had to be expressive without dominating the busy area.

It’s a very challenging sanctuary with that backlight, she admits.

Mary Lynn Mather 2021

Picturing the word of God

Ruth did her first-year New Testament studies at St Mark’s around three decades ago. From the start, she was striving for a deeper understanding of the gospel. This has helped her to represent the various liturgical seasons in a meaningful way.

She recalls the early influence of Bishop Ian George. When he was rector of St John’s in Reid, he decided to move away from traditional symbols, opting for church frontals that were new and modern.

That’s where it all began, says Ruth. I was interested in how to depict the Christian faith in an Australian context.

Landscape is a dominant theme in our culture and the natural realm fascinates Ruth. The Hallelujah series, which honours the life of Tamara Batterham, shows Belconnen’s hills and unique roadmap. This white set comes out when we celebrate Christmas and Easter.

Ruth stitches familiar sights into her pieces. The recognisable lines of the Brindabellas, the rugged terrain of Mount Painter and the stars that twinkle in the southern sky become part of our spiritual landscape.

Mary Lynn Mather 2021
Hallelujah Christmas and Easter (detail)

Ordinary sundays

Frontals (detail)
Frontals (detail)

Lent and Advent

Altar frontal
Frontal (detail)
Frontal (detail)
Frontal (detail)

Christmas and Easter

Frontal (detail)
Frontal (detail)
Frontal (detail)