Fiona Horwood wrote this account of the practical challenges – and the spiritual lessons – thrown up by her Self-Directed Learning Project in Year 2

I was introduced to a lady in my local community who had been trained in ecclesiastical and restoration embroidery. Jean has worked for cathedrals, bishops and stately homes but considered herself retired when she moved to Herefordshire about 6 years ago. She attended her local church, and when she helped them out her skill became apparent. From then on she was called in to advise other churches, and demand grew for her to start teaching again.

I thought she would be a good person to ask for advice about my minister’s stole, so I arranged to visit her. We talked about the sort of thing I would like and I then asked if she could make it for me. Her answer was, “well I could, but I’m not going to. I’m going to teach you how to make it yourself.” Which just goes to show how clever and devious some 90 year olds can be!


I’ve never done any sewing in my life (apart from the odd button) and I don’t do crafts, so I was a bit taken aback. Then I remembered how I’d been looking for a topic for my Self Directed Learning Project, an important part of Year 2 on the OneSpirit training. Two birds with one stroke – result.

So, off I went to Jean’s Wednesday afternoon group to do some embroidery – or so I thought. For those who (like me) don’t know, first I had to tack the material onto a frame, draw the design onto greaseproof paper and then tack the outline (in smaller stitches than the other tacking) onto the material.

Even then I wasn’t allowed to get started on the actual embroidery until I’d practised couching (technical term for sewing the thicker gold thread on with silk thread). I also had terrible trouble threading the very fine needle and I had to get Jean to help me each time!

When Jean was satisfied that I could be let loose, I was finally allowed to start my stole. By this time I had been attending her weekly embroidery group for three weeks, so I was having to learn to be patient and I was also getting better at threading a needle.

I also found I needed to overcome my prejudice (which I didn’t even know I had) of WI types or “do gooders” who get together to make hangings and vestments for churches and their vicars. I just didn’t think I’d have much in common with them. Actually we have great fun, and I’m really enjoying the company and the embroidering.

This Self Directed Learning Project has actually been about serendipity, synchronicity and Spirit. I was able to just surrender to the fact that this opportunity came to me through Spirit, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve met some lovely people who are supportive, fun, local and I am part of their group, which leads to other links and social occasions.

I even ended up having tea with the Bishop, who dedicated a banner, embroidered by some of the group, for the local church. He gave a fabulous service on the theme of confronting ourselves!

I don’t know why I’ve always felt that I couldn’t be part of community groups, because the only person who keeps me out of them is me. My sense of becoming a Minister also means that I just need to go wherever Spirit takes me – and if I go with an open heart, I will be welcome.

I like that I’ve been adopted by Jean and her group. It gives me a sense of being connected to an older generation and I value that hugely. I feel I’m being looked after. In fact, Jean was asking about what I was going to wear under my stole, and when I told her the sort of thing I imagined, she got on the phone to a colleague and sent me round to see her. Paula, a retired Saville Row tailor, has agreed to make my outfit.

I feel even more embraced by my local community. So I will stay in the Embroidery Group and, who knows, I could be making a stole for someone else one day!

Written in Spring 2015. Fiona was ordained in July 2015.

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