St. John Seeks Help in Restoring Distinctive Needlepoint Kneelers

St. John Seeks Help in Restoring Distinctive Needlepoint Kneelers

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Sue Baker, Mary Grant, Mary Bullock, Susy Wilkins, Barbara Piston, and Janet Yunghans of St. John Lutheran Church display a completed needlepoint kneeler.

When visiting the sanctuary of St. John Lutheran Church at 1001 Central Avenue in Ocean City, NJ, the first thing a visitor might notice are the distinctive needlepoint kneelers surrounding the altar. Their repeating wave pattern with Christian symbols reminds the visitor they are in a house of worship that is just a few blocks from the beautiful Ocean City beaches.

Created in the early 1980s, the kneelers were lovingly stitched by women of the congregation. More than 30 years later, they are in dire need of cleaning and restoration. Once again, the women of St. John have committed themselves to a worthwhile project. This summer they have been working to restore the kneelers to their former glory by having them cleaned and reupholstered. They are seeking funds to help with the project, with a fundraising goal of $8,000.

When the women first met this spring, they sought the advice of an expert. Sally Hays, of Scrim Discovery in Ocean City, explained that the kneelers were textile artwork that must be carefully and professionally cleaned before being reupholstered. The women agreed to save money by dismantling the cushions themselves, before turning them over to Sharp Cleaners of Ocean City, for a thorough cleaning. The needlepoint covers are then given to upholsterers Fred and Steve Argentiero, of Central Square, Linwood, who are creating new cushions using the handmade needlework.

The women hope to restore the 11 kneelers, along with two bench cushions and bride and groom cushions that were created by members of the congregation beginning in 1981. During that time, the project to create the kneelers was led by Harriet Ott and the cushions designed by Austin Bechtold. After years of work, the needlepoint kneelers were dedicated during a church service on Easter Sunday, March 30, 1986.

Today, the women of St. John have worked throughout the summer, led by church members, Susy Wilkins and Janet Yunghans. They have met several times to plan and dismantle the kneelers for cleaning and restoration. The group is working on two at a time, in order to have most kneelers available for weekly communion services with the Reverend Mark Bruesehoff. They hope to have the project completed by late November of this year.

The women hope to raise the costs of cleaning and reupholstering through fundraising in the church and community. They recognize and celebrate the historical and artistic significance of the cushions that adorn the altar of St John Lutheran Church.

For donations, please contact the office of St. John Lutheran Church at 609-399-0798 or email office@stjohnlutheranoc.org.

— News release from St. John Lutheran Church