By Andi Bourne
Pathfinder 

Creating a lasting connection

 

December 6, 2018

Steve Ellis

Part-time Seeley Lake resident Barbara Jackson next to "The Last Supper" tapestry that she made and donated to Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church. It was dedicated Nov. 4 and hung over the serving table in the church's fellowship hall.

SEELEY LAKE – "It was a calling. I had to do it," said Seeley Lake part-time resident Barbara Jackson about the first time she saw the embroidered tapestry of The Last Supper. "I just fell in love instantly and there was no doubt in my mind it was meant for our church."

Jackson completed the three by five foot Last Supper embroidered piece at the end of September after seeing it for the first time just four months earlier. It was dedicated at Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church on All Saints Sunday, Nov. 4 and was hung above the serving area in the church's fellowship hall.

"I think a piece like that keeps us mindful and grounded that we are part of God's world and God is timeless," said Mountain Lakes Pastor Carrie Benton. "We are connected to these disciples and to one another and we are going to be connected to people who come to this church and worship God after we are long gone."

* * * * *

Jackson had no intention of moving to Montana. However, after losing her husband Frank, a good friend of hers that lives on Big Sky Lake invited her for a visit in 2009.

Through their mutual friend, Jackson met Seeley Lake resident Steve Kelly. He attended Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church and so began her connection to the congregation. Jackson moved to Seeley Lake at the end of 2011 and she and Kelly spend their summers in Seeley Lake and winters in Arizona.


Jackson started attending quilting classes led by Toni Peckenpaugh at Deer Country Quilts in 2012. They had a lot in common and quickly bonded.

"Toni is my teacher, my best friend and is one of the most special people I have every known. I couldn't do anything without her help," said Jackson. "I'm pretty much a beginner."

The two went to an embroidery class in Mesa, Ariz. and both purchased a computerized embroidery machine. They took a two-day class in Missoula this spring that had "The Last Supper" embroidered piece on display.

"That was the end, [Jackson] went berserk." Peckenpaugh said. "She did everything but stand on her head to try and buy it but of course they won't sell samples."

"My heart just melted," said Jackson. "I knew from minute one I had to have it. Pastor Carrie is one of the most beautiful people I know and I wanted something special for her and the church."

The inspiration to do something for the church first came from Cheri Thompson, liturgical artist at Mountain Lakes. Thompson makes the banners and wall hangings for the various church seasons and does it all without patterns.

"She is a true artist...it is amazing," said Jackson. "She was my inspiration to do something for the church but I didn't know what until I saw 'The Last Supper.'"

Jackson purchased the pattern. She chose to follow it exactly replicating the original 15th-century mural painting "The Last Supper" by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Peckenpaugh picked out the formats and correct sizing for the pattern including 21 interior panels and 19 border panels. She put them on a USB drive for Jackson to plug into her embroidery machine.

Jackson purchased a paper-backed cloth in 8.5 x 11 inch sections and printed the panels using her printer to give it a background base. Then she stretched the fabric and stabilizer on the proper hoop size and lined it up on the machine.

"Having the picture already on the paper with the outlines that I had to follow, [I had to place it] perfectly for the machine to do it," said Jackson. Just one of the border pieces had around 34,000 stitches.

"Not having ever done it before I didn't use the right kind of stabilizer and I made some mistakes," Jackson continued. "It was okay until I got to the one of Jesus and He has to be perfect and He wasn't. I talked to Toni and she showed me what was wrong and I redid [six panels]."


"I thought she had a clue," said Peckenpaugh who had seen a small-embroidered piece in Jackson's sewing room. "She had a basic idea but I don't think she had any idea that it was this intense."

Jackson worked on the piece for about six hours a day all summer. She sewed the panels together like patchwork and finished it in the middle of September. She took the piece to Frame of Mind in Missoula where they stretched it on canvas and framed it behind museum glass.


"It will hopefully hang in the church for many, many years and I didn't want anything to happen to it and I didn't want it to deteriorate," said Jackson. "It was too important to me."

"No one should be able to finish that in four months," said Peckenpaugh who expected it to be a multi-season project. "She did an amazing job not only for a beginner but for anybody that does embroidery. She was obsessed. When she saw this thing, it didn't stop until the day we hung it in the church. The end result was absolutely phenomenal."

"When you see it, it is not perfect but it doesn't have to be," said Jackson. "That's really one thing that makes it special. You know it is not machine produced."

Jackson estimated that total cost was more than $3,000 but she doesn't have a precise amount.

"When my Frank died, he took good care of me. The Lord has blessed me and I find great joy in giving and doing," said Jackson. "Beyond your needs, money is only good for the good you can do with it."

* * * * *

Benton said that Jackson approached her last summer about being called and moved to donate this piece to Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church.

"I'd seen a lot of her quilting work and knew how talented she was, so I thought that will be great," said Benton. "It was clear from Barb that this was coming from a call from God...she just wanted to give who she is to the church because of the way she had been blessed and she wanted the blessing to be at the church."

The first Sunday in November is All Saints Sunday. Benton said that was the most fitting day to dedicate the piece to the church since as the Last Supper, there is the sense of the communion of Saints. Not only is Jesus with His disciples around the table, but everyone in the past, present and future is also gathered around.

"It is like the great feast at the throne with Christ," said Benton.

The piece was unveiled during the service prior to the dedication. The congregation came forward and lit a candle in honor of someone who had revealed to them their identity in Christ and help them live that out in their daily life.

Then as part of the dedication, Benton invited all self-defined artists to come forward for a prayer and blessing.

"I wanted to bless all of them for the gifts they have been given by God and how they use those gifts of artistry to express their faith," said Benton. "[All those candles were flickering, and then the piece that Barb had made and all the different artists all gathered around] was just so neat to see that the church is always bigger than we think because of our narrow definitions of church. It was the communal, collective dedication and celebration."

Jackson's daughter Dawn Larae Swan flew in from Nevada to be at the ceremony. Kelly's daughter AnneMarie Brinkman and her husband Rich and their two daughters Ella and Elise came as well as Peckenpaugh, her daughter Alicia Kues and her husband Mark.

"I was the proudest person in that room having the people I love so much around me," said Jackson. "That really meant a lot to me."

"It was amazing and to be with her when it was hung was incredible," said Peckenpaugh.

The Last Supper now hangs over the serving area in the fellowship hall.

"It was a labor of love and watching Barb's joy and excitement through the whole period - she was doing this for the people of God and for God," said Benton. "It is going to be there long after she is gone and long after most of us are gone."

Steve Ellis

During the dedication ceremony, Pastor Carrie Benton invited all self-defined artists to come forward for a prayer and blessings. Pictured (L-R): Cheri Thompson, Dawn Swan, Toni Peckenpaugh, Barb Jackson (kneeling), Janet Whitesell, Steve Thompson, Pastor Carrie Benton, Kathleen Thompson, Sera Benton, AnneMarie Brinkman, Rich Brinkman and Sharon MacQuarrie.

 

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