Sunday, May 3, 2015

John 15.15: I Have Called You Friends

It is a big moment when hierarchical relationships become egalitarian. While I don't know the master-servant model, I do know the teacher-student model as both teacher and student. It was a big moment when my favorite teachers (of art and Latin) became Patsy and Frances. I still haven't convinced any of my former students to call me by my given name. But I hope it will come. Jesus had that moment. "I do not call you servants any longer...but I have called you friends." (John 15:15, Easter 6B)

He said this as part of his farewell discourse in John's gospel. How do you say good-bye to friends?

One way is with a friendship quilt. In the 19th century, members of a community created a quilt to present to friends who were moving away. Each block might be made by a different person or might feature a piece of fabric signed by the friends being left. In the useful form of a quilt, the love (and names) of friends could literally enfold the travelers on their journey and in their new home.

One of the best documented friendship/signature quilts is that made for Philena Cooper Hambleton as she and her family - her husband and two daughters - left Ohio bound for Iowa in 1853. This particular quilt is a friendship quilt twice over as the Hambleton family were Quakers. Though popularly known as Quakers, this community of faith is more properly known as The Religious Society of Friends, a name chosen based on Jesus' words in John 15:15, "I have called you friends."
The quilt was passed down through the Hambleton family until it was sold as part of an estate auction and ended up in a California antique shop. Lynda Salter Chenoweth purchased the quilt and spent years researching the recipient and all the friends who signed the quilt. She published her research in two books: Philena's Friendship Quilt: A Quaker Farewell to Ohio and Neighbors and Friends: Quakers in Community. These two books help explain what it means to be friends and to be Friends. Philena's Friendship Quilt is published by Ohio University Press here: Neighbors and Friends is here: .

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