The needlepoint kneelers on the sanctuary step in the Church of St. John the Evangelist were initially suggested by Brenda Holvey in 1997. With the support and encouragement of the Rector, Archdeacon Neil Carver and the Wardens, this suggestion became a reality under the leadership of parishioner Enid Emery, who created the design for the kneelers as well as coordinating their execution. Sixteen members of the church were involved in the production and final assembly of the kneelers. Beginning in 2001, the work took five years to complete. The kneelers were dedicated on September 24, 2006 by the Rector, Canon Christopher Pratt.
Inspiration for the designs on the kneelers was taken from the East Window and the church’s ceiling. All the structural shapes in the design, including the roundels which contain the motifs, as well as the circles and floral crosses along the front of each kneeler, are found in the East Window under which they lie. Less obvious, but equally important, is the lattice design found at either end of each kneeler, which reflects a similar image bordering the window. A total of seven kneelers were created, each unit containing three roundels which are filled with the symbols of the twelve apostles, St. Mark, St. Luke and St. Paul, the author of the Epistles. The four gospelers each have a winged symbol relating to the content of their gospel. The wings are represented by flaming hair or feathers. All the flora and fauna depicted are native to Canada.
Each of the seven kneelers is described in detail below, starting from left to right as one faces the altar. Again, working from left to right on each kneeler “a” describes the first motif within the roundel, “b” the middle motif and “c” the right motif.
1. St. Paul and St. Peter
- The Sword symbolizes the beheading of Paul the apostle and great missionary in Europe and Asia Minor while the Book depicts his Epistles.
- The Trillium, Ontario’s provincial flower, is also the same shape as the Triquetra, ancient symbol of the Trinity.
- Two Overlapping Keys represent Peter’s authority given to him by Jesus – “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 16, vv.18-19.)
2 . St. James the Less, St. Luke and St. Matthias
- The Saw symbolizes the martyrdom of the apostle St. James who was divided in half.
- St. Luke, whose Gospel emphasizes Christ’s servant-hood and ultimate sacrifice for us, is represented by a Sacrificial Ox shown here as the Canadian Musk-Ox with a flaming red mane.
- St. Matthias, the apostle elected after the betrayal by Judas, is represented by a Book and an Axe called a halberd, by which he was beheaded.
3. St. Andrew and St. Matthew
- St. Andrew, an apostle, brother of St. Peter and the patron saint of Scotland, is represented by a Diagonal Saltire Cross (X-shaped) on which he was crucified.
- Grapes on the Vine depict the wine of the Eucharist.
- St. Matthew, whose gospel shows the humanity of Jesus, with His compassion and empathy for mankind, is symbolized by a Young Man (or Angel) with hair flaming behind, based on an image of a local long-haired teenager.
4. St. John the Evangelist
- A Cup and a Snake (shown here as a Massassauga rattler) depicts one of the lesser known stories concerning the gospel writer and apostle St. John. According to the legend, St. John survived an ordeal set by the high priest of Ephesus. When offered a chalice containing snake’s venom, John blessed the cup and the venom, in the form of a snake, crawled out of the liquid. It may also be a reference to Jesus’ saying that John would drink of his cup (Mark 10, v.39.)
- This motif is based on the Coat of Arms of our Church of St. John the Evangelist, which was granted on October 7, 1998, encompassing: two crowns, an eagle’s head, and a cross. The Red Cross is a symbol for the Anglican Church and for St. George, the patron saint of England. The Eagle’s Head is the symbol for St. John the Evangelist. The Two Crowns as well as the Blue and White Wavy Lines within the cross have two interpretations. The first level of meaning is to denote the location of St. John’s Church, which is on the corner of Duke St. (crowns) and Water St. (wavy lines). The deeper symbolism is that the crowns symbolize the priesthood of all Christian believers and that the watery lines symbolize our Baptism
- St. John’s symbol is an Eagle because his gospel, which emphasizes the Divinity of Christ, soars to great spiritual and literary heights. It is depicted here as a soaring bald eagle with red-tipped wings. They can be seen flying and nesting on the Grand River.
5. St. Jude and St. Simon the Zealot
- St. Jude, an apostle and presumed brother of Jesus, is represented by a Ship, which symbolizes his missionary work in many countries, particularly in the Middle East.
- A Cross shaped from wheat represents the Bread of the Eucharist.
- A Fish and a Book are symbols for the fisherman and apostle St. Simon, who traveled with St. Jude, possibly to India.
6. St. James the Great, St. Mark and St. Thomas
- Three Scallop Shells represent the pilgrimage of St. James the Great, the apostle credited with bringing Christianity to Spain and later proclaimed the patron saint of Spain. His body is reputed to be buried at Santiago de Compostela, which even today is a renowned shrine and site of pilgrimage.
- A Winged Lion symbolizes St. Mark, whose gospel emphasizes Christ’s kingship and speaks of Jesus as the Lion of Judah. The lion is depicted here as a Canadian cougar shown with a red mane.
- A Builder’s Set Square represents the apostle St. Thomas (Doubting Thomas), credited with building churches in India. The Spear shown here is based on a tribal spear used by the North American Plains Indians. With streamers flying, it symbolizes his martyrdom at the hands of a local priest in India
7. St. Philip and St. Bartholomew
- The Two Loaves of Bread recall the gospel story when the apostle St. Philip brought the boy who carried loaves and fishes to Jesus on the Mount. Jesus then blessed and shared this food with five thousand of His followers. The Cross represents Philip’s martyrdom.
- A Three-Lobed Red Maple Leaf inspired by one found in Kitchener represents both Canada and the Trinity.
- Three Flaying Knives are the symbol for the apostle St. Bartholomew, known also as Nathaniel, whom Jesus called “the Israelite without guile.” He died by flaying in Scythia.
The following members of our parish participated in this project: Inga Beamish, Raymond Dugan, Enid Emery, Julie Gammon, Mindy Hurley, Elsie Jordan, Jim Macpherson, Erie Matthews, Allan McKay, Bette Moore, Ralph Nobes, Bette Anne Nichols, Elva Oates, Gladys O’Hara, Marie Peacock, and Gloria Redstone.
The photographs of the kneelers were taken by Pauline Finch.
This project was funded by donations from individuals and parish groups in celebration of the lives and witness of family, friends and former members of the A.C.W. and the Breakfast Group. One end of each kneeler bears the initials of the stitchers who created it. The other end carries the surname or group in whose memory the kneeler was donated.
The names of the person or group commemorated and the donor(s) are embroidered on the underside (floor side) of the kneelers as follows:
- GIVEN BY THE WEDNESDAY MORNING BREAKFAST GROUP IN THANKSGIVING AND MEMORY OF FORMER MEMBERS
- A THANK OFFERING FROM THE MANSELL FAMILY, A GIFT OF LEIGHTON, KAY, PETER, BILL AND DAVID
- GIVEN IN LOVING MEMORY OF JOHN AND MARY WRIGHT OF EDINBURGH. SCOTLAND BY JOHN AND JEAN WRIGHT
- GIVEN BY THE A.C.W. IN CELEBRATION OF THE LIVES AND GIFTS OF PAST MEMBERS
- GIVEN BY THE A.C.W. IN CELEBRATION OF SIXTY YEARS OF WORK AND WITNESS AT ST. JOHN’S BY MARION ELIZABETH McLELLAND
- IN LOVING MEMORY OF ANGELA BOEHMER MERNER, 1921-1999, GIVEN BY CARLA McLENNAN
- GIVEN IN CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE OF DAE HARRIS BY THE A.C.W.