As the Women’s Center finishes (we are confident) preparing for the Fall Arts and Crafts Sale (Friday, December 7, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or when we sell our inventory, whichever comes first, in the lobby of the Winn Center), it occurred to us that there is a Biblical dimension to this involvement with arts and crafts.
We are reminded of Tabitha (in Greek, Dorcas), in Acts 9, who “was devoted to good works and acts of charity,” which apparently included a lot of needlework. When Peter arrives to comfort the mourning believers of Joppa on Tabitha’s death, which will not be permanent, “all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.”
The woman of worth of Proverbs 31, while capable in many lines of activity, is certainly textile-oriented. In v. 13, “she seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.” In v. 19, “she puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.” In v. 21 & 22, “She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all her household are clothed in crimson. She makes herself coverings; her clothing is fine linen and purple.” Of course, the woman of worth is particularly skillful, because as we also know, “strength and dignity are her clothing.” She is indeed a capable artisan! While we won’t have strength and dignity directly for sale on Friday, we believe the artisans who have contributed more material arts and crafts to the sale are worthy companions of the woman of Proverbs 31.
The work of artisans is mentioned in perhaps most detail in Exodus, in God’s directions for the construction of the tabernacle (Ex. 25-28), and then in the description of the execution of those directions by the Israelites (Ex. 35:4-39:43). These instructions involve fine spun and dyed wool, and skillful embroidery for tabernacle decorations and priestly vestments. In the offerings of the people, it is specifically noted that “All the skillful women spun with their hands, and brought what they had spun in blue and purple and crimson yarns and fine linen; all the women whose hearts moved them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair.” (Ex. 35:25-26)
The program of the Women’s Center goes a good deal beyond spinning and weaving, embroidery and painting. We are definitely of the opinion that the alternatives in society available to women also have to go beyond those activities, which were once indispensable in the operation of any household, and which are now largely accomplished through markets and for-profit manufacturing. But we are happy to be able to support that wider program in a way that also celebrates the gifts and achievements of women in the making of things of beauty and utility, and reminds us of the long heritage those gifts and achievements enjoy.
If, in the course of this event, we are also able to help some people with their Christmas shopping, we’ll consider that a nice bonus.